I’ve kept a journal for most of my life. At some points I have been more successful than others, but overall I kept quite a good streak going. I notice that whenever I hit a low point in my writing, it’s usually because I have unknowingly started following one of the following three rules. Fortunately, as soon as I realize this I can ditch it again and fire up the old pen & paper (or, to be completely honest, more likely the closest pen and the shiny new notebook I bought for the occasion).

1. A journal entry should be a complete account of the day and/or everything you’re feeling.

My biggest pitfall is starting with a lot of context before writing what I actually sat down for. This is unnecessary: the journal is only for me and I know what I am taking about. Get straight to it!

Similarly, don’t feel like you have to give a complete overview of your emotions. If you want to write down some happy thoughts to motivate yourself, this doesn’t mean that you’re only or always happy. The same goes for writing down sad things. We humans are way too complex to be captured in a single journal anyway, so don’t worry about what yours says about you.

2. You are not allowed to write ‘backwards’.

Sometimes I think of something I want to write down for a previous day, but I feel like I have to write down a ‘disclaimer’ or put today’s date above it. Not having written it on that day makes it feel “unauthentic”. Nonsense. I’m still me. (And who cares anyway.)


3. It is important to write elegant sentences that impress your great-grand children.

For starters, I don’t think I will allow my great-grand children to read my diaries. Some of the stories in there are plain embarrassing, and I want to feel like I can write those down without anyone reading them. And remember what I said about humans being too complex for a diary to give a good impression of them?

Moreover, sometimes I just want to jot down a few things to remember without having to write an essay about it. A few bullet points or a picture can work wonders in triggering my memory later on and they save so much time.

In short, I urge you to remember that your journal is serving you, so if there is anything that is making it feel like a chore, change it! Have a think about what your goal is and how you could reach it faster. Or don’t keep a journal at all, if it’s not your thing. Just keep yourself happy :).

21 thoughts on “3 Unwritten Journaling Rules to Ditch

  1. The last point you make is so me!! I’ve been keeping a regular journal/diary since August 2014. I think the reason I’ve managed to keep going for so long is because it has always been a place for me to be RELAXED and HONEST. I don’t write everyday. I write when I need to, and as I’m an emotional person that’s about every other day. But then I started finding writer journals from Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath and Lewis Carroll, and suddenly this insecurity to make my writing sound nice for people of the future to read set in. It’s ridiculous. I doubt anyone will read my journal, and if they do, then I doubt I’ll be around to hear their opinions! This is an outlet for me, and I think that’s the most important thing to remember!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, exactly! I’m reading a non-fiction book about a couple of authors at the moment – The Violet Hour by Katie Roiphe, it’s very interesting – and each time Roiphe mentiones getting certain information from their journals I inwardly scream “BUT WHAT IF THEY DIDN’T MEAN IT LIKE THAT”. I guess quite a few of these authors intended to publish their journals so it’s fine, but personally I sometimes just need to rant about something and pick a notebook over a friend for good reason :P. Context and intent are so important! “RELAXED and HONEST” sounds like a good rule of thumb.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I used to always write too much, like a step-by-step of the day–they would take up 30 mins to an hr every night to just tell a book about how my day went. It was so easy to fall into the hole of “it takes too long, I’ll do it another time” and eventually you get lost in that and stop journalling. Great article!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I can see that putting so much energy into writing a journal can be rewarding when you read those back, but indeed it’s very demotivating as well. Perhaps it might help to set a timer for quarter of an hour of stream of consiousness writing?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve switched styles–I really try to condense it, I have the One Line A Day book where you can have this journal for 5 years, by writing only one sentence about how it went. It helps!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Emmie!
    Great tips 🙂 I used to write full journal entries (now I just do bullet journalling) but I was so bogged down by #1 that you mentioned above! I felt like I always had to write down every single event of my day (also because I happened to have a lot to say about everything haha, even the mundane stuff)- it took forever and I didn’t have the time for it. However it makes sense to just write down whatever is on our minds, doesn’t it? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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