Journaling Made Simple: Five Tips

If any of you are like me, I tried to journal for years unsuccessfully. I can’t even count the amount of times I have been gifted a beautiful journal with blank lines just waiting to be written on. I always start with great intentions.

This time last year, my husband and I were preparing for him to leave for deployment. We have two small daughters, motherhood keeps me very busy, and with being a writer—my life sometimes feels ten times more than busy. My Major (that’s my hubby) gifted me with, yes, another journal! It was specifically for writers. It had author quotes in it and that old-world leather bound look with yellowing pages. I loved it! But . . . would I use it or would it be just another one mostly blank taking up shelf-space?

The BEST thing about this journal was that it wasn’t a journal! It was a DAY-TIMER! It reminded me of my Amish grandma’s journals that I used to help in my research when writing Seasons and that I see her still using. It was always a planner or a simple notebook, and she would just date it herself and write two-to-three sentences about her day. She still has a journal next to her hickory rocker and tries to document as many days as possible.

I know this is not a new concept. I had myself convinced that journaling had to be this big exploration into my psyche (some writers tend to be a little dramatic now and again [finger pointing at myself]). When I caught on that it didn’t have to be that way—it could be a simple as using a day-timer—I was intrigued.

Since we were headed into an unusual year for us with the deployment, I decided that I would try it—AGAIN. I didn’t make it a resolution or even a big deal about it. I just simply kept the day planner on my nightstand or even on my pillow to keep me reminded.

I’m happy to say that my 2012 day planner/journal is FULL. There have been a few days missed here and there that I actually go back and document at least what I was doing that day and if it was something significant I’d document perhaps what I was feeling. I usually do about three-to-five sentences a day. It’s amazing what pride you feel in being able to create a healthy habit after years of being unsuccessful!

I already go back to early months in the year and reflect on the goodness of God as He carried our family through the deployment. The happenings of my budding writing career that truly humble me. The beauty of how my precious daughters have grown make me melt. How wonderful will it be to look back years from now and see the fingerprints of God glaring back at me from these yellowing pages above any words I could ever write.

My 2012 journal completed…my new one is “Jane-a-Day” 5 year journal. So, for each day there are 5 entries on 1 page…2013/14/15/16/17…we’ll see how I do! 😉

Here are my simple tips:

1. Start simple and use a day planner. Day planners are not for a play-by-play. You only have the space for the highlights or a few “facts.” This is so much less intimidating and so do-able!

2. Find a book that really suits your style. Do you like the vintage look or maybe an inspirational image or verse on the front? I find, for some reason, that having a journal that truly matches my personal style really helps me stay on track!

3. Don’t know what to say? Talk about the weather or what you ate that day or who you talked on the phone with. It may help you develop your own internal conversation or you never know that simple remark about something like that might give you a reference point for something else that day that might not have been important then . . . but later you may find some significance.

4. Put it on your pillow ready to go. You have to move it in order to get into bed! I have my pen inside and a book light clipped on it. My husband often goes to bed before me so I don’t want to turn on the big light, and having my journal ready for me is a huge benefit.

5. BE YOURSELF and don’t be intimidated. Go into it with an open mind, and your writing will follow. I didn’t go into every detail often with how I was feeling about the deployment—just enough to remind me when I reread what my day was like. OR, when I was having some health problems I started documenting very simple things in my journal daily that I could use as guideposts for what types of supplements and vitamins I needed based on how I was feeling over the course of time. Or maybe you could use it as a food journal; this, I’ve heard, can be very important with diet sensitivities or weight management. Just make it what YOU want it to be.

So, are you ready? Sure, January 1 was a few days ago, but that is no reason not to just jump in now and get started!


Bis Schpatah,


YOUR TURN: What’s something you struggled with before finally accomplishing it then developing it into a natural habit in your life?

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Elizabeth Byler Younts (29 Posts)

Elizabeth Byler Younts used to be Amish, and even after her family converted, she still grew up among her Amish family. She is still very close with them and still speaks Pennsylvania Dutch regularly. She is the author of an Amish memoir titled Seasons: A Real Story of an Amish Girl. Seasons is the story of her grandmother Lydia Lee Coblentz who grew up in an impoverished Amish family through the Great Depression. Seasons was released in August 2010 and quickly became an Amazon bestseller in three categories. Elizabeth is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers. She is an Air Force Officer’s wife with two young daughters and makes her home wherever her family is stationed.


  1. I always journaled when I was younger and got out of the habit after I got married. I started journaling in a way to express some of my frustrations, but ended up using as a prayer journal, way to express ideas and writing practice. I usually journal in church.

  2. Christy Fitzwater says:

    I never thought about journaling in church -as a response. That’s a great idea!

  3. I have the same problem, Elizabeth: I think journaling my life away is a great idea, and two entries later, I’m bored. I think your tips are very helpful!

  4. Maryalice says:

    i use a small pocket calendar. similar idea. i jot the aapointments, but also if snowed, kids holiday concert, went ice fishing with family, etc. i have a hard time with writing – getting the time, so a small jot down of blue skies, snowed today, etc is fun to look back at. my grandfather had a journal from his great great grandfather who was a railroad engineer and this was what he did and seemed so simple and easy to me so i started doing that. i got out of the habit, this has reminded me that i need to get a calendar! thank you

    • It’s it so cool to be able to look back at those who came before us and see their habits and what they wrote about…what was important and what they were thinking…I just love it!!! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Love that idea! Add what you did during the day and 1-3 things you are grateful for — especially on extra tough days! I even realize that the smallest thing – candle lit in the evening, Sonic drink, trip to bookstore, petting my dogs, reading late into the night, feeling the sun & breeze on my face – can make a difference! — The Healing Redhead / Leslie

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