If you read my post titled “Introducing Chocolate and Politics”, you may know that I am an avid writer who has been keeping private journals for a number of years, this year being the fifth. I started journaling back in 2016 as a way to gain another creative outlet. I had kept a plethora of notebooks before this, each with a different purpose…sketching, painting, writing, and more. When I realized that I could keep it all in one, and have a safe space to create whatever I wanted, journaling became my new best friend. Throughout the years, I have tried a number of different forms of journaling, but slowly developed my own style. I have also inspired some of my friends to start journals, and most of them are still keeping up with it. Here, I want to advise you about some different aspects of journaling and give you my top tips and tricks I have picked up over the past five years.

The first step to journaling, is to figure out if it is for you. I will be the first to say that journaling is not for everyone. Although I do firmly believe that many people can get something out of journaling in one way or another, I also know that if you don’t truly enjoy doing it, then there is no point, as you probably won’t keep up with it. If you find that you don’t like to write or draw or just generally dislike creating in this certain way, then journaling is not for you. If this is the case, I still urge you to find some way to express yourself in a healthy way…whatever it is that you like whether it be music, sports, photography, or anything else.

Now that we’re past that step, if you truly want to start journaling, you need to know the number one rule: THERE ARE NO RULES. When I started, I thought that I had to write every day, or have extravagant journal spreads, or take my journal everywhere I went. Just know that journaling can be different for everybody, and like many of my posts, this is my experience and advice, but you should always feel free to do what works for you.

As I have made very clear by now, there isn’t one specific way to journal. But, if you need some guidance, there are a few popular notebooks that people keep. These include…

  • Bullet Journals: Perhaps the most popular form of journaling over the past few years, gaining attention all over social media, the bullet journal is basically a journal and planner combined. Often, bullet journals will include “yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily” spreads as well as habit trackers and a place to write down both long and short term goals. If you are looking to organize your life while also incorporating a creative element, bullet journaling may be best for you.
  • Daily Journal: This journal is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, and what most people think of when they hear the word “journal”. It is basically recounting your day by writing it’s events. Despite the name of this journal, people often don’t actually write daily, but more so whenever they have time. This option is great for people who solely love writing.
  • Art Journal: Art journals are the cool, creative journals you see all over Pinterest. These are for the artists at heart. They mostly include drawings, paintings, collaging and sometimes a little bit of writing.
  • Junk Journal: Junk Journals are what I call beautiful chaos. This is where you glue/tape in various pieces of “junk” from your life. Junk can define anything from nostalgic mementos, to a napkin from your favorite restaurant. Ten years down the road, these pieces of “junk” may help you remember a forgotten memory.

In my opinion, these are the main journals I have seen people keep, but, there are many more that you should research if none of those spark interest. When I first stared journaling, I switched between every type of journal possible. I tried keeping a bullet journal, but never kept up with it. Then I moved on to art journals which just left too much room for self criticism, and then junk journals, which I never remembered to keep enough pieces for. So, after some experimenting, I ended up keeping a “life journal”, which is a jumble of all of the ones listed above.

Once you start journaling, you may find that you quickly run out of ideas, this is totally normal. There is a variety of places you can go to for inspiration if this happens, including social media. However, just make sure that you don’t stop journaling because “yours doesn’t look like the one online”. You should journal as a means to keep memories, relieve emotions and have fun, not only to make it look pretty. Keep in mind that you are your biggest critic. If you need a bit of inspiration, here is a list of ideas to awaken your creativity…

  • Pick apart a situation: Take something that happened to you ask yourself: What did you see, hear, say, wish you would have said? How does this apply to greater things in your life?
This is a page I did when I travelled to Argentina, and wrote about my experiences and the situations I was in.
  • Word Vomit: Everyone gets sad, angry, and frustrated. Just dump it on the page before you dump it on the people you love.
  • Letters: Sometimes, there are things we wish we could say to others that for whatever reason, we just can’t. Journaling is a great way to get it out and let go of those things. Write letters to your friends, crushes, parents, (future) spouse, (future) kids, or future/past self.
Another form of “letters” is to have others people write letters/notes to you:) … this is a page where my two friends wrote me notes.
  • Dreams: Dreams are like little bits of insight into our deeper selves. By documenting them, we can observe different patterns or themes in our dream and figure out what they mean. Even if they turn out to be nonsense, you can always turn them into stories, poems, songs, or art.
  • Planning: Like a bullet journal, you can use any type of journal for planning. Write to-do or grocery lists, plan how you’re going to decorate your room or figure out what you want to do with your life. You are 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down.
  • Creative Writing: If you are a writer like me, you’ll always find a way to use your journal for creative writing. I write poetry, short stories, made up lives of random people, book/movie/restaurant reviews, and so much more.
  • Praying/Meditation: Whether you’re religious or not, you can always put thoughts, hopes, or prayers out into the universe to help relieve whatever is on you mind. This can also include manifestation, meaning you write whatever you want as if it is already happening (e.g. : “I am successful and will get my dream job”) .
  • Take Notes: Choose a book, movie, TED Talk, etc. and take notes on it. This is a fun thing to do, and might help you improve your note taking skills.
  • Journaling Prompts: Journaling prompts are everywhere. You can find them online or in books. These are great just to help get your brain thinking in a different ways. Some are more fun, while others are deeper and may just help you discover something about yourself.
  • Collage/Make Art: Collaging is one of my favorite things to do. It’s very aesthetically pleasing and I have fun doing it while watching TV. Just cut up some images from your favorite magazines and create a fun mash up of all of them. I also like to doodle, paint, or splash coffee on the page, just to make something, and add a little creative element to plain writing.
This is a Collage I made next to a SOC/brain dump I did
  • Pep Talks: Sometimes we all just need to hear “you got this” or “you’re beautiful”, so you can always use your journal to amp you up (instead of putting yourself down). I find that it is always empowering.
  • Lists: Lists are just something I like to do when I don’t feel like writing a well-thought out entry (not that all my entries are well-thought out 😉 ). I have made bucket lists, to-do lists, “favorite things” lists, and “reasons to _____” lists.
A list of my favorite things
  • Gratitude: We often take for granted everything that we have in our lives. I like to use my journal to take some time to be grateful. At times, I list all the things I love about my life and other times I write one small thing that made me happy that day.
Here’s a page I wrote to express gratitude about my doggo:)
  • SOC/Morning Pages: If all else fails, I turn to SOC. SOC stands for “Stream of Consciousness”. This is when you sit down and set a timer (usually mine is 5-10 minutes) and write whatever comes to mind. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense, it allows you to write unfiltered and again, get yourself back into the habit of journaling.
Nothing fancy about this, just straight up SOC

Overall, Journaling is my way of expression. I know that in time, I will have a collection of journals that I was able to document my life in. I would recommend journaling to anyone. Whether you write two sentences about your day on a laptop or a full-fledged art spread in a leather notebook, journaling will always be something you can go back to and let your thoughts, emotions, and creativity go.

I know this was a long post, but my intention was to give you a good basis of journaling and how you can get started. You can always return to this post for more inspiration and take what you need from it. However, if you want a quick synopsis, here is what I hope you got from reading the above:

  • If it is something that you have fun doing and you feel is a good outlet, keep up with journaling, if not, leave it or find another way to journal. It should never be a chore
  • There are a million different ways to journal and things to write about. Explore with different styles and figure out what works for you. Remember: THERE ARE NO RULES
  • You don’t have to journal every day (this kind of plays into “there are no rules”). Journal as often as you want or need to in order to feel relieved of any tension.
  • Your journal is yours. Don’t feel like you need to share it with anyone unless you want to. You shouldn’t feel like you have to hold anything back for fear of someone reading it, hide it if you feel the need to.
  • Enjoy it! Have fun writing stories, doodling pictures, and sticking in movie tickets, the main point of journaling is pleasure and fun.

Let me know if you give journaling a try and how it goes in the comments. Life is a journey, and if you have the chance to document it…take it!

Happy Living 🙂

Featured Image by @sixteenmilesout on

Published by Ria Pai

Hi let me introduce myself. I was born and have lived my entire life in a beach area as a child of two amazing parents who immigrated to America from India. I love art, music and writing so I try to combine the three. I enjoy deep conversations on a number of topics from politics, to friendships, to fashion. I’m a natural perfectionist, but sometimes find this to be a bit overwhelming. I love mangos, dark chocolate and tea. I make art whenever I get the chance…painting, songwriting, dancing, and writing are all forms of art to me. Since I live in a warm area, I cannot stand any weather that is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit and always find a way to swim in anything from pools to the ocean. I have one dog, a Lhasa Apso who I am envious of because he does nothing but eat, sleep, and lay around all day. I experiment with my style. I am horrible at geography and sitting still, and it’s not uncommon to find me with paint all over my hands. I like to wear bold clothing and I always find a way to wear the same white sneakers with any outfit I can. Hi, my name is Ria, nice to meet you.


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