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10 Ideas for a Journaling Jump Start

8 Mar

Today, journals come in so many designs, materials, and sizes that there is something for everyone. Once you’ve found the one for you, however, you might find yourself with pen or pencil in hand, staring at the blank pages and thinking … now what? What do I write?

It’s happened to everyone at some point whether in personal or professional cases. That’s where we come in to help. Need inspiration of where to start? Use these ideas to jumpstart your pen across those white and empty pages:

  1. Count Your Blessings: Too often we let the things we are most grateful for slip by without being fully appreciated. Start writing down three things you’re grateful for each day. It will help you to not only take note of these moments in life, but to actually watch for them and give them the attention they deserve.
  2. Make Lists: While grocery lists are rarely exciting enough to merit a place in your journal, keep lists of everything from what musicals you saw this year to what fishing lures you like best to what tricks you want to learn on your snowboard. Each list can inspire you to develop the items more.
  3. Set Goals: Writing down goals is considered the most important step to actually accomplishing them. Whether you start small and write down what you want to achieve today or this week, or if you go big and write down what you want to achieve this year or in your lifetime, you have so many pages to break down the goals into individual steps.  Check back often to write how you’re doing.
  4. Record Dreams: Sometimes dreams are unbelievably insightful—and other times, they are just crazy images inspired by too much bad television and a questionable glass of wine before bedtime. Writing down what you remember about your dreams can help cement the lessons you might otherwise lose.
  5. Note Quotes: A journal is a great place to write down quotes or sayings and refer to them later for further writing inspiration, a pick-me-up, or sharing with friends and family.
  6. Review Books/Movies/Performances: Write down your opinions about the book you just finished, the movie you just watched, or the performance you just attended. What did you like best? What do you wish was done differently? What was just completely WRONG? Did someone surprise you? You could even include pictures or your ticket stubs as extras!
  7. Remember Moments: Just like a camera, a journal can hold onto moments—fun times with your friends, worldly observations, outlandish ideas—that you will want to mull over again later. Write them down quickly and if you want, revisit that moment later to respond to it, simply reminisce, or flesh out the details.
  8. Marking Birthdays/Anniversaries: How about a special journal you bring out once a year for your birthday or anniversary? You can write down what you did, where you went, who was there, what gifts you gave and received and all of those other details. Important dates come and go too quickly in our lives not to grab onto the details so we can look at them again next year.
  9. Keep Contacts: Use a small, portable journal for writing down the names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and web sites of the people you network with at parties, work, stores, and other locations. Pull the journal out of a purse, messenger bag, or back pocket and get that contact info before the two of you go in different directions, so that later, when you are at home, you can get in touch. Always jot down a couple of words next to the name to jog your memory of why you wanted to follow up.
  10. Monitor Expenses: Are you number-minded? Wondering how much you spend on eating out or filling up the gas tank? Where does that weekly paycheck keep disappearing to? Write it all down in your journal. If nothing else, in a couple of years, when you look back at it and see what gas prices used to be, you will get a good laugh.

Open up the cover, uncap the pen or sharpen the pencil and fill in that first page. A journal is yours to create—so start writing! What words are ready to go on your page? What moments do you want to capture? Use your journal and go!


 Meet the Writer: Tamra Orr is a full time writer and has written more than 300 books for readers of all ages. She is also mom to four and writes an average of 50 letters or more a month.


5 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block

1 Mar

Writers love to discuss writer’s block. Is it real or is it just fear? Is it a symptom of being creatively drained or of being undisciplined? Regardless of which side of the discussion you side with, there is one truth:  Whether you’re an avid journaler, a dedicated letter writer or a professional writer, we all get stuck once in a while. No matter how hard you try, sometimes those blinking cursors and blank pages stop us in our tracks. Next time you get stuck, try one (or all!) of these five tricks to overcome your block.

Tips for Writer's Block by Maggie Marton on

Obsess … With a Timer

It’s okay to fret about being stuck. It’s normal and healthy – as long as you don’t let it derail you completely. So spend a few minutes obsessing, but set a timer to keep you focused. Set the timer for nine minutes. Spend that time doing nothing but obsessing. Think about why you’re stuck. Is it the project? Do you have other, perhaps more important, tasks that you should do first? Let your mind wander. When that timer goes off, use one minute to refocus. Take a couple deep breaths, open a new window or flip to a new page, and start writing.

Dig Into Your Past (and Present and Future)

If you just can’t think of anything to write, start with your past. If you’re working on a daily journal entry, try to remember the names of your elementary school teachers and how they made you feel. If you’re struggling with a piece of fiction, start with the worst day you can possibly remember from when you were a child. Describe the people, the smells, the scenery. Apply those same principles to the present (how did I feel this morning during my commute?) and to the future (what is the best thing that could happen to me in the next five years?).

List, List, List

This is my go-to strategy anytime I feel stuck. Start a list. List anything: groceries, your friends’ names from junior high, things you’re grateful for, goals for the year, things you’d buy if you had a bottomless bank account. Get creative with your lists! Try your favorite books in alphabetical order or aim to list 101 of something.

Create Sentence “Starts”

On a sticky note or the back page of your journal, draft a handful of sentence “starts” that you can refer to when you get stuck. Some good options:

  • Nothing makes me happier than …
  • If I could change one thing about my family …
  • If I found a $50 bill on the sidewalk, I would …

Make a list of 10 to 20 that you can refer to whenever you feel blocked. Use it to start a journal entry or a piece of fiction.

Walk Away

This last-resort trick is for when you’ve tried everything but nothing’s working. Stand up, turn around, and walk away. Take your dog around the block. Make a cup of tea. Watch a daytime talk show. Sometimes the pressure can be too great, and when you’re focused on the fact that you’re stuck, it can be really difficult to find a way to get unstuck. Let your smarty-pants subconscious do the work for a while. The important thing here is to stay away from tasks that will keep you away from your work. Pick something short and something mindless (that laundry’s not going to fold itself) so that you don’t divert all your brainpower away from your writing. After a short break, do some stretches, take a couple deep breaths, and then get back to it.

Everyone gets stuck. In any creative project, it’s only normal. The difference between being successful and unsuccessful is to let a little block stop your progress!


 Meet the Writer: Maggie Marton is a freelance writer who lives in Bloomington, Indiana, with her husband and their three darling dogs. View more of Maggie’s work at


What Does Your Journal Reveal About Your Personality?

1 Nov

For those of us who revel in scouring through the various styles of journals and notebooks, selection requires thought and consideration.  From the type of cover to the page styling, a journal or notebook can be as distinctive as our individual personalities and encourage us to become more creative and/or more organized.

Journals and Personality by Beth Hempton on

It all starts with your purpose. Why are you purchasing the journal or notebook? Will you be recording your deepest thoughts, mapping out a novel, or making daily lists? Are you an artist who needs a place for initial sketches or a mathematician working out formulas?

As you shop for journals and notebooks, consider the following to determine the best style for your next project:

  • Cover Color – Whether you’re sitting in a meeting, at the airport, or in a coffee shop, the physical appearance of your journal reflects your personality. The cover graphic may beckon you with its memorable style, perhaps you’re a wordsmith who desires a journal with Poe’s writing gracing the cover for inspiration, or you’re a conservationist who prefers an eco journal with a hemp cover. Personally, I purchase the same blue notebooks regularly to keep my life in order. I recently received a gift of notebooks, but my friend chose red covers instead of blue. I found I struggled with the red because it’s not a color that helps me focus. So, if you’re sensitive to color, be sure to choose one that matches your disposition.
  • Cover Style – As a diehard journal user, I own both hard and soft cover notebooks and journals. You may find that hard covers work best for your desk or bedside due to their sturdiness, while soft covers are lighter and travel well. For me, hard covers stay home and soft covers work in my purse and computer bag.
  • Size – Whether you want a notebook or journal for your bedside, backpack, purse or pocket, choosing the most comfortable size is vital. Your purpose may define your notebook size. If you’re just keeping a list on the run, a small version like the mini size or pocket size might be the most comfortable, but if you’re making sketches around town, a larger notepad in the A4 to A3 range could be ideal. If you’re traveling, a smaller version of your normally large bedside journal may suffice for keeping your memorable vacation thoughts.
  • Journals and Personality by Beth Hempton on

    Page Style – Blank pages, graph paper, dots or lines … which works best for you? If you’re a freestyler, combining words and drawings, blank pages could be ideal.  For more organized note taking and calculations, dotGrid or graphing styles offer structure.  The standard lined page helps writers and list makers keep their thoughts in order.

  • Closure System – How you handle your notebooks and journals can determine the closure system you prefer. A wrap closure offers the greatest protection of your pages. If you tend to toss your journal in a bag or tuck it under your arm, a wrap will keep pages from getting messy or warped. An elastic closure offers some protection and keeps pages flat. If your journal sits in one location, such as on your desk or bedside, you may not desire a closure. Security may also be a reason to select a closure. A wrap may deter someone from picking up your notebook and glancing at it. Closures tend to send the message that the information within the journal is private.

So, what will your next journal or notebook reveal about you? Choosing your journal or notebook wisely could encourage you to finish that school project, write that novel, or become more organized! Share your favorite notebook or journal styles and be sure to tell us how they reflect your personality.


Meet the Writer: Beth Hempton is a freelance writer and educator residing on Johns Island in South Carolina. She writes about education, health, food and lifestyle topics for websites, blogs, e-zines and print magazines. Having worn many writing hats from authoring curriculum to newspaper journalism, she views writing as a life skill and as an art form.