Write with whatever is at hand.

Pen and paper are wonderful, so is a computer. Crayons, says Sandra, will even do! “The important thing,”  she says, is that you just do it.”

 Write with something special.

If you do write your journal using a pen and paper, find a pen that you really like. “I never realized how pens can behave so differently,” says Sandra. “Some are sluggish, others fast and smooth. It's worth testing some out at the store before you buy one! Then set that one aside for your journalling pen.”

Write on something special.

If you’re using a paper journal, make it special. “I have a nature journal that I now write in when I go canoeing, hiking or when I simply take a little time sitting on a rock in front the river that flows by my home. I don't write about nature per se, but it's in those setting that I like to journal. So I invested a few bucks in a lovely leather-bound journal,” says Sandra.“I felt quite extravagant but I treasure that notebook.”

There’s no time like the present.

Don’t put off putting your thoughts and ideas down. “Find a time of day that you can block out that is entirely yours,” says Sandra. “It could be as short as 10 minutes or as long as an hour or more. But it’s your time.”

Write what you feel.

The journal is yours – and it’s private. “Don’t worry about what to write, and don’t restrict yourself from writing what you want,” says Sandra. “It doesn’t matter what comes out. Just write!” But don’t read. Sandra recommends writing, and reading later.

“Don’t read a word until your time's up for the day,” she says. “In fact, you may not want to read anything for a good long time. Matters not.”

Don't worry about getting stuck.

Sometimes you may not know what to write about. "That’s not a problem," says Sandra. “It happens to everyone, and it is a natural part of the writing, and thinking, process.”

 Finding inspiration

Knowing what you want to write about can be difficult - where do you start? What do you write? What words do you use? There are some exercises you can do to help get the creative juices flowing.

Try using a prop.
Professional writer Sandra Phinney recommends this exercise to get the creative juices flowing.

Write down the names of people you know on a piece of paper. Start with the names of family, friends, neighbours, relatives, and colleagues. Cut the names out and put them in an envelope or a jar. Do the same thing with 50 random words that you find in the dictionary. Then write down as many colours and emotions as you can. When you get stuck with your journal writing, simply reach into your stash and pick a word. Close your eyes for one minute as you try and see that person, word, colour or emotion. Now, write.

Think of something special.
Make a list of your top 10 possessions. When you get stuck, name one and use that as your go word. Build from there, says Sandra, and keep writing.

Breathe deep.
Relaxing is the best way to open your mind and let ideas in – and out. “I find that if you take a few breaths and try and tune into the sights, sounds, smells and textures of the day, that you also start to tune into yourself and ideas or images begin to flow,” says Sandra. “You may end up ranting about something you hear, or writing about something you hadn't thought about for years and years.”

Write what you feel.
“Write about what bothers you,” says Sandra. “Tackle the “D” word straight on, for example. Write about what depression feels like, tastes like, sounds like, smells like, etc. The results can be powerful.”

Take a trip down Memory Lane.
One thing that seems to keep the momentum going is to go back at some point and read what you've written, recommends Sandra. “Circle or highlight words or passages that seem to stand out. You may get an insight or two. You may simply get a good laugh (or a good cry),” she notes, adding, “This exercise for many helps to validate the journal process – and reinforces their commitment.”

Online resources for writers.

The Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL)


This site offers over 200 free resources including writing and teaching writing, research, grammar and mechanics and style guides.