How to stay creative at home – journalling

Reading time: 4 minutes
Tracey S. Rosenberg, our Writer in Residence, shares how to put pen to paper and start journalling, whether you want to flex those writing muscles, or just want a place to order your thoughts.

Many of us kept a journal as kids, for a school project or because we wanted an excuse to write in a cute notebook with a sparkly pen. Keeping a journal as an adult can often seem self-indulgent or pointless, especially when our daily thoughts revolve around work and family, the weather, and what’s for tea.

In fact, journalling can be helpful and fun.

If you’re having a tough time – which we all are, given the current situation – a journal can be a safe space to work through difficult issues, spill your feelings, or help you sort out your thoughts (especially if you need to have a difficult conversation and aren’t sure what to say).

A journal can serve as a memory bank, a place to keep track of books or music you liked, and a way to record lyrics and quotations that speak to you – I sometimes write them in the front cover so I can easily find them again.

A journal is also a lovely way to leave a record of our lives. Your grandchildren might be as fascinated by your accounts of a pandemic as we are by wartime diaries.

If you’d like to give journalling a try, here are a few things to think about.

What journal should you choose? Normally I’d recommend visiting a stationery store or a bookshop and looking at the variety of notebooks, but you might have something in your home or boxroom that suits. If you like to doodle, an artist’s notebook will give you the freedom for both words and pictures. Personally, I need lines, and large hardback Moleskines are sturdy and the right size. If you have nothing handy, or if you prefer to type or dictate, you could keep a document on the computer. The most important part is getting your thoughts out.

If you’re using a physical notebook, choose a good pen. Nothing is more annoying than blobs of ink all over your fingers! My husband gave me a pen which uses ink cartridges, which allows me to change colours if I feel like writing in sapphire blue for a while. Pencil also works, if you don’t want to be permanent about it. You can go through your journal with a highlighter if you want to make important sections stand out.

When and how often to write? It’s a good idea to write regularly, to get into a habit, but this should be a positive part of your life rather than something that makes you feel guilty, so don’t be hard on yourself if you take a while to find the rhythm that works best for you. Writing in your journal before you go to bed can help you reflect on the day, while a morning session could allow you to mentally plan the hours ahead.

Don’t worry about grammar and spelling. This isn’t a school exercise, and you won’t be marked.

If you take your journal out of the house, consider keeping it in a zippered waterproof pouch so the rain, or other liquids, don’t spill on it. (One of my early journals smells of yogurt.) You might want to write your name and email address in the front cover in case it gets lost.

Written paragraphs are only one part of journalling. Bullet Journals focus on short organisational points (the internet can provide a lot of information about this). Some people decorate their journals with stickers and washi tape, and others turn their journal into full-blown scrapbooks, pasting in photographs and postcards and concert tickets. I’m more of a words-only person, but I still use the inside covers for stickers – they can be fun souvenirs! If you choose a journal (such as a Moleskine) with a pocket in the back cover, you can keep paper souvenirs without needing glue.

Directing your thoughts to a person – perhaps a loved one you miss – can make a journal feel like a very long letter. You could also make up a person; Anne Frank famously named her journal “Kitty” (inspiring generations of young women to do the same).

It’s absolutely fine if your opening statements are along the lines of “Well, I don’t know what to write about. I had chips for tea. It’s raining again. Why am I doing this?” If you’re still stuck, here are a few suggestions:

* Start with the phrase, “The best thing that happened today was…” Then write for five minutes without stopping – keep your pen (or fingers) moving. It’s a great way to silence the inner critic who tells you that you have nothing worth saying.

* List four good things and four bad things in your life right now. Then write about one in detail.

* Write about a person who’s dear to you but who you’re not able to see right now.

* Set personal goals for the next week or month or year, along with a few ideas on how to achieve them. Don’t forget to celebrate accomplishments!

* Think about where you were a year ago. How have you changed? Where do you hope to be a year from now?

In Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Ernest, Gwendolen states: “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” Your journal doesn’t need to be sensational, but even in quiet times it may become an important part of your life.

Will you be starting a journal? Do you have one already? Let us know in the comments below or email us at

Photography: Getty/nortonrsx