How I’m Journaling!

GUYS! For years I have wanted to journal. Even as a kid, I’d attempt to start a diary over and over again. I have plenty of journals scattered around my childhood bedroom with the one page– maybe two– used. There was something so ~cool~ to me about having a diary to write my deepest thoughts in. It never stuck. (And maybe it’s a good thing because some things from childhood should not be documented, ha! Side note, but I’m so glad social media and iPhones and digital cameras weren’t around.)

At the beginning of last year, I wanted to try again, but it didn’t happen. I’m a big fan of starting New Year’s resolutions early, so you’re already in the habit when January 1 rolls around. Even though I had failed, I wanted to try again. I really didn’t want to fail again, so I set myself up for success. And it worked. I wanted to share I made the habit stick for me (coming up on the three-month mark!) in case you also want to give it a try.

Sugar Paper LA Journal

I got this gingham notebook with 2018 embossed on it for my next journal!

ONE // Coming up with the why

This is actually a universal habit-forming tip. Coming up with the why should always be the first step in either getting into a habit or breaking one. It helps to look inward to figure out your motive. Maybe it’s health or happiness related, or it could be something that you need to do before you can reach another goal. It doesn’t even have to be a big “why;” it just needs to move the needle for you. Establish the why, and you’re halfway there, seriously.

When I failed at journaling all the times before, it was because I never had a great reason for wanting to do it. Of course, it’s not going to stick if I’m just doing it to do it.

This time around, I had two reasons for wanting to journal. The first was that I wanted to start to get in the practice of writing for personal reasons. So much (aka all) of what I have been writing has been for public viewing in one way or another. The papers I wrote in college were all for a grade, and my blog was (is) for public consumption. I wanted something for myself! The second was that I wished I had been journaling over the past year. It’s kind of like coming home from an amazing trip and realizing you didn’t take a single photo. There was a lot I should have been processing and recording on paper… privately.

I know I’m in a pretty exciting and pivotal part of my life right now and I want to make sure I’m taking full advantage of preparing myself for that. Journaling is how I see that happening.

Nautical Rope Journal

The notebook I’m currently using!

TWO // No pressure

Maybe it’s because I’ve failed so many times, and even though I felt pretty good about my commitment, I still didn’t want to put the full pressure on myself. In the case of journaling, I didn’t want to go out and buy a brand new journal, with hundreds of pages blank and intimidating. I know I’d look at that and feel pressured to try to do the journaling thing perfectly since it was this fresh, brand new notebook! (This is why I ended up hating bullet journaling, by the way; I hated feeling like I was messing up constantly by not having a ~perfect~ system.)

So instead of a brand new journal, I dug through my desk to find a little notebook that I had tucked away. It’s small, too, at only about 60 pages. It felt way more manageable that way and I didn’t have this thought of messing up a fancy journal looming over my head.

THREE // Come up with your commitment

Whenever I’m trying to get into the habit of something, I make a “pact” with myself so to speak. For meditating, I do it every day because I know that’s the only way to stay on top of it. For working out, I feel comfortable with saying three days a week (and anything more than that is a bonus!). For my posture, I figured out times during the day when I could absolutely work on it– versus trying to do it all day every day.

I knew for journaling, I wouldn’t be able to do it on a daily basis. That would be great if I did it multiple days in a row, but my main goal would be to do it at least every other day, excluding travel. The main reason for this is that it prevents me from feeling like I’m forcing myself to write just to… write. Spacing it out ensures I always have something to write about and helps with avoiding the burn out I’m all too familiar with.

2018 Journal

FOUR // Use prompts

So I mentioned that I didn’t want to feel like I had nothing to write about. Most days I’m fine with writing, and as I’ve been doing it more, it comes even more naturally. But there are days when I draw a complete blank. When that happens, I use a journal prompt. There are a ton of ideas on Pinterest, and you can even download ones where they give you a different idea for every day of the year.

Sometimes even after I’ve written some of my own unprompted thoughts down, I’ll still take the time to answer a question or write out a prompt just because I think it’s fun. I would say that this has been the biggest help regarding getting used to actually writing down my thoughts. I don’t feel quite as “lost” this way.

Polaroid Printer

FIVE // Photo memories

This is definitely not necessary, but I have found it to be a fun little addition. I use this Bluetooth printer to print out photos to accompany posts now and then. Sometimes pictures really are worth a thousand words. I like the physical memento, and they often serve as a prompt themselves too. I only have about five photos stuck (there’s a sticker backing!) in my journal over the past few months, so it’s not like every day needs a photo.


– The journal I originally used (the one I found in my desk) doesn’t have lines. It hasn’t been a huge thing stopping me, but it definitely isn’t ideal I’ve determined. I think I’ll prefer having lines from now on just to help with neatness.

– I also know now that I shouldn’t journal when I’m tired. I reread what I wrote once when I was particularly tired, and it was particularly illegible, ha! What’s great about this is that it’s been forcing me to go to bed earlier so I can get in about 20 minutes of writing before I start to read. It takes a little more scheduling, but it’s worth it!

– This is going to for sure sound dumb, but forgive me. In the beginning, I was so self-conscious about writing because I felt like the journal would be uncovered at some point in my life and read by people. (Like I was picturing this journal being read at my funeral or something…) Obviously, no one is going to be that interested in the contents of my journal. Now I just write unfiltered and pray no one ever finds it and reads it 😂

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I have been a journaler my whole life and I have such a fear of someone reading them 😂 my close friends and husband know that if something ever happens to me my journal box gets burned! Glad to know it’s a common thing!

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

I think we all go through a phase when we feel self-conscious that people will read our journals! When I began journalling (I was only in primary school!) I requested a locked drawer because I couldn’t trust my parents 😂 like they’d care about my little boy crushes!

I’ve been journalling daily without fail since I picked it up again in 2012 (I never really stopped though) and it’s been the best thing that I’ve done to practice gratitude. It’s stressful at times and I’m a little OCD about doing it everyday, but ultimately, it helps me unwind and makes me feel so complete at the end of the day! 🙂

I hope your journal journey works out for you, too, this year, Carly! ❤️❤️

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog


This was my New Year’s Resolution too! I’m inspired by the way you’re navigating around the initial roadblocks you’ve had before! I always wanted to journal too but just kept losing interest (I bought so many notebooks that there is a now an indefinite notebook buying ban in my house). These tips are great – and I’m so glad you’ve included mistakes too – you’ll be so glad you have journals to look back on in ten or twenty years time! Also fab ways to see how far you’ve come in your thinking/relationships/life in general 🙂


Love this, Carly! I’m a big journaler – I started doing it first thing in the morning as part of a book called The Artist’s Way and I was shocked how much I loved it. I was also intimidated by the idea of filling up a notebook, but now I’m on my 4th! So glad you’ve gotten into a groove with it!


I’ve found that it’s been easier to leave the journal out in the room I spend the most time in and journal throughout the day. Otherwise it gets too intimidating to try and do things at night and I give up because I can’t write as fast as my head thinks! I’ve managed to do it for 6 straight months, not everyday, but several times a week.


my mom has always has kept a journal and every few years she burns them (sad to think about a pretty journal getting burned but you gotta do what you gotta do). every time she travels we always review if something were to happen “okay and my journals are here and don’t read them just burn them” haha <3

sidenote: my notebooks HAVE TO have no lines. I use sketchpads at work to make my lists. I have always found lines hindering my creativity, just a thing for me I guess!

Colleen Ray

I completely agree about other humans reading your journal, it’s something i think of often! This post has really inspired me to get back into the journaling habit!


I actually love the idea of one day having future grandkids find my journals. I cherish my grandparents love letters to each other and hope that I have something cool like that for people to find after I’m gone.


Absolutely no pressure when it comes to journaling! I’ve had journals since I was about 13. I haven’t journaled in awhile but this year I decided to do a gratitude entry daily. So far I’m enjoying it! I try to make a point to write in it every evening when I’m winding down.


Is it weird that I think my great grandkids will read my journals after I die and they will think it’s cool.. hahaha!! I used to hide my journal under my mattress when I was younger but now I usually just keep it next to my bed so I remember to write. Every other day is a good goal!

Southern & Style

Luckily for me, I’ve been journaling probably since middle school (almost every single day). And while looking back on those journals is somewhat embarrassing (did I really obsesses over some weird guy not liking me?!) it’s also fun to see how I’ve grown over the years! I highly recommend getting the Q&A A-Day journal if you already haven’t, it’s 1 question each day and you answer them for five years. I do that in addition to regular journals & it’s so fascinating!
Here’s to hoping you find your perfect journal!

xoxo, SS

Southern and Style

Kristen from Pugs & Pearls

I’m so happy you got into a groove!
I found several journals that I wrote in as a kid and just about died from embarrassment! It’s the same reason I deleted my Facebook account-I just cannot handle seeing what I wrote years ago.


Congratulations on being successful on sticking with your goal! I really like the “coming up with your commitments” tip. I think this mindset will really help me to feel good about my accomplishments instead of discouraged when Indont do something all the time (like being happy I went to Barre 3 days instead of discouraged I didn’t go 7). Thank you! xAllie

Amelia | Work & What She Wore

What a great “new years resolution”! I’ve always been interested in journaling, but never have taken the plunge. I am an avid planner girl, so this year I decided to include a weekly “check-in” section where I write my thoughts and recap the week. It’s a start!

Ali Koch

Lol, I had that same self conscious thinkingin the beginning. I eventually switched to journaling on my computer [I use OneNote and can password protect, and easily organize my journal into months and years]. It’s been a solid 6 years now! I love it because I can go back and read really introspective 2am rants. Or laugh/cringe at things that I was really pissed about in 2012 haha. I do love the idea of having physical journals though. I read in a Rookie interview [ ] that Emma Watson has like, 10 journals she’s writing in at all times, each devoted to something particular #journalgoals


This is a great post! Journaling consistently is a goal of mine for 2018 — and its so funny you mentioned all the partially used diaries you had from childhood and I’m the same exact way! I also like the tip you gave about using prompts — I’ll have to look into those.

Emma Balkin

Hi Carly! I just recently picked up journaling again, too! (I finally finished one journal I had been using since my senior year of HS in 2010! Oops!) One of the ways I got back into the habit was picking up a Line A Day/ Question A Day journal (they usually come in 3 year or 5 year books) and it got me in the habit of having a place to write every single day, either a random thought, something good that happened, or an answer to a question that I get to answer again in 365 days, almost like a book version of the TimeHop app! These journals also make great gifts, especially for milestone birthdays! (Hello, mid-late 20s!) Having that one little prompt per day got me in the habit of writing something, and now I have a new “regular” journal in addition to my Line A Day book.


I had tried journaling in the past and it just never worked. I’d fill less than half a notebook and then forget about it. However, I started journaling last May and for some reason, this time it really stuck. I have been pretty good at doing it everyday since and I love it. I always had that dumb fear of someone reading it someday, but I pushed past by wanting to write more than being afraid. Although it sounds weird, I really think journaling has changed my life for the better and I hope to never stop. ❤️


I, too, have been journaling this year! I loved your tip of journaling every other night. I started out strong, even developed my nighttime routine (tea, journal, read, & meditate) but some nights I’m just so exhausted I can’t do anything other than fall asleep leaving me to feel like a failure because I didn’t stick to my routine. I loved this post so much. Thank you for writing it. What do you do for meditation? For me it’s a lot of deep breathing and clearing my mind (helps with night anxiety) but I’m always curious about other forms of meditation .


I’ve started and stopped journaling over the years as well. I’ve started and stopped a lot of things actually. The WHY is so critical to really anything we do and I’m just getting around to realizing it now. Glad you are too! It’s helped me recently get a lot of things off the ground I’ve wanted to do for years. Good luck with your new habit!


I’ve been journaling on and off for as long as I can remember. Lately, it feels like I’m only writing once a month… always trying to catch up on everything I didn’t write since the last entry. So I absolutely love the idea of using prompt! Will definitely be trying that!

Emily Farina

I have always been the same way about journals, I would start a few pages and then lose interest/forget/etc. I recently found a solution that works great for me – I write myself emails, just getting out anything and everything that is on my mind. Since it’s typed, I don’t have to worry about making it perfect, taking too long to write it out or someone reading it. It is simply an email going into a designated folder in my gmail. If I want to read it, I can pull it back out. But oftentimes for me, the act of writing it is cathartic enough and I don’t need to go back to re-read. Another thing to try, email yourself with a brain dump of thoughts! It’s feels good mentally and also keeps all your notes in one place.


Glad you got into a groove! I’ve been trying to start and more importantly, follow through a journaling routine but have come to a stump for what seemed like the ‘n’th time now.

Being uncomfortable about other humans reading it is one thing, another one is not being contented with my how my writing looks and how un-perfect it comes across aesthetically, as trivial as it sounds.

But like your first point, I need to constantly remember the WHY and hopefully I will keep it up. Three weeks in now. We’ll make this work.


These are great ideas, Carly! Thank you for sharing! I particularly love the idea of adding a photo here and there. I always want to do this, but never end up having photos at the time – getting a printer like this would come in handy.

I also feel the same way about my journals and people potentially reading them. I guess we may never know!