We sometimes use affiliate links in our content. If you click and buy from one of these, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.

Journaling is one of those activities that piques the curiosity of individuals who want to understand themselves better. But, when it comes to writing that first journal entry, we hit a wall.

It stumps us. Smacking us upside the head with a sudden realization that we have no idea of how or where to even start. That, mixed with a touch of nerves around ‘messing up’ the first page, keeps us stuck in fear.

Believe it or not, crafting that initial journal entry is a lot simpler than you think.

flatlay printable journaling pages

Get FREE journaling resources + templates to get you…

Sign up for instant access to a growing toolkit of PDF journaling pages, prompts, worksheets and more. PLUS bi-weekly journaling wisdom, encouragement and personal insight delivered straight to your inbox. 

By signing up you agree to our T&Cs and Privacy Policy.

Expectations vs Reality When You First Start Journaling

Think back to when you first decided it was a good idea to keep a journal.

What did you imagine it would be like? How did you think you needed to approach the journaling process?

I loved the idea at first. You know, having a private place where I could freely rant, scream, and cry about the issues and pain points in my life. And then, my ‘healing’ would happen magically.

So, I did what most people do when starting a journal.

I bought a pretty new notebook (a little too pretty to write in) that I could dedicate to my quest for personal growth. I also bought a bunch of colorful glitter pens, some stickers and a calligraphy book for motivation.

Well, when it actually came time to sit and write, I froze.

In that moment journaling didn’t feel how I expected it to feel.

I was experiencing a strange sense of fear. I had all this stuff going on in my life and a strong desire to write it out, but I didn’t know how to put it into words.

There was guilt, and worry about someone one day reading this mess.

This wasn’t the healing experience I had imagined.

On top of all that, that first blank page looked so pure and innocent. And here I was about to mark it up with my messy handwritten scrawl, typos and scribbling outs. Not my vision of a neat journal.

I looked at my calligraphy book, then at my gel pens, and back to the book. I decided that that day, was not the day.

Disillusionment is quite common in the early stages of journaling.

You wonder if you’re going to do it right.

Or if you’ll be able to go deep enough, so you get stumped on what to write. But this pressure to create the perfect first entry will make you want to quit journaling before you even begin.

Graphic of female characters initially expressing interest then disillusionment with journaling

Busting Myths About the Rights and Wrongs of Writing Journal Entries

When I speak to people who express an interest in journaling, but never start, they always tell me a slew of reasons why they find it so difficult.

Their reasons usually center around a bunch of myths ingrained in what they think journaling should be. But there are no ‘should’s. Only rules, you set for yourself.

Myth 1: You should be a good writer, use full sentences and proper grammar

You don’t have to Virginia Woolf yourself to experience the joy of journal writing.

In reality, a journal is a personal record of your thoughts, not something meant for publication. There are no writing or grammar rules to follow.

With journaling, formal writing is unnecessary – abbreviations, fragments, and random stream of consciousness are perfectly fine. It’s about self-expression, not literary style.

Your entries just need to make sense to you.

The true purpose of a journal to capture your thoughts as they are, not how well you can dress them up in fancy prose.

Myth 2: You should have great handwriting

I’ve always had a bit of a hang up about my handwriting. In school, I had a best friend who’s writing was beautiful. Her class notes always looked so perfectly put together, and she was forever getting praised for her ‘neat and tidy’ penmanship.

I, on the other hand, had the jangliest handwriting ever. My letters were uneven, and sloped at odd angles. My word spacing was haphazard, and I would always misspell something and end up scribbling it out.

I came to journaling with the belief that your journal had to be ‘neat and tidy’. That particular belief led to major journaling procrastination – because I had to find the perfect pen, that would make my writing flow like water.

Of course, there was no such magical pen.

These days, I write freely without worry over how it looks.

The beauty of your journal lies not in the perfection of the letters, but in the honesty of the words.

Myth 3: You should pour your deepest thoughts and feelings, and it has to be long and detailed

While deep reflection has its place, journaling can also involve chronicling your day, making to-do lists, or notes of appreciation.

A few sentences is enough to jot down a few lingering thoughts before bed, during your commute, or first thing in the morning.

Your entries can be as short or long as you want. Quick bullet points and one-line thoughts still “count” as journaling. Don’t get caught up in length.

Anything that feels meaningful to journal about is the right approach.

The value of a journal entry is not in how long it is, but in the truth it holds.

Myth 4: You should expect to journal for at least 30 minutes everyday

This myth conjures up images of locking yourself away for hours at a time to write volume after volume.

While you can journal for as long as you want, entries can also be quick 2-5 minute check-ins.

Allow journaling to fit smoothly into your schedule.

Take this as your permission slip to stop overthinking it, and start journaling in the simplest way possible.

If just five minutes of consistent journaling could open the door to a whole new perspective on your day, what a difference that would make to your world?

Myth 5: There are right and wrong topics to write about

Your journal space is yours to fill however you wish, from life events to random musings to creative exercises. No topics are off limits.

The real power of a journal its ability to welcome all your thoughts, without judgment or restriction.

Fancy notebook, not necessary.

Perfectly formatted entries, not necessary.

Deep insight on your first few attempts, not necessary.

Random scribbles, unstructured sentences, rambling text – great! It means you’re defying your inner critic and getting the work done without lambasting on perfectionism.

First Journal Entry Ideas (With Examples)

How do you write a good journal entry?

First of all, let’s take off the pressure. Start by thinking: What makes a ‘good enough’ first journal entry?

The answer: Anything YOU want to write about in the moment.

Okay, but you’re here for some inspiration.

Let’s start with the easiest way to write your first journal entry – using sentence stems.

These helpful writing prompts give you a soft springboard to start reflecting, writing and discovering new aspects of yourself.

Choose a stem that fits your current state of mind and use it as your first journal entry.

Sentence Stems:

  • Today I felt…
  • I was surprised by…
  • I accomplished…
  • Something I’m looking forward to is…
  • If I could change one thing it would be…
  • Something I want to remember is…
  • I had an idea about…
  • I realized…
  • I wondered about…
  • I learned…
  • Something that inspired me today was…
  • I felt (emotion) when…
  • I’d like to know more about…
  • I had a conversation about…
  • I’m curious about…
  • I’m questioning…
  • I had a dream where…
  • If I could talk to my younger self I would say…
  • I want to spend more time…
  • Today I struggled with…
  • Something I’m trying to understand is…
  • A funny thing happened today/the other day…

If you’re eyeing that list, and still unsure of what to actually write, here are a few practical examples.

Prompt: “Today I felt…”

Example Journal Entry: Today was a rollercoaster of feelings. Started off feeling refreshed, but then stress crept in by lunchtime. Out of the blue, a chat with an old buddy in the evening picked me right up, making me thankful for the friends I have.

Prompt: “I’m questioning…”

Example Journal Entry: Lately, I’ve been questioning a lot about where I’m headed career-wise. It feels like I’m at a crossroads, not sure whether to stick with what’s familiar or take a leap into something new. The comfort of the known is tempting, but there’s this nagging curiosity about the ‘what ifs’ that I just can’t shake off. It’s like standing at the edge of a diving board, wondering if the water below is too cold or just right for the plunge.

Prompt: “A funny thing happened today…”

Example Journal Entry: So, a funny thing happened on my way to the store today. I saw this dog wearing sunglasses and a tiny hat, just cruising along in a kid’s pushcart, looking like he owned the road. It was so unexpected and hilarious, I couldn’t stop laughing. It’s moments like these that remind me not to take life too seriously and to find joy in the little things. Who knew a dog with a fashion sense could make my day.

And there you go,

Just jot down what’s on your mind or in your heart. No filters needed. See?

Other examples that would work perfectly for your first journal entry are:

Self Check-in Questions:

  • How are you?
  • What’s new?
  • What have you been up to?
  • Anything interesting happening?
  • Plans for the weekend?
  • How was your weekend?
  • What made/will make your day great?
  • What made/will make your day not so great?

Events from the day or day before:

  • Went for a morning walk
  • Grabbed coffee with a friend
  • Attended a productive work meeting
  • Cooked chicken stir fry for dinner
  • Did laundry and cleaned my room
  • Face-Timed my mum/dad
  • Watched a movie before bed

A Moment of Gratitude:

  • Waking up to sunshine streaming through my window
  • My cosy bed on a cold morning
  • The barista that knows my “usual” coffee order
  • My health allowing me to be active
  • Having a job I enjoy
  • The smell of homemade soup
  • My dog’s happy wagging tail
  • A warm hug from my best friend

See also: 50+ Gratitude Journal Prompts

An Observation:

  • A flock of geese flying overhead
  • The leaves changing to vibrant autumn colors
  • Frost covering the grass
  • Squirrels scurrying around collecting acorns
  • An airline trail fading across the bright blue sky
  • The repetitive sounds of construction work nearby
  • A flowering cactus in my kitchen window

A Random Thought:

  • Wondering what I’ll cook for dinner
  • Thinking about my goals for the next 5 years
  • Questioning my career path
  • Feeling nostalgic for my college days
  • Wondering if I should plan that weekend getaway
  • Craving my grandmother’s famous lasagne
  • Debating if I should get a haircut
  • Itching to do some thrift store shopping
  • Wanting to be closer to nature

Making Lists:

  • Favorite song or playlist
  • Favorite podcasts
  • Books I want to read
  • Places to travel
  • Movies to watch
  • New recipes to try
  • Chores to catch up on
  • Gift ideas for friends
  • Clothes I should declutter
  • Things that make me happy

You’ve Got This!

Pick one of the above prompts, and write that journal entry.

It really is as simple as that. Try it.

And if you would like additional journaling inspiration in the form of journal prompts and worksheets, sign up to my resource hub.

flatlay printable journaling pages

Get FREE journaling resources + templates to get you…

Sign up for instant access to a growing toolkit of PDF journaling pages, prompts, worksheets and more. PLUS bi-weekly journaling wisdom, encouragement and personal insight delivered straight to your inbox. 

By signing up you agree to our T&Cs and Privacy Policy.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *