What it Means to Journal vs. Write in a Diary
Although the two terms are similar, there’s one big difference between a journal and a diary: A diary is a place where you keep a daily record of your life. A journal, on the other hand, has a more expansive definition and a handful of different techniques around it. These include bullet journaling, dream journaling, travel journaling, reflective journaling, gardening journaling, and many more.
So, how can you decide which technique is right for you? And should you keep a journal and a diary? We broke it down—here’s everything you need to know.
Which is Better: A Journal or a Diary?
When it comes to choosing to write in a journal or diary, one method is not better than the other. If a diary that lets you chronicle your day-to-day life is calling your name, great! If you prefer a more out-of-the-box kind of writing that meets a specific set of needs, journaling might be a better fit for you.
A diary might be right for you if...
- You’re the type of person who loves looking back and reflecting on past experiences.
- You want to remember specific details about things in your life, as if it's your own personal memoir.
- You find that writing about your day is a great reflection practice and brings you a sense of calm and happiness.
A diary serves as a sort of personal record, so you can also think about it as something people (maybe your children or grandchildren) will one day read as a kind of history of your life.
A journal might be right for you if…
You’re the type of person who likes to write (or draw!) for a more specific reason. These reasons could include:
- Getting organized and accomplishing goals
- Analyzing dreams
- Chronicling your travels
- Getting feelings of anxiety under control
Here’s what to know about keeping a diary
If the thought of keeping a diary sounds appealing to you, great—it’s time to get started. Begin by purchasing a notebook you really love. You can find a lot of diary options at stores like Barnes & Noble, Target, Staples, or more traditional stationary stores like Paper Source. Or you can buy a diary at an online retailer like Amazon.
Next, invest in a great set of pens. Once you have your diary and pens, you’re technically ready to get started—but please know that if it’s easier for you to keep a diary in a digital space, like a Google or Word Doc or an online platform, that’s fine, too. It’s really whatever works best for you.
Finally, pick a specific time of day when you’ll write in your diary. By writing at the same time every day, you’re more likely to stick with it. While the best time for you to write in your diary is whenever you actually have time, the end of the day makes a lot of sense because you can spend some time recording and reflecting on the day’s events.
Here’s what to know about keeping a journal
If you feel like journaling is more your style, the first thing you should do is figure out what journaling technique or style you want to pursue. If you love the idea of a bullet journal, you can create your own or invest in one (Silk + Sonder is a great bujo option!). If you want to free-write or use your journal to write “unsent letters”—meaning letters to people that you never intend to send—a blank notebook you love will work just fine.
It’s also worth noting that you can use your journal as a diary, too! If you love free-writing, you can use that time to record the events of your day. You don’t have to fall squarely into the “journaling” or “diary” camp.
Remember, a journal isn’t better than a diary—the two are just very different. And if you want to keep both a journal and a diary, go for it! Nothing is stopping you, and you can get a unique set of benefits from both of these styles of writing.
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