How to Write a Diary Guide
A diary is a private place where you can keep your thoughts, feelings and opinions on everything from work to school and everywhere in between. There are all different types of diaries, like food diaries, health diaries or academic diaries. But your diary doesn’t have to be specific if you don’t want it to be, it can also just be a place where you write about whatever you want. If you’re just getting started, maybe you haven’t decided what you want to write about, and that’s fine. That is what we are here for – to help you with all those moments of writer’s block you may be having. Our tips can help guide you and inspire you. Let’s begin!
To start a diary, all you need is a willingness to write. Start by figuring out what you want to write in your journal. If you aren’t sure, simply start writing and see where that leads. It can also be useful to set a time limit in your early writing sessions. Set an alarm for 10 to 20 minutes and start writing.
Keeping a diary is a great way to record your growth and personal development. More entries will allow you to look back and see what has changed over time. The earlier you start, the more grateful you will be later on.
Write short entries
Most people start out by writing long diary entries, even many pages, containing thousands of characters. Our experiences is that the most successive diaries are made up of short notes. It’s not even required to write in it every day. Once or twice a week, is enough for some people. The avg. length of a diary entry is 450 characters long.:
“My family have been on a visit. They have been staying over for 2 nights, and we made a super delicious dinner today. Yesterday we barbecued. Last week I was in Florida for a 3 day holliday (from 5th to 7th). The whole class went, and we participated in a photo study course. I learned a lot. Now its time to sleep. Good night! Note: My family have been on a visit. They have been staying over for 2 nights, and “the bear” went crazy!”
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One woman who knows a thing or two about writing a diary is podcaster Liz Beardsell. She has kept a diary since she was 12 years old and, at the age of 39, has written over 10,000 diary entries over her lifetime.
Liz makes the most of her extensive diary collections in her podcast Diary, She Wrote, where she reads out her diary entries, telling stories about her relationships, friendships and her health. “My diary is like a secret story I’m telling to myself – it’s a real release,” Liz says.
“Writing a diary has really benefited my mental health because it means I process everything as it happens,” Liz says, adding that another key benefit of writing a diary is that “it gives you a time capsule of your life.”
Now lockdown is starting to lift and we can make new memories out in the world again, it feels more important than ever to document them. Here’s Liz’s advice on how to get the most out of using a diary and becoming consistent with it.
Liz’s advice for getting the most out of keeping a diary
Handwrite your diary, if you can
The way you write your diary is totally down to you. You could type up your entries in a word doc or use an online diary tool like Penzu. Or, use the old fashioned method of handwriting your entries like Liz, who says that buying herself a new notebook and pen feels like a form of self-care.
“Handwriting slows your brain down more than tapping away at a keyboard,” Liz adds. “When you hit the letters on your keyboard, you’re not necessarily thinking the words through, so handwriting allows me to connect with what I’m writing more.”
Zoom in on details in your day
If you’ve spent the day working from home with minimal plans, you might feel like you have nothing to note down in your diary. But, Liz says you should still try and write something every day because you never know where your thoughts might lead.
“What I’ve found through my podcast, is that capturing tiny details throughout my day is actually what helps differentiate one day from another when I’m looking back,” says Liz, advising that there’s no detail too small to explore.
Liz recommends beginning your diary entry from the very start of your day, but there’s no pressure to track your day from beginning to end. You can zoom in on particular details and events if they feel more interesting to you and explore how they made you feel.
Try to write a little every day
“You can even bullet point thoughts and descriptions of your day if this feels more manageable,” she says, explaining that once you’re in the routine of writing, you can work your way up to writing for longer periods.
Liz uses A5 notebooks for her diaries and usually writes for about 15 minutes at a time, filling a page per day. “There are days where something really exciting has happened and I look forward to writing in my diary, so I’ll go to bed an extra hour early to do it,” Liz says. “But there are also more boring days and I never feel the pressure to fill a page. Sometimes, it’s just a couple of sentences.”
“Don’t put too much pressure on yourself,” is her advice. “If you haven’t got a lot to write, it doesn’t matter. There are going to be so many more interesting days in the future that you’ll be dying to write about.”
Write alone and avoid distractions
Because writing a diary is time you’re taking for yourself, Liz recommends being alone when you write. “Around 95% of the time I write my diary entries from bed on my own at the end of the day,” she says. She’s also written them from cafes and the beach when she’s been travelling.
Liz finds it best to write her diary entries at the end of the day because she can remember more clearly what has happened. But, if you’re more of a morning person, you could write your diary entry for the previous day in the mornings.
Another important thing when it comes to diary writing is not to put pressure on yourself to make your writing creative and impressive. “You just need to get thoughts out of your head and capture the moment, so don’t worry about your writing style,” says Liz.
Read back your old entries
Like most things, diary writing will come most naturally to you when it becomes a habit, so do try and keep up with it, even if you’re struggling to find the time or it’s not quite what you expected it to be just yet.
One of the things that motivates Liz to be so consistent in keeping her diary entries up to date is that, if she doesn’t, her memories become blurred and she is keen to portray them as accurately as possible.
Liz recommends reading back your diary entries if you ever feel like giving it up. You’ll probably realise just how enjoyable it is to have them there and how much you can learn from them. “Reading back over my diary entries allows me to realise which people in my life make me feel my best and which people make me feel insecure,” Liz says. “You don’t necessarily tap into that in the moment.”
Writing about yourself on a daily basis isn’t for everyone, so Liz recommends trying it out for a month and then reading back your entries to reflect on how you’ve been feeling. You’ll also be able to see the effect writing a diary has had on your month. At this point, if it’s something that works for you, you’ll probably be able to see tangible benefits and be more motivated to continue.
Liz Beardsell, host of Diary She Wrote
Liz is the host of the storytelling podcast Diary, She Wrote, which launched in February 2020 and immediately hit the top five in Apple Podcasts’ personal journals chart and the top 10 in its society and culture chart. It currently has over 300 five star listener reviews on Apple Podcasts.