Laurie Blackwell has been journaling for more than 40 years. A creative journal guide and teacher, Laurie believes that journaling has kept her “sane, whole and focused through the good and not-so-good moments.” She sees journaling as an essential part of self-care, spiritual peace, and personal growth.

“Your journal can be a container for your soul, a safe place to store your thoughts so you don’t have to always lug them around with you,” said Laurie, who believes we all have something to put on paper. Journaling also is an easy and inexpensive way to get to know ourselves, she said. “And when you know yourself better, you make better choices for your life.”

Maybe you know that journaling is beneficial, but something keeps stopping you. Maybe you think you don’t have time. But as Laurie said, “If you have five minutes a day, you have time.” Maybe you don’t know how to journal. Fortunately, there’s no right way, Laurie said. “Just put down a sentence or two, or a simple drawing. That’s it.”

Maybe you’re worried that someone will read your deepest, most private thoughts. According to Laurie, “Throw it away when you are finished writing. Paint over it. Write in a code you invent.” (This is a great place to get creative—think of all sorts of ways you can mask or bury your treasure.)

Maybe you hate to write or draw—or don’t think you can. Maybe you were told you’re a terrible writer, and an even worse artist. Remember that “journaling is about you and what you want to do,” Laurie said. No one is grading or critiquing it.

Maybe you think you need fancy supplies, a specific routine or a special space. But this, too, is totally up to you. For instance, Laurie’s journaling routine is “random and messy.” “I jot a note as I’m making my lunch. I write on a napkin at a restaurant. I scribble something down while waiting for a traffic light. I have no routine and no Pinterest-worthy journaling nook. I just try to journal something every day.”

I love this. Because so often we wait until the conditions are right or ideal. We wait to write or to create anything until our desk is clutter-free, until we have 30 minutes to ourselves, until we’ve finished all our chores, until we’re done for the day. But that time never comes.

Yet we can create in the mess, in the in-between moments. On the subway. While standing in line. While our coffee is brewing or our tea is steeping. We think it’s weird to take out a notebook and start scribbling. But we take out our phones all the time. So instead of scrolling social media, jot down a thought, a feeling, an observation, a reaction. Because journaling is like taking a deep breath. It is a time to center yourself. It is a time to listen to yourself. Wholeheartedly.

If you’d like a starting point or some guidance, Laurie shared five of her favorite prompts:

  • I wish…
  • Today I feel…
  • The number one thing on my mind right now is…
  • The most important thing you need to know about me is….
  • If I were a flower, I’d be a ____________ because….

You can find more prompts on her website. And if you need some visual inspiration, check out Instagram using hashtags such as #journaling and #artjournaling. But try not to compare your journaling to anyone else’s. As Laurie said, there is no formula.

Remember, journaling is for you, and only you. You make up the rules. You’re the boss.

Photo by Sticker Mule.