Last Updated: 23 September, 2020
You may be sick of hearing that we’re living in unprecedented times, but also starting to think about keeping a pandemic journal as you realise how different your life is becoming. There are lots of reasons to keep a journal, particularly now, whether it is to help with your mental health or to keep a record for your children.
And no it is not too late to start. It is only too late if you don’t start at all.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re keeping a pandemic journal, diary, video log or scrapbook. They are all methods of recording events and emotions. For ease, I’ll be using the term journal throughout but remember it is interchangeable with your chosen format.
Think about why you want to keep a pandemic journal
There are two broad approaches to starting a journal
- Jump straight in and see where it goes
- Knowing what you want at the end — for example if you’re keeping it as a record for your children you probably want to focus on their lives instead of your thoughts
There is no correct way. It is personal to you, and you can even do a combination of the two by starting straight away to find out what you enjoy and then developing a plan. Or make a plan, and be happy to try something different if you don’t like it. Whichever approach you decide on, my advice is start as soon as you can. The earlier you start, the sooner you’ll learn what you want from the journal.
Think about what type of journal you want to keep
There are many styles and types of journal so don’t be limited by previous experience or images you’ve seen. You create your pandemic journal in the way you want. I’ve written previously about different types of journal and I’m sure there are now many more.
If you like to write, write, if you like to take photographs, take photographs and if you like dancing save Tik Toks. And of course you don’t actually have to do just one mathod. You can mix these up as much as you want.
If enjoy writing or drawing by hand there are different types of books you can use. If you prefer using a computer there is a large choice of digital products including journal writing software, word processing software, note taking software like OneNote or EverNote and photo and video sharing platforms. There are even specific journal writing notebooks for children if you want to encourage your children or grandchildren to record their thoughts.
I have chosen to share at least one photograph a day on Instagram and Facebook showing something positive from being in lock down. I am also continuing to take my photo a day (which I will make into scrap pages at some point) and I’m writing my daily journal.
You have probably picked up by now, that this is the most important step. If you want to keep a journal, you need to start it.
I know the first page can feel scary but remember, this is your record and it doesn’t matter what it looks like. But if you’re looking for inspiration, have a look at my posts 23 ideas for what to do on the first page of journal and 15 more ideas.
You can start today and record what happens from now. Or you can look backwards and collect information about what happened previously. This doesn’t need to come from your memory, there are lots of places to look including:
- Text messages
- Facebook / Twitter statuses
- WhatsApp / Facebook messages
- Instagram photos / stories
- Your calendar
- Newspaper headlines
- Data from Worldometer or John Hopkins university
Use themes to structure your content
You can add content into your journal as you think or find it. Or you can use themes to either group content or to ensure you capture a variety of content. For example:
Work — when were you told about the change? Can you save the message of how you were told? Has the type of work changed? Save a photograph of where you’re working.
Family — how are you keeping in touch with family? Can you take a photograph or video? Show how you’ve celebrated key events differently. Talk about how you’re creating new family traditions.
You can also introduce a different theme for each day of the week to help make sure you cover different aspects of the pandemic, for example
- Monday — work
- Tuesday — family
- Wednesday — health
- Thursday — Government
- Friday — friends
- Saturday — activities
- Sunday — gratitude
Once the initial burst of excitement has passed, you may find it difficult to remember to add things. I know, because I’m going through this with my photos on Instagram; it is not unusual for me to post them after 11pm. Here are my tips from my experience of writing a journal for over 30 years:
- Think about why you want to keep a pandemic journal, if that reason no longer exists stop keeping it.
- There is no wrong way, keep experimenting until you find the method you enjoy the most
- Have an idea about when you’ll stop, will it be a certain time scale or until all restrictions have lifted, you may find it motivating to know this is a temporary activity
- Are you more likely to remember if you do it at a different time of day
- Would you prefer a different format?
- You don’t have to do it every day — it is not all or nothing
If you need some inspiration to get you started trying using a journal prompt, hopefully you’ll find at least one that motivates you in my list of over 100 pandemic journal prompts.
If you want more inspiration try these posts:
- Are you writing this down? Why it may be a good time to start keeping a journal – AJC
- Finding it Hard to Write? Consider Keeping a Pandemic Journal – DIYMFA
- Here’s how writing in a gratitude journal can help your mental health while self-isolating – Vogue