Given the enhanced community quarantine, I guess you could say we’ve been pretty tethered, at least spatially. Millions of people are forced to stay home, prompting a boom of online instructional content on how to best spend our time. Yet, there exists, paradoxically, a tendency to feel scattered and untethered. The days seem to blur together, and many are haunted by the news and memories of a better time. And when this is all over, we’ll have to reckon with the all-encompassing specter that is "the new normal."
That said, now is ostensibly the best time to journal. Tensions are high, yet there’s never been a more optimum opportunity to sit back and self-assess. In her book, The ABCs of Journaling, Abbey Sy wrote that “a journal is an avenue for self-reflection. It’s the best friend that helps you get to know yourself better. It’s a compilation of stories, memories, and the little things that make your life great. And over time, it becomes more than just a repository of your personal experiences: It also serves as a reminder that the best part of life is not about where you’re going, but where you are right now.”
A journal can be anything you want it to be, really, so there’s no need to overthink it. Just dive right in! Here’s how to get into the journaling groove!
Pick a notebook or sketchbook according to your chosen journaling style.
Don’t underestimate the power of paying attention to your vision for the journal, and picking the best tools to achieve it. Don’t settle for a planner you think you ought to be using—figure out which journaling aesthetic you find most fulfilling and work towards that. Settle whether you prefer a more abstract approach, or a structured bullet journal style.
If you’re into visual arts and want a broad, open page to work with, ditch lined notebooks and go for a full-fledged sketchbook! And if you're uniquely experiemental and don’t want to conform to the tedium of identical pages one after the other, compile variously shaped scratch papers, receipts, and old book pages, and voila! You have your funky, makeshift journal. Collage away!
Change up your approach when you get tired of it.
Preemptive rules can burden your creative engine. Ditch all those preconceived ideas, and fill up your journal page candidly, with little to no self-consciousness. Break some rules! Remember: You don’t have to fill up pages consecutively. You can start from the back of your journal, if you want, and fill up random pages as you go along. You don’t have to file a complete, chronological report on everything you do in a day. If this feels tedious at all, write about something else. Make a list of all the food you’re craving and illustrate one. Write out the definitive playlist of your month and doodle around it. Open your camera roll, select a picture you love and write the story behind it. Make a list (or draw) your worries. Take "field notes" of your social media news feed, detective-style.
There are a million prompts to work with to keep you from feeling like journaling is a chore!
Keep a Pinterest or Instagram board of journaling inspo, and actively emulate your faves.
Needless to say, it's extremely helpful to consume creative content if you’re planning to commit to a creative churn. Doesn't your imagination just flourish after watching a mysterious, gorgeously-drawn animated film like Spirited Away or Howl’s Moving Castle? Treat your mind with beautiful pictures that will inspire you to create. Don’t hesitate to practice copying styles too! There’s no shame in learning other styles and techniques from others, so long as you don’t try to sell them or pass their ideas off as your own.
Regularly introduce a new texture into your journal to keep it fresh.
Stimulate your creative energies by adding layers and layers to the aesthetic elements of your journal. If you’ve gotten by using solely ballpens, you can eventually ease into using colored pencils. Afterwards, perhaps fiddle with markers, then oil pastel, then go big with paint.
Like Abbey, you can even import the virtues of a scrapbook and fill your journal with ephemera like receipts, tickets, pictures, pressed flowers, ribbons, and others.
Keep in mind that self-expression is so much more than the no-frills, tell-me-all-about-yourself essayistic gig. You can express yourself visually or even texturally: If you want to rip some pages, washi-tape the pieces back together, and flick ink all over the wreck, then be my guest. Beyond being a highly satisfying personal endeavor, a journal is also a priceless gift to your future self: It’s an elaborate selfie, really, and you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to get started on one.