This week, we’re honored to have author Diana Raab, PhD, joining us. The following post is an excerpt from her upcoming book, “Writing for Bliss: A Seven Step Program for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life.” Click here to pre-order it through Amazon.

How to Kickstart Your Journaling

Tools for Journaling

In view of the fact that manual journaling is more powerful, here are some basic suggestions for journaling tools to keep in mind. While everyone may already have what they consider the best tools for their own journaling habit, the suggestions below are from those who have been journaling for a long time or have been successful with this art form.


In my classes, I suggest that my students always have some writing material on them, because they simply never know when an idea will strike or the muse will arrive. I’ve been known to pull aside while driving on the freeway to write down an idea for an article or jot down a line for a poem I want to write. The notebook is good for this because it can snatch thoughts in the moment about which you can go back and write more deeply when you have the time.

Choose a notebook or journal that feels good to you. It should be something you feel comfortable with and want to pick up and hold. It should be a book that reflects your personality. It is important that your journal lies flat while you write. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to wrestle with the book binding in order to write.

You might prefer a spiral-bound book or one with a colorful cover to emulate style. Some people prefer lined pages, while others prefer unlined ones. It’s a personal thing. I used to prefer lined journals, until by accident before leaving for vacation one year I bought an unlined one. To my surprise, I ended up liking it because I found it less restrictive. My default journals are Moleskins, which come in a variety of colors and styles. Some months ago, I wandered into a Moleskin store in Soho in New York. I was like a kid in a candy store. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. They also now have pens that easily clip onto the notebooks, so that there is no excuse not to write. Whatever inspires your best writing is the way to go. Continue to experiment during your creative life.

Writing Instruments

Your pen should be comfortable in your hand and should flow easily. I personally prefer the gel pens. I also like using purple ink. You might well have your own preference, or you might want to experiment with a variety of colored pens. Lately, I’ve enjoyed using fountain pens to write in my journals. I was happy to discover that you can now purchase clickable fountain pens.


Establish a good place to journal. Sacred spaces are discussed in step 1. You might already have a special space in which to write, but if you don’t, it is fun to create an imaginary one—a safe place where you can tap into your creative energy.

Twentieth-century author Virginia Woolf coined the idea of “a room of one’s own” and wrote a book with that title. I love this idea. Woolf was referring to a figurative room, which is a deeper concept than a literal, physical space. Essentially, she was referring to someplace where you can feel safe and comfortable—a place that offers a blanket of support. Here’s how to establish such an imaginary place:

  • Make yourself comfortable.
  • Close your eyes. Uncross your legs and take some deep breaths—in through your nose and out through your mouth. Listen to your breath and concentrate on it.
  • Imagine visiting a room of great importance in your life. If you don’t have one, you may want to create an imaginary one.
  • Use your third eye (the space between your eyes) as a movie camera, and try to visualize the room. Capture all its details. When you are ready, open your eyes.
  • Using your journal, describe the room in detail. For example, what do you see and how do you feel right in your room? Stay in the moment and write without lifting your pen off the page.

Stream-of-Consciousness Writing

Not lifting your pen off the page when you write is a good way to tap into your authentic thoughts and voice, and it is your authentic voice from which your best journaling will arise (see step 3). This type of writing is sometimes called “free writing” or “stream-of- consciousness” writing; surrealist Andre Breton called it “automatic writing.” He described it as writing that just keeps flowing regardless of where the words lead. The pen keeps moving or the keyboard keeps tapping. The surrealist idea was to unlock inhibitions to allow the irrational or creative mind to step in. Here are the steps to begin the practice of this kind of journaling:

  • Find a centering ritual, such as meditating, lighting a candle, having a cup of coffee or tea, going for a walk, or doing yoga.
  • Gather your materials—a writing instrument and a journal.
  • Choose a time of day when you can write uninterrupted for at least fifteen to thirty minutes.
  • Date your entries.
  • Begin to write freely about whatever drops into your mind. Refrain from censoring and editing.
  • Remember that grammar and spelling do not matter.
  • Give yourself permission not to be perfect.
  • Try using different colors of ink in your journal depending upon your mood.
  • Put the judge aside. Do not edit.
  • Remember that, unlike in writing an essay, in journaling there is no beginning, middle, and end. It is okay to start on one subject and end up some place else. The most important thing is that you release what is in your heart.

In summary, in the same way that tennis players practice serving and musicians practice their scales, writers must practice writing. As Virginia Woolf said, “The habit of writing for my eye is good practice. It loosens the ligaments.”

Writing Prompt         

On the top of your journal page write: “I remember. Use stream-of-consciousness writing, without lifting your pen off the page. Write the first thing that pops into your mind. Keep your words flowing by repetitively using the words, “I remember.” Your sentences do not have to connect as they would in an essay, in which there must properly be a beginning, a middle, and an end.

About Diana Raab

Diana Raab, PhDDiana Raab, MFA, PhD, is a memoirist, poet, blogger, speaker, thought leader, and award-winning author of nine books and more than 1,000 articles and poems.

During her 40-year career, Dr. Raab has published thousands of articles and poems and is the editor of two anthologies: Writers and Their Notebooks and Writers on the Edge. Her two memoirs are Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal and Healing with Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey. She has also written four collections of poetry, her latest collection is called, Lust. As an advocate of personal writing, Dr. Raab facilitates workshops in writing for transformation and empowerment, focusing on journaling, poetry, and memoir writing. She believes in the importance of writing to achieve wholeness and interconnectedness, which encourages the ability to unleash the true voice of your inner self.

Raab blogs for Psychology Today, Huffington Post, and PsychAlive. She lives in Southern California with her husband and Maltese poodle.






Do you have a question for Diana or the JRNL team? What are your thoughts on pen/paper vs. digital journaling? Let us know in the comments section.



  • Diana Raab

    Thanks so much for featuring me. I l love your site. I hope everyone enjoys my article!

    Happy writing to one and all!

  • jlnewport

    I use to journal all the time and stopped for unknown reason. Then my dad passed and my mom started showing the signs of dementia. I picked up a notebook and started writing the experiences my sister and I are going through. Now I am wishing I had never stopped. I could have written about my experiences with my kids growing up, my diagnosis of MS and my divorce after 30 years of marriage. Then I could look back and see how strong I really am!

  • That is a lot of stress! I’m glad you found your way back to journaling. Thanks for sharing your story.

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