Are you ready to start keeping a journal?

by Sara Marchessault

There is a chest at the foot of my bed. Inside of the chest, on the right-hand side, is a stack of books. They do not have titles on the covers, nor do they have an authors name on the side binding.

Most of them have a pretty cover. They are inviting. They look like they have been used many times. There are lines – I like to call them “book wrinkles” – down the spines of those with spines. They have been open many times.

Some of them have pages that have been damaged by water or coffee. You can see the crinkled pages and the stain marks on the edges.

They are my journals.

Inside of these books is my life for the past 25 years. (A few months shy of 25 years, but hey, close enough!) Sara and journals

Should anyone ever thumb through these pages, they would find a running record of my thoughts at any time. The events I recorded at age eleven are written in my eleven-year-old voice. It’s pretty cool!

When I take the time to look back and read an old journal, I’m reminded of what I was like and I reflect on how much I’ve grown and changed.

One thing I hear from people a lot is: I’d like to start keeping a journal, but I’m having a hard time getting started. How do you make time for it? And how do you know what to write?

The answer to this is one of those things you already know, but sometimes you need to be gently reminded: You just freaking do it.

You start out simple. The simplest way I know of to start out is to keep your journal somewhere near your bed or someplace it can be included in your nighttime ritual. Before you drift off to dreamland, pick up your pen and write about your day.

Keeping it small and easy at first is the best way I know of to ease in. Write about the awesome workout you had, the promotion at work, the other guy who got the promotion, what an amazing meal you just had, or the precious moment with reading stories to your kids right before bed.

Write about what happened in the day that meant something to you. Or write about why you felt like nothing today meant anything to you.

Journal about what comes to mind and when you’re ready, turn off your light and go to sleep. One side effect of journaling right before bed is that you might even go to sleep easier or faster because you just took the time to clear your head. Cool, right?

Over time, you will likely find that something might happen during the day and your thoughts turn to your journal. “I need to remember to write this down in my journal!”

And eventually you might reach a point where keeping your journal with you makes sense so you can take advantage of the five minutes at car pick up. Or waiting in the dentist office.

One more thing. You might be wondering why I haven’t told you to set your alarm and get up thirty minutes earlier to journal. After all, that’s what Julia Cameron suggests for her morning pages. I’ve done The Artist’s Way and it is fantastic! If you want to start journaling first thing in the morning, go for it!

In my experience, some of us are not quite willing to get up earlier than we already do. It might be easier for you to fit in ten or fifteen minutes before bed than to jump right into an early morning routine. You have to choose what’s right for you. And hey, once you get excited about journaling, you may find that you want to wake up and write.

Be gentle with yourself. This is an act of love and kindness to your spirit. No beating yourself up about how you do it, okay?

Are you ready? It’s Friday (yeah!) – if you don’t already have a journal, maybe this weekend it’s time to see what you can find at the bookstore. Or Target usually has a nice collection of blank books of all sizes.

Put your pretty journal with your pretty book by your bed and before you go to sleep, pick up your pen and see what can happen!

Do you have a story about keeping a journal? We’d love to hear it!

Like this article? Please feel free to use it on your own blog or newsletter. I simply ask that you please include this blurb:

Sara Marchessault is a coach, writer, teacher, and mom who helps busy women use journaling to create more space in their life for being productive without feeling overwhelmed. To learn more about Sara and her work in the world, please visit or

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