Story Journaling

Hard copy journaling for narrative lovers.

So if any of you are like me, staring at a computer screen all day is both enlightening and exhausting.  While I love technology and the various opportunities it affords for learning, exploration, and entertainment, the blue light of the screen can do a number on my eyes and my head, often causing some major headaches.  This is why I have a whole bookshelf full of journals filled with handwritten stories dating all the way back to when I was in middle school.  Plus, there’s just something so satisfying about sprawling out on my bed, penning out scenes and character arcs and story ideas, and seeing my notebooks slowly fill up with my fictional worlds.

But story journaling doesn’t necessarily have to be fictional.  There are two types of story journaling.  First is fictional story journaling, where you use your journal as a space to plot out your fictional narratives, sketch out brain maps, scribble down quick thoughts and ideas, write out scenes and dialogue.  It’s an excellent way to get your thoughts on paper right in front of you, no matter how messy or disjointed your writing might be.  My favorite way to do this is to use pen – no erasing!  The most important part of the exercise is just to write something.  You can always edit later.  (Don’t have any story ideas right now?  Check out some of the links below for some inspiration!)

The other type of story journaling is life story journaling.  It’s very similar to regular journaling, where you write out your thoughts and feelings and events of the day, but with a key difference: the perspective.  When you sit down to write in your life story journal, you do so with the mindset of an author writing a story; but in this case, that story is about you.  Take a look at your day, and then think about how that day contributes to the story of your life as a whole.  Where are you in your dramatic structure diagram?  Are you in the rising action section, working towards a particular aspiration or mission?  Maybe you’re relaxing in the resolution section, after you’ve completed a major goal and enjoyed or suffered the consequences of it, and you’re preparing to begin the next stage in your life.  Wherever you are, this method of writing allows you to see yourself almost from the outside, to understand what has shaped you as a character in your own story and determine what will motivate you into a better future.

Resources & Inspiration:

Writing Tips for Tweens” from Penguin Young Readers

Creative Writing Journal Ideas” from Creative Writing Now

7 Quick Journaling Exercises That Will Improve Your Fiction Writing” from The Write Life

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) website

Dream Journaling

What are your dreams telling you?

Have you ever woken up from an intense dream that felt so real that you were unsure if it actually happened or not at first? Or, maybe a specific person was in your dreams, and now they keep popping into your mind? Dreams are mysterious and sometimes intense, leaving lasting impressions on us. I find myself constantly having dreams that feel so real and powerful, yet I end up forgetting them almost completely not even 20 minutes later. I decided to start dream journaling to keep track of hidden meanings in my dreams and also to learn more about myself. 

A dream journal is a reflective way to keep track of your dreams. I keep my dream journal next to my bed so whenever I wake up from a dream-filled sleep, I can write it down on paper quickly before I start forgetting. Many believe that dreams are a manifestation of emotions that we carry with us throughout the day. If something is bothering you, even if it is pushed deep down into your subconscious, it can use dreams as a source of release. There are a lot of common dreams, like having your teeth fall out, feeling like you’re being chased, or moving in slow motion that can have deeper meanings attached to them. Things like stress, impatience, anxiety, conflict, or avoidance can be represented in the former dreams, and by documenting your dreams, you can reflect on things that may be bothering you in your real life. Dream journals can also help you if you are trying to learn how to lucid dream. Lucid dreaming occurs when a person is aware that they are dreaming and can control what they do and what happens within their dreams. According to Healthline, “When you write down your dreams, you’re forced to remember what happens during each dream. It’s said to help you recognize dreamsigns and enhance awareness of your dreams.” If you are interested in learning more about dream journaling, check out the resources below.

Resources & Inspiration:

How to Keep a Dream Journal: Tips, Examples, and Templates” from Penzu

Keeping a Dream Journal” from Psychology Today

The Best Way to Keep a Dream Journal” from Lucid Dream Society

5 Techniques to Try for Lucid Dreaming” from Healthline

Music Journaling

Genre-specific art journaling.

The hardest part about starting a journal is staring at a blank page and wondering how to fill it, so we’re here to help give you a little inspiration!  Last week, we talked about art journaling, so this week we bring to you an idea for a type of art journaling that many people follow: music journaling.

Music journaling is one of the easiest types of art journaling because there is so much visual content available out there for music lovers, from logos to album covers to merch to photographs to sheet music.  Think about what kind of music you like.  With classical music, there is tons of free sheet music that you could cut up and collage.  Or you could draw or paint creative representations of classical instruments.  With classic rock, there are album covers and funky fonts and splashes of dark or neon colors.

The big name in music journaling right now is K-Pop journaling.  K-Pop, or Korean Pop music, is music from South Korea that is currently sweeping across the United States, integrating itself into various aspects of online fandom culture as well as the more traditional media sources like television and radio, spearheaded in part by the massively popular group, BTS.  And fans of all ages have taken to expressing their love for this genre of music in many different ways, one of those ways being K-Pop journaling.  I have included a couple links below to videos of diarists creating K-Pop journals, but key features tend to be artist logos, photos of the artists, calligraphy, colorful stickers and decorations, and visual playlists of the artist’s songs as well as written memories from concerts attended.

So if you like art and music of any genre, try giving music journaling a go.

On a different note, if you like BTS, K-Pop, Korean Dramas, Korean culture, or any or all of the above, check out our new KClub!  We meet on Saturdays about once a month or so for two hours where we stream an episode of a K-Drama and then discuss and chat.

Resources & Inspiration:

16 Art Journal Prompt Ideas for Music Lovers” from ARTJOURNALIST

Starting a K-Pop Journal”, video by AmandaRachLee on YouTube

starting a new journal: my 6th kpop journal”, video by mihan. on YouTube

Art Journaling

For the diction disinclined.

Is writing just not for you, or is the thought of filling a page with just words and calendar spreads too daunting?  Try keeping an art journal instead.

An art journal is similar to a sketchbook, but different in its approach.  With an art journal, you want it to be a visual diary, a reflection of your life, your dreams, your feelings, your fears.  For example, you could include visuals of your hobbies or passions.  If you like gardening or plants, you can draw little representations of your plants, give them names, decorate with stickers.  Or maybe you had a really bad day, and you just want to splatter a couple of pages with some dark colors.  Whatever works for you, whatever allows you to unload, to relax, to express yourself, to reflect on your feelings or your life, is perfect for an art journal.

Another key difference between a sketchbook and an art journal is that you don’t have to be particularly artistically talented to keep an art journal.  While having a sketchbook means that you have to, well, sketch, an art journal can be anything you want it to be.  You can fill it with photos, polaroids, printed pictures, colorful washi tapes, aesthetic quotes, drawings and paintings and watercolors and sketches and scribbles – whatever suits your artistic fancy.  If you can’t draw, fill it with photos.  Print out titles in pretty fonts.  Line the borders of your pages with washi tape and stickers.  It’s up to you.  The journal is your canvas.At the end, you will have a visual record of your life.  But it also doesn’t need to be only visual.  If an entirely visual journal is just as daunting as an entirely written journal, combine them.  Write out something in the center and then draw or decorate in the margins.  Or draw and decorate the middle and then write in the margins.  Or mix it up throughout the entire page, turn the page on its side, write and draw on alternate pages, write something within your artwork. 

Just have fun with it.  Surprise yourself, and see what you can create.

Resources & Inspiration:

How to Combine Drawing and Writing into Deeply Personal Art Journals” from My Modern Met

How to Start an Art Journal” from Quiddity

Mindfulness Journaling

Get in touch with the present.

Thinking of ways to become more in touch with yourself during this quarantine? Sometimes it can be easy to get lost in the monotony of the “new normal” in quarantine, so some helpful and healthy mindfulness prompts can help bring to mind what made each day special. Mindfulness is about connecting the mind, soul, and body, so that you can be in the moment, rather than letting your thoughts drift off into anxious, dark places. By focusing on the present and bringing gratitude and gratefulness into each day, mindfulness can be extremely therapeutic. 

There are tons of mindfulness prompts that can be used while journaling that can help your juices start to flow. Many of these prompts ask questions like “What things am I most grateful for in my life,” “How am I impacting other people around me daily,” “Some areas that I’d like to improve in my life are…”. Clearly, a lot of these prompts dig into some areas that may not feel super comfortable, but by addressing them and putting them out on paper, they bring a sense of awareness and understanding. The thing that I like the most about mindfulness journaling is that it grounds me and helps me to understand myself better. If I am in a bad mood, sometimes mindfulness journaling can help me realize why I am feeling cranky, and it gives me the tools I need to improve my mood. 

If you are interested in diving deeper into the world of mindfulness journaling, there are many resources available online. My favorite mindfulness writer is Katie Dalebout, and I learn a lot about being mindful, grateful, and present through her podcast “Let it Out.” There are many mindfulness prompts available online as well, which can greatly help with starting the process.

Resources & Inspiration:

Katie Dalebout’s website

Why You Need a Mindful Journal Practice and Tips to Get You Started” from YogiApproved

10 Tips for Mindful Writing and Meditative Journaling” from DevelopGoodHabits

Mindful Journaling: 50 Unique Technique Topics and Writing Tips for Beginners” from Your Body The Temple

Special Edition: Quarantine Journaling

Journaling as a primary source document depicting turbulent times.

At this point in our journaling series, we’ve introduced the idea of journaling to your life and expounded upon its benefits as well as given you a couple ideas for formatting and content structure.  But some of you might be at a loss for what precisely to write about.

I was watching a webinar a few weeks ago that was talking about something totally unrelated.  It was a question and answer session with a group of authors of middle grade books.  One of the questions asked was something along the lines of “how will this time of quarantine and COVID-19 affect your writing?”  And one of the authors had an answer that honestly blew my mind a little bit.  She said that writing about this time was important, not just for authors like her, but for everyone, because those documents chronicling life during this period will someday become primary sources for students and historians in the future.

Maybe this is not as mind blowing for you as it was for me, but it’s a perspective that I never considered before, that we can actively become a part of history in this way just by writing down our experiences.  Historians are already beginning to compile primary source documents from regular people in order to gain a broader picture of what this time looks like in various parts of the world.  

Furthermore, we might feel like we’re stuck in this time of sickness and anxiety and isolation, but thinking about it in terms of history like this is, frankly, a little reassuring.  Humans have survived multiple pandemics before, just like we all learned as children in school; and while I don’t want to diminish the suffering and the death that many people are facing, and while we will certainly not come out of this unscathed, it is nevertheless comforting to know that we will be okay.

So if you’re looking for something to write about, write about your life.  Someday, your life will be important to many different people, and at the very least you’ll be able to look back and say, “I survived that.”

Resources & Inspiration:

The Quarantine Diaries” from The New York Times

Micro Journaling

Quick journaling for busy people.

Welcome to our third installment in our series about journaling, which is going to be all about Micro Journaling.

Micro Journaling is exactly what it sounds like: small journaling.  If reading our last two journaling posts made you think things like “I don’t have time for all that” or “I never have anything to write about,” this style of journaling might be a better fit for you.  Micro Journaling is essentially all about picking one little aspect of journaling and sticking to it.  

People do this in all sorts of ways, all completely different from the next person.  In a video by author Todd Brison, he outlines his very specific method of Micro Journaling.  There are only three steps to his system.  First, write the date.  Simple enough.  Second, choose a category and write a list of ten things that fit this category.  The category can be anything from “ten things I want to accomplish in the next ten years” to “ten reasons I love winter.”  The point is simply to get your brain moving.  The final step is to write one thing that you’re grateful for.  And that’s it.  His takeaway from this method of Micro Journaling is that it has improved his focus, and by doing it every morning as part of his morning routine, he kick starts his creativity so that he can do better work throughout the day.

If this still sounds like too much of a commitment for your busy life, you could try the method adopted by Jeremy Daly, who works as a leader in the tech industry and thus has a very busy lifestyle.  Rather than finding time to sit down everyday and write in his journal, he took the label of Micro Journaling in a different direction and instead writes little snippets in his journal throughout the day.  Every time he finishes a task or starts a new project or has a significant experience, he jots down a little note about it in an app on his phone.  Now years into journaling in this manner, he has thousands of little snippets chronicling his life that he can look back on and remember moments that he might otherwise have forgotten.

Remembering seems to be a big motivator behind many people when they begin journaling.  I know for me, I often look back in hindsight and wish I could remember when I first went to that place or met that person or did that thing.  Ariel Bissett, a Canadian writer, filmmaker, and YouTuber, felt the same when she decided to pick up Micro Journaling.  Similar to Jeremy Daly, she writes down little snippets of things she does each day, but she does this by taking a few moments at the end of each day to quickly scribble a couple bullet points into a little calendar.  And that’s it.  That’s all she needs.

And maybe that’s all you’ll need, too.

Resources & Inspiration:

Micro Journaling”, video by Todd Brison on YouTube

Micro-Journaling Needs To Be A Thing” the website of Jeremy Daly

Micro Journaling!”, video by Ariel Bissett on YouTube

Bullet Journaling

Formatting your journal for aesthetics or for function.

Welcome to our second installment in our series about journaling.  In this post, we’ll be talking about Bullet Journaling.

The Bullet Journal was invented by Ryder Carroll, a digital designer, as a method of organizing his life.  The thought process went as follows:  Many of us have multiple different journals, although we might not think of them as such.  From planners and calendars to bill planners and budget spreadsheets to sticky notes with grocery lists and movies to watch – all of these in some combination of physical and digital forms – many people have the information of their life spread out everywhere, and thus can find nothing when they need it.  Carroll’s Bullet Journaling system combines all of these into one.

Now, his system for doing this is quite rigid.  On his website, the link to which you can find below, he outlines exactly how you should format your journal to match his method.  But since it’s inception, the Bullet Journaling system adopted by many people has expanded to fit the needs of the individual.  So in essence, the Bullet Journal boils down to this:

A Bullet Journal is just an empty journal, preferably dotted or grid, that you can do whatever you want with.  It sounds vague, and I hear you saying “isn’t that just any normal journal?”  But what makes Bullet Journaling special is that it is all about these things called “spreads.”  The basic concept of a spread is that it is a formatted page that you draw out for yourself.  Some spreads are calendars – yearly, monthly, weekly, or daily – that you draw out freehand and fill in with tasks, goals, events, or accomplishment.  Some are mood trackers, where you mark down how you felt each day – good for keeping on top of your mental health.  Some are habit trackers that are designed so that you can keep up with good habits or attempt to break bad ones.  To-do Lists, Finance Trackers, Expense Trackers, Gratitude Logs, Brain Dumps, Mind Maps, Bucket Lists, Book/Reading Trackers, Watch Lists, Weight Loss Trackers – all are examples of different spreads that people who keep bullet journals utilize in order to cut down their many journals into one.

There are tons of ideas floating around on the internet, from web pages listing various spread ideas to try to Pinterest photos of the most beautiful, aesthetically pleasing spreads you’ll ever see in your life.  The fun part is that all these spreads are designed by you for you.  It can be as creative or as minimalist or as practical as you want it to be.  And, even better, all of the journals that we’ll be discussing throughout this journaling series can be formatted as a spread in a Bullet Journal, if you’re up for giving it a try.

Resources & Inspiration:

Ryder Carroll’s website (the Learn page that talks about his system)

Can Bullet Journaling Save You?” from The New Yorker

Minimal bullet journal setup »  for productivity + mindfulness”, video by Pick Up Limes on YouTube

My 2019 Bullet Journal Flip Through”, video by AmandaRachLee on YouTube

Leuchtturm1917 Medium A5 Dotted Hardcover Notebook (Black)

Compoco Journals

Journaling Intro: Get the juices flowing!

Journaling methods for mental health.  

Welcome to the beginning of our new series on journaling!  Journaling is a practice we stereotypically associate with kids and preteens who complain about their parents and gush about their crushes and chat about school in a diary with “DO NOT READ” scribbled in all caps over the front cover – which is a perfectly valid and fun form of journaling, don’t get me wrong!  But in fact, many people from the young to the old have picked up journaling as a form of creative and personal expression, and there are studies that show the benefits of journaling for our health.  Not only that, but journaling can come in many more shapes and sizes than you might think.  Throughout this series on journaling, we will present to you some of these journaling methods in hopes that you might find one that strikes your fancy.

For this first installment, we will discuss the most basic form of journaling:  regular, old-fashioned diary journaling.  I think you probably all understand what this entails, and many of you might have even had this type of journal when you were young, but some of you might not know just how beneficial it can be for your mental and physical health.  Below, we have a couple links to resources talking about this, but to keep it short and simple:  a journal is a place where you can write down your thoughts and feelings in a safe, judgment-free space so that you can examine them and better understand them, which can help you manage stress, anxiety, and depression.  And as a consequence, lowering your stress, anxiety, and depression has been proven to have wide-ranging physical health benefits.

If this sounds appealing to you, we have a challenge for you this week…

**Take 5 minutes or less (or more!) every day for a week to just write.  You can write in a physical notebook or in a digital Word or Google doc – whatever’s easiest for you.  But don’t worry if you miss a day!  The point of this exercise is to reduce stress, not add to it.  You can write about anything, even just one sentence or one phrase will do.  What did you do today?  What did you accomplish?  What do you want to accomplish tomorrow?  If you didn’t do anything that day, that’s okay.  You are allowed to have those days.  We all have them.  Instead, write about what television shows or movies you watched, or what music you’re really into right now, or how you felt that day.  If you really, truly can’t come up with anything, go for my mother’s default in conversation:  How was the weather?**

Normally, if you can start with one sentence, it’s easier to move on to two, then three, then more.  And by the end of the week, you’ll have a record of how the week went for you.  Did you have a bad week?  Were you tired or bored or down a lot?  Looking back at this record might help you see why you had such a bad week and come up with strategies for making the next week better.  Or maybe you had a wonderful week, picking up a new hobby that you’re finding you really love, spending a lot of happy, quality time with your family, and so on.  You’ll be able to look back at those times a year from now and remember the happiness that you felt.  If you continued with the new hobby, maybe you’ll be a year into it and be able to look back and see the exact date that you started.  It’s like a mini time capsule just for you and your life.

If this method of diary journaling seems too vague or too boring to be of any use or interest to you, or maybe you find part-way through the week that it just isn’t working for you, keep an eye out for our next installments where we will be giving you some ideas for more different types of journaling.  We’ll be talking about Bullet Journaling, Mindfulness Journaling, Dream Journaling, Art Journaling, Micro Journaling, and more.  The most important thing to keep in mind throughout this whole series is:  Does this work for you?

Resources & Inspiration:  

Journaling for Mental Health” from the University of Rochester Medical Center

Journaling isn’t just good for mental health.  It might also help your physical health.” from NBC News

how i finally started journaling *and actually enjoying it*” video from ‘bestmess’ on YouTube

Mental toughness books – available now on OverDrive

Are you looking for ways to increase your mental toughness during this period of uncertainty? These eBooks and eAudiobooks are available for download now.

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do – Take Back Your Power, Embrace Change, Face Your Fears, and Train Your Brain for Happiness and Success by Amy Morin (eBook) – click here for eAudiobook.

“Kick bad mental habits and toughen yourself up.”—Inc. Master your mental strength—revolutionary new strategies that work for everyone from homemakers to soldiers and teachers to CEOs.

The Mental Toughness Advantage – A 5-Step Program to Boost Your Resilience and Reach Your Goals by Douglas Comstock (eAudiobook)

Mental toughness enables us to get up when we want to give up, but it’s a skill that takes practice. To develop mental toughness for everyday life, The Mental Toughness Advantage offers a practical 5-step program to boost resilience and overcome every obstacle.

Option BFacing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. (eBook)

#1 New York Times Best Seller. Named a Best Book of 2017 by Barnes & Noble and Amazon. From Facebook’s COO and Wharton’s top-rated professor, the #1 New York Times best-selling authors of Lean In and Originals: a powerful, inspiring, and practical book about building resilience and moving forward after life’s inevitable setbacks.

Peak Performance – Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness (eBook)

“A transfixing book on how to sustain peak performance and avoid burnout” —Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Option B, Originals, and Give and Take

“An essential playbook for success, happiness, and getting the most out of ourselves.” Arianna Huffington, author of Thrive and The Sleep Revolution

“I doubt anyone can read Peak Performance without itching to apply something to their own lives.” —David Epstein, New York Times bestselling author of The Sports Gene

Resilient – How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness by Rick Hanson, Ph.D. (eBook)

With his trademark blend of neuroscience, mindfulness, and positive psychology, New York Times bestselling author Dr. Rick Hanson shows you how to develop twelve vital inner strengths hardwired into your own nervous system. Then no matter what life throws at you, you’ll be able to feel less stressed, pursue opportunities with confidence, and stay calm and centered in the face of adversity

Looking for more? Click on these keyword search suggestions:

mental toughness
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Do you have any books to recommend on this subject? Leave your suggestions in the Comments below. We’d love to hear from you!