The Riverside: A Writer's Resource


Letter to a New Journaler


Dear Friend, 


I am so happy to hear that you would like to start journaling!


Journaling is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Journaling allows you to clear your head and fill it up at the same time! When you write, you can figure things out. You explore and discover; you vent and get blessed; you think and create and most of all, you come to terms with yourself.


Your journal is your friend; I’m sure you’ve heard that before and it may seem like a strange concept at first. I remember when I was a little girl and my grandmother gave me a diary. She told me it would be my friend and that I should write as if I’m talking with my friends. This didn’t work for me. I was too self conscious. I thought I had to begin each entry with the words, “Dear Diary…” and then I felt silly writing letters to an inanimate object. Then I worried about how stupid I would sound if anyone ever got a hold of it and read it. As I got older, however, I began to understand…


Your journal is an extension of your very being. Through writing, you merely have another avenue for expression. That’s it, and in so doing, you find freedom from the judgments you may have about writing. You will learn to let go of the idea that what you write has to be creative or inspirational or even meaningful, and when you do, you will be hooked on journaling for the rest of your life!


For me, it works like this: my journal is a record of at least some of what my brain encounters on any given day. It is my lists, my planning, things I need to remember, my drafts of ideas and projects; my journal is full of random thoughts and lots of nonsense. Some days I fill the pages with things I shouldn’t say out loud, both bad and good; other days I write pages of self loathing. On happy days I may brag. Once in awhile I write something that is really good and then I may or may not ever return to it.


My suggestion to you as you begin to journal is to do it with total liberty in your heart and soul. Write whatever you think or feel and do it on paper that you are comfortable messing up. Don’t buy some beautiful and expensive journal because then you won’t want to put anything “bad” on those pages. A journal is not intended to be any sort of completed project for display; rather it is the messy, incomplete, in-process thoughts that govern our days. Feel free to scratch out and scribble, that’s what our minds do all the time!


One question I want you to ask yourself is why you want to journal. You don’t need a deep or even a clear answer to this – just think about what you want to get out of it before you start. Many books about journaling are geared to some specific aspect of journaling. These may include topics such as journaling for self discovery; self recovery; spiritual enlightenment; spiritual growth; spiritual quest; inspiration; therapy; creative expression; physical healing; mental sanity; social development, and the list goes on and on. Journaling is an excellent tool to help us face and deal with the many things life throws at us. I want you to think about what your purpose is because you can find prompts and guides to lead you  and help keep you on track and committed to the act of writing depending on what your purpose may be, even if that purpose is “just because…!”


There are tons of books available about journaling and certainly they will help guide and inspire you. Just be careful not to spend all your time reading about writing; WRITE!


Before you buy or borrow any books about journaling, get yourself a cheap spiral notebook from the store and a pen that feels good in your hands (I like mechanical pencils and the BIC medium point) and start writing!


Great authors of books about journaling:

  • Anne Lamotte
  • Natalie Goldberg
  • Judy Reeves
  • Sheila Bender
  • Julia Cameron
  • Barbara DeMarco-Barrett
  • Elizabeth Andrew
  • Henriette Ann Klauser

These are just a few great places to start!


Enjoy!! And when you get a chance, I hope you’ll let me know how it’s going!