Journaling in 2021

Goodbye 2020. You really were a weird year to have lived through. Who would have thought on 31st Dec 2019 as we were toasting that start of the new decade that it was to be blighted by a pandemic.

Sadly I was unable to document the events of 2020 with my camera but instead all was squirrelled away on to the pages of my trusty diary. Each night before my head hit the pillow I emptied my thoughts on to the pages. Studies have shown that the emotional release that comes from keeping a journal helps to lower anxiety and stress and even helps us to get a better nights sleep. To write down positives from your day and things that you are grateful for are especially beneficial . It certainly helped me sleep better and worry less in 2020 !

Whether you journal in the morning or night is a personal decision, I find mornings are better if I am planning or want to be more productive .

Bedside cabinet with Red Magazine Letts of London Baroque  Diary

What is a journal ?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary : a journal is a written record of what you have done each day, sometimes including your private thoughts and feelings.

The Synonym for journal is Diary.

Journaling in 2021 isn't just about pen and paper .

In this digital age there is a dizzying array of apps to tempt you .

Digital Journaling

Day One is a one of the most popular apps. Keeping a journal or diary in this way is very convenient as you can add content on the go instead of having to make time to sit and write. As well as text you can add audio snippets, photos, video and even record geo locations . Other popular choices are Penzu and Five Minute Journal App

Video Diary

One Second Everydaty is a really fun way to keep a record of your days. This free app gives you a calendar to add a one second video clip each day and collates into a short video . If you miss a days it's easy to catch up go to the missed days and fill the gaps . It can be set to randomly select or even auto fill from your camera roll.

Short term use works well for an event like a holiday, the build up to a Wedding or Birth, it could even cover something like a school term.

I have used the free version, it worked really well for me. There is an option to pay for extra features.


This can work as a diary. It is unlikely that it will close down and all data deleted but I would not want to trust precious memories to a third party app. Some people use their pictures on their phones as a visual diary. I do this too, but the power of writing each day has benefits that go beyond being able to look back at moments on a phone.


I have considered using my blog this way but I am not sure I would be committed enough to create digital content daily. I am in awe of The Gentle Author who has maintained the Spiralfields Life Blog after making a promise in August 2009 to write 10,000 stories on Spitalfields Life . The Blog is reminiscent of Samuel Pepys Diaries , depicting London Life now. I think this blog will be referenced in years to come as a retrospective on how people lived in London in this century taking readers to London via stories of the people and places around Spitalfields in East London .

Traditional Pen and Paper

I am a pen and paper die hard and loyal to my Five Year Letts Dairy. I don't write too much, just a few lines that capture key moments of each day . It's interesting to watch patterns emerge as the years roll by. I find that I do the same things on the same days or weeks as before, coincidences often show up. I write so little else with a pen anymore it is nice take the time to put pen to paper. I often promise myself to write in better hand, perhaps one day finally master caligraphy.

A great way to get into the habit of journaling is One Line a Day Five Year Memory Book . Write what you like, maybe set an intention for the day, sum up your day, you could even use as a gratitude journal. It could even be a rant!

A diary doesn't have to be a long essay, at the end the day it's your space to be whatever you want it to be.

Art Journaling

An art journal is a visual diary generally a collection of words and images in a diary to record memories, ideas, thoughts, inspirations, emotions and dreams . These pages can include all sorts of media, absolutely anything you like - there are no rules ! You need not write a single word if you don't want to.

This type of journalling can be a great way to unlock your creativity and may even help ease stress or anxiety.

This is lots of information to help you get started on line. I recommend taking a look at Rinki's page you'll find plenty of ideas to get you started.

Wreck this Journal - this book is for anyone who has wished to but had trouble starting, keeping , or finishing a journal or sketchbook . The pages are packed with lots of illustrations and suggestions to help you fill them with fun and inspiring content which make it easy to get started . Reviews are good, it looks like a really fun book to dive into .

If you have time to slow down then my friend Abby Monroes Art Journal Course could be a great gift to yourself . Abby is a teacher and artist who will help you to create a beautiful keepsake and tell your own unique story. You will create an Art Journal in a way that is sustainable and mindful with the emphasis on using what you already have around you.

Journals from the past

Samuel Pepys is possibly the most famous English Diarist. Pepys begun writing his observations in1660 as

a clerk and wrote up till 1703. Much of what we know of the Great Plague and Great Fire of London is due to Pepys Diaries. Diaries are used for more than the obivous. They have been used to prove innocence in trials, provide alibis, rebuild reputations and even to kiss and tell. Lenonard Woolf , husband of Virginna extracted passages from her diaries of 1918-41 to restore her reputation as serious writer after her death. He curated them into a book 'A Writers Diary' which is still printed and sold today.

British Actress Joan Wyndham was a member of the bohemian world of wartime Fitzrovia and wrote diaries from 1921-200. 'Love Lessons' and 'Love Is Blue' were published in the 1980's. Joan was described in one newspaper as "a latter-day Pepys in camiknickers". With an introduction like that her diaries are now on my reading list . Joan is joined by Alan Bennett, Kenneth Williams, Oscar Wilde and Oona King. First up though is A London Year: 365 Days of City Life in Diaries, Journals and Letters anthology of short diary entries for each day of the year. This book features diarist across the centuries from Samuel Pepys to Alan Bennett showing life in the city from Tudor times to the twenty-first century.

In 2021 there are more ways than ever before to keep records of our lives, perhaps our greatest challenge is to keep them in some sort of order for future generations to find useful rather than in a tangled digital loop.

N.B. I have been a customer of Letts of London for many years and was gifted the Baroque Dairy .