I guarantee you there is a neglected diary somewhere in your house. Perhaps in an old backpack or a bedside drawer, maybe in a carrier bag in the back of your wardrobe. Or, maybe, you aren’t like me. You see, every Christmas I would ask for a new diary (I am obsessed with stationery) because the prospect of filling that private little book with my thoughts and feelings seemed wildly exciting.
On the evening of Christmas I’d write all about the day – mostly about what I’d eaten, but still. ‘I ate sooo much chocolate today, not sure I’ll ever eat it again!!!!!’ (I did.) I’d do the same for the next few days. I even got as far as writing a New Year’s resolution entry one year. ‘Be nicer to my sister. Take the dogs out for walks. Learn how to do eyeliner properly.’ But then, January 1st would come and go and the diary would be forgotten about.
Because it’s hard, isn’t it? Writing about everything you’re feeling and experiencing. Trying to make your life sound interesting and exciting when, mostly, it just isn’t. Last year, I finally cracked it. Now, I write in a diary often and it’s become a part of my routine.
Research has shown that writing in a diary, or ‘journaling’, can actually be good for us. It helps us to destress and understand things better. Plus, it’s pretty cool to have something to look back over when you’re older. A diary is a piece of your own history. So, with all that fresh in your head, here are some tips on how to get started:
Try out gratitude lists first
If the thought of a blank page in front of you fills you with horror, then try writing a gratitude list. It’s nothing fancy, just a list of the things that you feel grateful for; from big monumental things to little inconsequential things. It could be anything from a sunny day, a good mark for an assignment, a kind friend, a yummy dinner, a movie or book you loved. Gratitude lists are a great way to end the day because even if you’ve had an awful or dull day, you’ve still managed to salvage some feeling of joy out of it.
Be as honest and as authentic as you can be
For a long time, whenever I would try to write in a diary I felt as if I had to write for someone besides me. I’d try my best to sound funny and witty and I’d rack my brains for something exciting to scribble down. I’d get cross with myself that I didn’t have intelligent, philosophical thoughts. One entry of an old diary simply reads, ‘Why don’t I have anything to say????’
It’s important for you to remember that a diary is a private space for your eyes only. It should be a place for you to write down whatever you feel like. No-one else is ever going to read this. What you say does not need to be profound or spectacularly beautiful. You don’t need to write pages and pages, either. A diary is a way to reflect upon your day, the things you’ve been up to and how you’re feeling. Once you get over the initial awkwardness and become less self-conscious, it’ll feel much easier. Let go of the idea that you need to perform and write for an audience besides just yourself. If you find it too difficult to write every day, write every other day. Or every week. Whatever works for you.
Read some diaries
By this, I don’t mean read your sister’s diary or anything like that. Read a fictional one! These can help you get into the mindset of writing your own. Some favourites of mine are: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, the Adrian Mole series by Sue Townsend, the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series by Louise Rennison and Dear Nobody by Berlie Doherty.
Draw pictures! If you don’t feel like writing pages and pages, try treating it like a scrapbook. Keep receipts and cinema or concert tickets. Stick photographs inside. Use different coloured pens. Your diary can be whatever you want it to be; it’s a space for expression after all. There are no rules!
Honestly, it gets easier once you get into the habit of it. Diaries are a great way to chronicle the ordinary and extraordinary things you experience, from the ridiculous and hilarious to the difficult and heart-breaking.
In the age of social media, getting back to basics and writing things down can help you feel less overwhelmed and you’ll get to know yourself better, too. Give it a go. Writing in a diary is one habit that you won’t regret. Promise.
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Image: Katie Edmunds