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How to Start a Journal and Write Entries

We keep a lot of things in our heads, but we put less down on paper. All those thoughts and ideas bouncing around can sometimes feel overwhelming. You have to-do lists, hopes, dreams, secrets, failures, love, loss, ups and downs. Ideas come and go, feelings pass. How do you remember all of them? How do you keep them organized? A great way to keep your thoughts organized and clear your mind is to write them down in a journal. Writing is a great exercise for anyone and by expressing yourself in a personal place is a wonderful way to stay sane. 

Starting a Journal

To start a journal, you just need to be willing to write. You don’t have to write well, you just need to want to do it. You don’t even need to decide what to write, you just need to let your words flow. Once you’ve decided you want to create a journal, here is a long list of instructions to guide you: 

Set up a schedule of when you play to write in your journal. You want to turn your writing into a habit, so create a schedule. Pick a time and the days of the week you will want to write and create a timely calendar reminder, so you don't forget. By scheduling the same times, journaling will become a natural and regular part of your agenda that you can look forward to. 

Find the right space to write.  

When you’re writing, it is helpful to be in a space where you can focus and concentrate. A quiet room with no distractions works best. Allow yourself to focus on your writing, without any interruptions. Make sure you are able to sit upright and are comfortable. An office or a study room is always great.

Buy a physical journal or Sign-up for Penzu

Penzu is a digital journal that will allow you to write from any device. It will make your journal writing incredibly easy-to-use, accessible, organized and private. It will save all your work and date it for you, so you never need to remember. It is a great tool for writing anywhere and keeping your work in one place. 

Close your eyes and reflect on your day. 

You may not know what to write about and that’s okay. Your journal can be about anything you want. A good way to begin writing is to close your eyes and think about what you’re feeling. 

Ask yourself questions.

What has happened that day? How did that make you feel? Are you excited about anything? Why? Reflect on the thoughts and feelings you’ve been having.

Dive in and start writing.

It is easy to begin sentences with, “I feel,” or “I think,” or “I wonder.” Don’t feel pressured to stick to any particular form or topic. The beginning of your journal writing can just be an introduction to your thoughts at the time. This is your personal space, so you should feel comfortable writing. 

Time yourself.

Set a time for how long you want to write. Somewhere between 5-20 minutes is ideal, depending on how much you want to jot down. Setting a time will help you stay focused and stop you from getting carried away. It is easy to feel like you need to write down every detail and this will help prevent that. 

Re-read your entry and add additional thoughts.


When you are finished writing a journal entry, go back and read through it. Once you have reviewed what you have written, add a couple sentences at the end about what you noticed or thought about your words. If you can, summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two. That is a great way to narrow in on topics. 

10 Tips When Writing a Journal

Here are some tips to get started properly and consistently writing in your journal.

1. Set a schedule

As we mentioned earlier in the article, setting a schedule is a great first step. Decide how many times you want to write and set a schedule. Whether it be once a day, or once a week, decide on a time you want to write and don’t skip it. 

2. Keep it private

A journal is personal and should be a place you feel comfortable expressing yourself honestly and truthfully. Penzu keeps your journal safe and secure, with all your entries made private by default, only made available to share under your command.  

3. Meditate

Any journal entry will benefit from some moments of reflection before you begin writing. Before you start writing, go to a quiet place and focus on your breath for a few minutes. This is a wonderful exercise to clear your head and settle your thoughts. 


If you want your journal to be about something specific, brainstorm ideas to write about. You can write a bible journal, a dream journal, cooking, work, school, anything you want! Feel free to start writing down ideas of what you are interested in or feel you should be writing about. This is the perfect place to get your creative juices flowing. Check out this page for a list of all the different types of journals.

5.Date your entry

It is important to keep each journal entry dated, so you know when you wrote it. You will want to go back through your journal at some point and see when the entries of the topic you’re writing about were added. Also, it will be nice to see how you were feeling at different points in your life. Penzu automatically dates your entries for you, so you don’t have to worry about remembering to do it. 

6.Title your entry

If you can, try and title your entries. This will help you navigate your journal and keep your writings focused. You don’t need to title it before you start writing though. A great way to think of a title is after you’ve written, but it is something to keep in mind. 

7.Write naturally

When writing, don’t feel like you have to follow any form or structure. Just do what comes naturally. Follow your train of thought and see what kind of writing follows. 

8.Write quickly

Don’t let writer’s block get in your way. Just keep writing whatever comes to mind. It is always hard to stop and start again, so keeping writing. It doesn’t have to make sense. Don’t think too much about the words you are putting on the page. You can make sense of them later. 

9.Write honestly

Your journal is for your eyes only, so be honest. You don’t want to lie to yourself. Be real with your thoughts, feelings and opinions. Be as candid as you can. You want your journal to be an honest representation of yourself and the times you’re writing in. 

10. Have fun

Writing a journal should be an enjoyable experience. Have fun with your writing and take pleasure in it. Writing in your journal shouldn’t be a chore. It should be something you look forward to doing, so make it a fun exercise. 

8 Extra Tips For New Journal Writers

Writing a journal entry is different for everyone. We all write differently and about different things, so it is a different experience for everyone. We can help with pointing you in the right direction, whatever that direction may be. Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Think about what you want to write. 

Your journal doesn’t need to have a theme, but an easy way to start writing an entry is to think about what you want to write about. 

  • Do you want to write about that day’s events? 
  • Do you want to write about your plans for tomorrow?
  • Are you planning a trip?
  • Are you working on a project?
  • Are you in a new relationship?
  • Do you want to discuss your family?

Decide what you wish to discuss and go in that direction.

2. Try writing with a journaling prompt

If you are having trouble deciding on a topic, try writing personally and/or creatively to get you started. Here are some journaling prompts you could think about:

  • What is your earliest childhood memory?
  • What is/was your favorite subject in school? Why?
  • Write a poem about your first romantic encounter.
  • What is your biggest secret?
  • Who is someone in your life that made a large impact on you? Why?

3. Plan ahead

Make sure you have a designated time to write. That way you can start thinking about what you want to write throughout the day and can prepare ideas. This will also get you looking forward to writing.

4. Practice

Write as much as possible. Writing will become easier you more you do it. Try and get into the habit of writing regularly and your entries will start coming to you naturally. 


Write letters

There are certainly times in your life where you wish you said something, or wish you didn't say something. Write about these moments. Think about writing letters that you will never send. They can be addressed to specific people or not, but they are great outlets for honest thoughts and make for compelling entries.

6. Try different perspectives

A helpful method of writing is to write from different perspectives. Pick a topic or event to write about and try writing in from someone else’s perspective, like a parent’s, a friend’s, or even an animal’s. It is healthy to think about things from different points of view. 

7. Add pictures

Pictures say a thousand words and can certainly inspire more. With Penzu you can import photos right into your entries, so feel free to add them throughout or just at the beginning to give you inspiration. You can talk about what is happening in the picture, the person that took it, what isn’t pictured, or just what it means to you. Think of it as giving the picture a long caption. 

8. Free write

Free writing is without direction, structure or motive. This means just take yourself to the page and go wild. Whenever an idea pops into your head, just write it down. It doesn't have to be cohesive or have a purpose. 

To Start Writing in a Journal With Penzu

Now that you’ve learned many tips of how to start and write in a journal, it’s time to get started with Penzu. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Grab your phone, computer or tablet.
  2. Make sure you are connected to WiFi.
  3. Go to Penzu.com to create an account.
  4. Enter your name, email and a password for your account.
  5. Download the apps.
  6. Log in and begin writing!

Writing journals is simple and easy! Download Penzu today and get let the words flow!

There's no time like the present - start your free online journal today!

Create your Journal »

How to keep a diary: 10 tips • Arzamas

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Course Why people keep diaries and historians read them Audio lectures Materials

Author Ilya Venyavkin

1. It's never too late to start

There is no specific time or age when you need to start a diary: you may need it at any time in your life. For example, first-grader Alexandra Ippolitova began to take notes directly in her school notebook. She tried to write down everything that happened to her at school and at home:

"January 17, 1984   Here and below, fragments of the diaries are given in accordance with the author's spelling and punctuation.
Today at school everyone said that we would have 5 lessons in the class. And I said to myself that we would have three lessons. Because the third lesson was 3 filmstrips and the 4th lesson was the Mosconcert. And in the 5th lesson there was a skiing physicist.
I forgot!

A page from the diary of first-grader Alexandra Ippolitova. 1984 © "Prozhito"

And an anonymous author from Ust-Narva, whose diary is kept in the archives of the Research Center for Eastern Europe at the University of Bremen (Forschungsstelle Osteuropa), started writing notes a week after his retirement:

I know that the proportion of many who have "gone on a well-deserved rest", - this is how our sentimentally sugary newspapermen and party trade union speakers define pensioners - is unenviable: they are little by little, but still very visibly and tangibly, grow fat, go crazy, get sick and quickly merge with their mother- nature, participating with their remains in the eternal rotation of matter. Salvation is not to lose shape, to do something, to strive for something, to participate in something - while the bowler hat is cooking and the legs are being worn. Keeping a diary is a kind of such work.

2. Short notes are valuable too!

To keep a diary, one does not need to have any literary talent, nor a love for detailed descriptions or introspection - even fragmentary entries can be of value. Emperor Nicholas II kept a diary from the age of fourteen and always did it in a sparse factual manner - regardless of what was happening around - war or revolution. The last entry was made on June 30, 1918 - a few weeks before the execution:

“Aleksey took his first bath after Tobolsk; his knee is getting better, but he cannot straighten it completely. The weather is warm and pleasant. We have no news from outside."

The last entry in the diary of Nicholas II. June 30, 1918 State Archive of the Russian Federation

3. Use the diary for observations

You don't have to wait until something extraordinary happens in your life. Just looking around is enough. Biologist Boris Golov watched birds all his life and wrote down his observations in a diary:

May 3, 1938
Grishkov forest. I scared a jay out of a hollow. It is possible that a nest is arranged there. Last year, in the same hollow, there was a jay's nest. Two buzzards fly very low over the forest. A black kite flew by.

Diary of Boris Golov. 1938 © "Prozhito"

Ilya Melgunov, an employee of the Leningrad post office, followed the life of the ficus:

February 5, 1971 years old
Ficus is sick again. Leaves are falling. There are 9 leaves left. Today I took a ficus out of the pot, washed the ground. I planted it again not so tightly for the roots. <…>
February 18
The ficus has only 3 leaves left. I expect the latter will either fall or get better. I suspect a cat - didn’t she go into a pot of ficus?

4. Talk to the diary

It is difficult to establish who first turned to his diary as an interlocutor. One can only say that this practice became popular at the turn of the 18th-19th centuries and arose under the influence of the epistolary genre. At this time, many authors notice that an interesting and trustworthy interlocutor can be not only a pen pal, but also a diary.

Diary of Magdalena van Schinne. Cover of the 1990 edition © Uitgeverij Verloren

In October 1788, the Dutch girl Magdalena van Schinne, instead of writing and sending a letter to her friend, simply wrote on a piece of paper:

“Oh my paper, you are the only one who will hear my ideas, feelings, worries and joys. Here I can pour out my whole soul; with others, even my best friends, I want to learn how to hide my feelings, or at least I don't want to tell them about myself anymore. You are my only confidant."

Since then, the diary has repeatedly helped people in a situation where they lacked a reliable and understanding interlocutor.

5. Share experiences with your diary

The diary helps to turn feelings, worries and doubts into text on paper, and therefore look at them from the side. Sometimes it is necessary to take a breath, make a difficult decision or understand something important about yourself.

December 1, 1923 Soviet Komsomol member Valentina Sokolova wrote in her diary:

“<…> Now I only think about the future. What will come of me. Am I always going to feel out of place. After all, it is flour. I thought that I love adventures and suddenly everything was shaken. What to do? For what? Yes, and will anything come of it? Am I going to be an extra person? Let's put the last question, I solved it last year and it seems right. And now what to do?

Diary of Valentina Sokolova. 1923 State Archive of the Perm Territory

6. If you don't like to write, record on the recorder

A diary does not have to be on paper at all: it can be recorded on an audio cassette (this is what the hero of the Rewind podcast journalist Evgeny Berg did) or simply on a smartphone.

7. Or draw, stick on photos, magazine clippings, tickets and anything else you care to keep

A diary is not always exclusively a text that you yourself wrote. In fact, this is an archive of your impressions, into which you, like in a herbarium, paste everything that you do not want to forget.

Anonymous diary. 2000 © Prozhito

So, in 2000, a fan of the St. Petersburg Zenit pasted portraits of her favorite football players, drawings and a photograph of the Depeche Mode group into her diary.

August 3, 2000
Yesterday I was at Zenith with the girls. It was cool. Zenit - Spartak Alania 2:1. Zenit is a champion!!!
How cool it was.
At the 7th minute, Radimov scored so beautifully from a free kick a goal into the far nine.

Party playlist for football fans and more

Songs that Zenit fans, truckers, and teenagers in the yards listen to and sing


If you feel that the records are too personal and may fall into the wrong hands, use the cipher Portrait of Samuel Pepys. Painting by John Hales. 1666 © National Portrait Gallery, London

London official Samuel Pepys, the author of one of the most famous diaries in history, used a mix of Spanish and French to make it difficult to read fragments about his love affairs.

February 17, 1667
The Mitchels and his wife paid us a visit, we drank and laughed a lot, after which - it was a beautiful evening, the moon was shining - the Mitchels and I went for a boat ride. To my chagrin, I saw how all the way ella huddles a su marido and hides manos, quando yo I try to take one de los - so this evening nothing happened to me con ella. When we landed, I, on some plausible pretense, sent my husband back to the bateau, hoping to snatch a couple of baisers from her; I took it by the hand, but ella turned away, and quando I said: “I can’t tocar te?” - with a slight modo she answered: "Yo no I love it when they touch me. " I pretended not to notice this, after which I politely said goodbye, et su marido andar me almost to the micasa, where we parted. Alexander Livergant.

And the Soviet schoolboy Oleg Chernevsky used a self-made cipher from brackets, semicolons and other signs.

Encrypted diary of a schoolboy of the Stalin era

What Oleg Chernevsky wrote about in 1937-1938

9. Don't force yourself to write every day (if you don't feel like it)

The diary must not be regular. You can contact him when the need arises. For example, Leo Tolstoy kept a diary almost all his life, but in the 1870s he took a break and wrote almost nothing. Or, conversely, always carry a notebook with you and write down everything you see. So did the engineer Eduard Yanovich, who left more than 300 notebooks.

Spread from the 113th notebook of Eduard Yanovich. 1972 © Prozhito


Don't worry about mistakes and handwriting

Many diary authors strive for perfect handwriting and literate writing, but it is important that the internal corrector does not kill the desire to write.

Horizontal turner Nikolai Belousov studied a lot, read and was very worried about his mistakes, but still kept a diary.

October 19, 1937
Weakness in orgonism, but does not quench the burning desire for reading, I read so much that vacationers are surprised. I see myself among them, lonely, and thinking many young women are afraid to speak with doubt, thinking that I am very proud, this can be seen from the stern look. But they, like many people, are easily mistaken when they think this about me. I don't get close just because I don't think I'm worth it."

Spread from the diary of Elizabeth Sarapik © Prozhito

Tsarskoye Selo resident Elizaveta Sarapik wrote in a completely horrendous handwriting, but Prozhito volunteers were able to decipher her notes.

other useful tips

14 tips on how to record the memoirs of grandfathers or grandmother

How to write an autobiography if you are Lev Tolstoy

How to write Russian literature: 14 Instructions

How to write on birch bark0004



The second episode of the Arzamas and Rybakov Fund podcast How Russia Studied

Andrey Zorin and Alexander Arkhangelsky talk about the principles of the Enlightenment and the hugeness of the new human race how education in the 19th century became the soul of the state machine

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5 great personal diary apps

November 16, 2020AndroidiOS

Record your thoughts, ideas, and experiences so you don't miss anything.



1. Diaro

This application can become your personal diary, travel journal or just a collection of notes. Save your thoughts with reference not only to calendar days, but also to various categories, tags and geotags, which greatly facilitates their subsequent search.

The application allows you to attach an unlimited number of photos to each entry, which, if necessary, are cropped directly in Diaro. You can also mark your mood, the weather and set a reminder to make a new note.

A special password, which is set in the settings, will protect all data from prying eyes. There you can also change the font size and choose a dark interface theme. The paid version has backup and synchronization of data on various devices via Dropbox.


Price: Free


Price: Free

2. Journey

Journey is a simple and intuitive personal record keeping tool. The application automatically recognizes and indicates your location, the temperature outside the window and what you were doing while creating the note: sitting still, jogging or just walking.

You can manually set the mood, add tags and attach various files: photos, videos or audio recordings. All added images will be available on the Atlas tab, where they are displayed on top of the world map in accordance with geotags, which is very convenient for saving travel notes.

A large number of Journey features are only available in the paid version. Among them - saving records on Google Drive in Markdown format, night mode of the interface, connecting Google Fit, the "Return to the past" function, as well as exporting, backing up and printing records.


Price: Free

appbox fallback https://apps.apple.com/app/1300202543

This is a completely free diary app that includes only the most essential features. It is not overloaded with settings and is distinguished by the simplest navigation. The main screen is represented by four tabs: records, images, search and settings. There are no three-level menus and subsections.

Each note can be supplemented with only a photo and one emoji (there are more than 30 of them) that characterize your mood. Tags and sections are not provided, and the search is done only by words.

In the settings you can change the font size, you can choose the color accent of the interface, set a reminder, export entries to PDF, perform a general reset and set a password for entering, specifying an email to restore it.


Price: Free


Price: Free


Day One Journal

Another simple and convenient application. In it, each entry is supplemented with a geotag, weather information, as well as daily statistics and data about the device on which the note was created.

In the paid version, you can add an unlimited number of photos and create multiple magazines with different color schemes and titles. There is also a local backup function with export to PDF.

The Android version of Day One Journal lags behind the iOS version and does not yet support the Russian language, but the developers promise to add it soon by completely updating the application.


Price: Free


Price: Free

In Daylio, you can tell about events and your emotions without a single word, using only special icons. On the basis of such marks at the end of the week, month or year, visual statistics will be built, which will reveal interesting patterns.

Learn more