This, Too, Can be Journaling

This, Too, Can be Journaling

Often, when we think of “journaling,” we imagine something like this:

But while this is journaling, and this is a perfectly valid format for journaling, this is not the only way we can journal. I think sometimes journaling can be intimidating for some people, but the good news is, there’s no one “right” way to journal!

Here, let me show you.

This, too, can be journaling:

Sticky notes are my favorite place to jot fleeting thoughts and ideas. Their bite-sized blankness is a perfect companion for those bursting notions that are a bit too undeveloped or personal to post on Twitter. Doodles, brainstorms, feelings—slap them on a sticky note, and they’re ready to travel anywhere: to the inner flap of my journal, to the wall beside my desk, or even straight to the wastebasket.

Let’s do another one!

This, too, can be journaling:

Journaling doesn’t have to be just about the words. For some people, drawing pictures is a better way to convey emotions, with just a few words to accompany them. A lot of times, when we become adults, we stop drawing as much as we did when we were kids. Why is that? Drawing can be really fun and therapeutic! It doesn’t matter if our drawings are “good” or “bad” (who decides that, anyway??) because the experience is just for us. Besides, being “bad” at drawing can be kind of freeing and fun in its own way. And the more we draw, the more we grow.

I think you’re getting the hang of this now. Let’s keep going!

This, too, can be journaling:

For the days when the sentences aren’t really forming, when there’s too many feelings and thoughts to sort out, when all we can do is jot a few items, lists can be our saving grace. And lists can be about anything! We can list things that stress us out, things we’re hoping for, things that make us angry, things for which we’re grateful. We can make dual lists, like lists of what we can control/what we can’t control, or lists of what we love/what we hate about something in particular. Lists aren’t just for to-do’s! They can be for feelings and thoughts, too.

But as a general rule (and you can use this, too), if I make a brain-dump list of things that make me feel anxious/angry/conflicted/depressed/etc, I try to add a list that counterbalances those feelings, just to remind myself of a wider perspective.

What next? Ah, yes!

This, too, can be journaling:

Writing poetry can be a form of journaling, and like journaling, there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to write poetry. With poetry, it’s more about the feeling than about following any arbitrary rules. If you like rhyming and rhythm, measuring meter and syllables, then go for it! But poetry can be as clear or obscure as we like, formatted in whichever way our instinct sways us. Whether you’ve never written poetry or you’ve only ever written poetry, it’s a lovely and intimate experience. Poems convey feelings big and small, moments microscopic and grandiose, words trivial and critical. The freedom in format can seem daunting or liberating, but just remember: the stakes are nonexistent. Just showing up for your poem is enough. If you feel like you’re tripping over the lines, then that’s okay: your journal will catch you, dust you off, and hold your hand along the way. Isn’t that lovely?

What else can be journaling?

This, too, can be journaling:

Listen, I’m old-fashioned. (Can you tell from the bulbous computer I drew?) I always preach the value of traditional pen and paper, advocate for time away from the screens that seem to dictate our lives, argue on behalf of the sacred action of using our hands to engage with our thoughts. However, I’m not here to be a gatekeeper to journaling. (In fact, I’m actively trying to be the opposite.) I understand that typing on our computers or our phones as a method of journaling can be just as valuable as keeping a physical notebook.

Because ultimately, it’s about accessibility. Some people may not be able to write for long stretches of time with a pencil, but they can tap-tap-tap out a five-page rant with much more ease. Or maybe a password-protected Word document is more secure from prying eyes than a notebook hiding under a mattress, and when it comes to journaling, privacy is important. Or perhaps some people just don’t have access to swathes of paper and pens, whereas they do have a laptop.

I’m guilty of clinging to some romanticized sanctity of the physical journal, but pay me no mind when it comes to that. Typing on our computers—this, too, can be journaling, perfectly valid.

But that’s not all journaling can be.

This, too, can be journaling:

On a similar note, journaling does not have to be confined to spelling out words or drawing pictures. Recording voice memos, too, can be journaling. After all, why should only the people who are able to use their hands in minuscule, specific movements be able to journal? When we can’t use our hands—or when we’d rather use our voices—recording our voices can be a form of journaling. Through this method, we can learn to speak our thoughts and feelings privately aloud, venting our minds as rapidly or slowly as we like. In the car, on a walk, home alone—sometimes, just having the place in our lives to assert our voices in a private and meaningful way is the most cathartic of all. And voice recordings can capture a quality of emotion that written words cannot quite (although it can be simulated by use of capitalizing, underlining, emboldening, etc.). Speaking our truth is just as important as writing our truth, even if we speak it only to ourselves. After all, our dialogue with ourselves is the most important of all.


Really what I think the essence of journaling is: in solitude, meditating on our thoughts, feelings, and experiences as a human being, and expressing some of that in words or images.

Everybody has their own way of experiencing life, and so everybody has their own way of expressing that unique perspective. Whichever method we develop in order to journal, it has to be tailored to what works best for us, so that we really make the most of our practice–and have a little fun with it.

Happy journaling, friend.

For more journaling posts, check out this page from Slanted Spines.


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