How to start a diary

Keeping a diary is a pleasure! It’s a place where you can record all your thoughts, feelings, and worries – especially things you might not feel comfortable sharing with others.

Jen Carney, Katie Kirby & Imogen Rayfield
A photo of a young girl writing in her green diary on a pink background
Image: Getty

Writing in a diary can be incredibly calming. It’s a great place to let off some steam; maybe your friend annoyed you today, or your teacher told you off in class. It’s also fun to just write about what happened in your day, no matter how ordinary, and then you can look back at your entry in five, 10, or 20 years’ time and compare how things have changed. Just like a personal time capsule! And if you’re a budding author, observations you have or have had could provide you with some great story material later on down the line.

There are so many benefits to keeping a diary, and with the help of authors Jen Carney and Katie Kirby, we’re going to share some tips and tricks on how you can get started.

Photo of author Katie Kirby

I’ve been a diary writer on and off since I was about 9 years old. When I read it all back now it’s almost like another person wrote it, because I certainly wouldn’t have remembered the details otherwise. Often, it’s just small stuff like what I had for dinner, what homework I was doing, or silly conversations I’d had. But there is more important stuff too: my feelings, my friendships, and my first crushes (CRINGE!). All of these things would be long lost to me, which is why keeping a diary is so special. You really will treasure it in years to come (though you may also want to burn it too!).

How to get started:

Choose where you will record all your thoughts

If you’re a lover of all things stationery, choosing the perfect journal is going to be a lot of fun. You can choose a journal that has been designed specifically for use as a diary but even just a regular notebook will work perfectly. If you’re planning on just writing, then a diary with lined pages will be ideal. But if you have a tendency to doodle, then journals with plain pages may be the way to go. If you want something with security, try a diary with a key padlock or combination lock. Places like WHSmith, Paper Things, and Papier have some wonderful options for everyone.

Decide on a writing space

Choosing where you write in your diary is very important. You ideally want somewhere quiet and where you won’t be disturbed by others. Maybe this is in your bedroom, in the garden or in your school’s library. Writing in the same location every day is a good way to get into the habit of jotting down your thoughts.

Image of a young boy writing into a diary
Image: Getty

Schedule a writing time

Another good way to get into the routine of writing in your diary is to write at the same time every day. Maybe this is first thing in the morning after you wake up, or when you finish school for the day. Setting yourself a time limit – for example, half an hour – is also a good way to stay on track and will make it easier for you to incorporate your journaling time into your daily routine.

Find a good hiding place

It’s likely we’ve all got a nosy brother, sister, cousin – and if you’ve shared things you definitely don’t want anyone to know, you’re going to have to find a good hiding place for your diary.

Most importantly – have fun!

Writing a diary shouldn’t feel like a chore and there’s no right or wrong way on how it should be kept. It’s a place where your thoughts are allowed to roam free. And it can be anything you want it to be.

Jen Carney, author of The Accidental Diary of B.U.G.

Photo of author Jen Carney

Although starting a diary is easy, keeping it going can sometimes feel like a chore. So, without further ado, here are my top ten tips for maintaining your motivation:

1. Diaries needn’t be ALL WRITING. Draw doodles, add stickers, glue in gift-tags, trace inspiring quotes, use bullets, add colours – anything goes! it's a good excuse to request new felt-tips if you ask me…

2. Entries can be ANY LENGTH and made AT ANY TIME. If daily diary-ing sounds daunting, why not try a weekly round-up? “This week has been meh…”

3. Dates make good titles, but creative headings might work better for you. “Home-school Horror,” says a lot more than "08/05/21"!

4. Think of your diary as your ideal best friend. It’ll never judge you; it’s interested in hearing your problems, and it loves to share your achievements. You could even give it a name! “Dear Daniel Diaryson…”

5. As well as recounting what’s been going on, take time to describe how it made you feel. Sometimes a simple emoji will do! Plus, writing about your feelings can even improve your sleep.

6. It’s fine to moan and groan about stuff, but try to include at least one positive thing in every entry. Look hard enough, and you’ll find something: “I perked up when Grandad called me.”

7. Flick to blank pages and write the start of sentences that you HAVE to finish when you reach them. “The funniest thing that happened today was…”, “Sometimes I worry about…”

8. Use your diary to set achievable goals: “I’ll tell Selina how her comment made me feel.”

9. Don’t stress about spelling. It’s YOUR diary. “I reelly wish this pandemik wud do 1.”

10. Keep at it and, who knows? Your diary-writing habit could, one day, help you write a book! Hmmm… sounds familiar!

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