Sometimes I just feel like journaling. I just want to pick up my journal and my pen (and my washi tape and other bits and pieces) and play in my journal.
Although I do love to use paints, stickers and washi tape to decorate my journal pages, my main focus in my journal is often writing.
And some days I sit down with my journal and I have nothing to say.
Or, at least, I start out thinking I have nothing to say. Usually once I put pen to paper and ease into it, I find myself talking about all kinds of things. Often I end up writing about something that I had no idea I would even talk about.
But we all need somewhere to start.
It can be daunting opening a fresh page and thinking, ‘I want to write’ or worse, ‘I should write’ – but not knowing how to begin.
Anais Nin (a journaling legend) offers this advice:
Put yourself in the present. This was my principle when I wrote the diary – to write the thing I felt most strongly about that day. Start there and that starts the whole unravelling, because that has roots in the past and it has branches into the future… I chose the event of the day that I felt most strongly about, the most vivid one, the warmest one, the nearest one, the strongest one.
I love this. I think sometimes we feel that an entry into our journals needs to reveal some profound truth, or be really deep. But it is the normal moments of each day that make up our lives.
Choose something that stood out to you today, for whatever reason. It might be as simple as sitting in the sun with a cup of coffee, laughing with a colleague, or taking a hot shower after a long day.
It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it warm, near or strong – to you.
It can be harder to follow this advice if you are writing first thing in the morning, in which case you are usually starting fresh, without the events of the day to guide you. You could recall the events of the previous day, or you could start where you are.
In A Voice of Her Own, Marlene A. Schiwy suggests using a basic Gestalt exercise to begin: write for ten minutes on each of the following starters:
‘I feel… I need… I want’.
It might not seem like much but these simple starters can open up to much deeper ideas.
If you are using this first thing in the morning, you could use these prompts to guide you for the day ahead – how you feel in the morning, and how you’d like to feel later in the day. What you need to do that day to feel fulfilled or satisfied (avoid using this as a chance to make another to-do list: most of us do that enough!). You could list what you want from the day to come.
In either case, the idea of starting with today, or right now, is the best way to begin.
You don’t always have to know what you will say when you journal – you just have to start where you are and let the words find you.
2 thoughts on “How to journal when you don’t know what to say”
These are great ideas! Thank you SO much for sharing them!!!! I often want to write, but I feel that I don’t have anything thing to write about, or anything worth saying. I’m always afraid my writing is pointless because I’m SO uncreative. I fear that if a historian were to read my writing one day, they would toss it in a can and think, “Why on earth did she EVER bother to write! She had NO busness doing so.” Everyone’s thoughts and opinions ARE important though, and one can only improve in their ventures with practice. 🙂 It’s SO hard to remember that though! :p 😉
Hi Olivia, thanks! Yes, it must be daunting to sit down to write and worry what a historian would think if they found it! You can’t approach it like that or you will never feel like anything you write is good enough! Try also to focus on the process of writing rather than the product – write because it helps you in the moment, rather than to have a record or a product at the end, if that makes sense. It doesn’t matter what you produce, it only needs to be of benefit to you 🙂