What is journaling, anyway? It’s telling the story of your photos and memories. You might write a simple headline like “At The Beach” and supplement it with names and dates. Or you might write long journal entries with thoughts, observations, quotes, song lyrics—whatever it takes to tell your story. And you might use different journaling with different kinds of pages.

A scrapbook is a record; it documents your family’s milestones—big and small—so journaling is an important part of your page!

Just the facts

Often, a photo will speak a thousand words, in which case, all you need to fill in are the details. You can write something as simple as, “Katie and Max at Cannon Beach for Aunt Emily’s 50th birthday barbecue. June 1962.” Or you might choose to go beyond just the facts and include stories and anecdotes to give more personality to the page.

Whether you love to journal or not, it’s important to record the four W’s: Who, what, when, where and why. While you might know exactly who is in the photo and where it was taken, your descendents might not.

Do I HAVE to handwrite my journaling?

Absolutely not. Typing your stories on the computer can make journaling faster, easier—and it can even check your spelling! Many people find that the more they journal on the computer, the more they write. It’s also a great way to experiment with different fonts and type sizes; you can center blocks of text or break them up into separate journaling pieces.

But do consider adding your own writing to at least some of your pages. It is, after all, a part of you—even if it’s messy or runs uphill. If you’re still hesitant, avoid journaling directly onto your background paper. Instead, write on a slip of paper—if you goof, you can simply toss it out and start over.

Many scrappers compromise on this issue by computer-journaling a longer story as part of the layout, then hand-writing the date the page was completed (with a signature) on the backside of the page or toward the bottom right of the front side.

For more tips on computer journaling, check out our Computer Journaling article.

Telling the story

How can you tell your story? You can speak in the first person (“I spent the summer in Barcelona.”), or tell the story from your family’s point of view (“The Smith Family Reunion”). You can tell the story to your children (“You were so excited on your third birthday”). And don’t be shy about using a few creative writing techniques, from “Once Upon a Time” to Top-10 lists.

If you plan to journal just the 5 W’s, consider writing in the third person perspective (“John and Mary” instead of “John and I”); this helps identify you to the future generations who will read your book.

Journaling ideas
Need some inspiration? Start with this: After you include the “who, what, where” details, consider what information is missing from your page. If you were to show your page to an acquaintance, what details would you add verbally? What were the highlights of the day or the event? Was it a typical day or a special event? Did anything unusual or unexpected occur?

You don’t have to be a great writer to include your family stories. Remember, no critics will grade your storytelling style—and those who read your album will be grateful for this glimpse into your life.

Creative journaling

Next time you get a case of Writer’s Block, use these idea starters to get your pen (or your typing fingers) going:

  • Record Conversations: Conversations, especially the ones kids have, make for great journaling material. For example, a child’s conversation with Santa will bring back special (and often humorous) memories.
  • Once Upon a Time: This phrase can begin so many stories. Wedding and engagement pages, heritage and baby books can all take on a fairy-tale charm.
  • Menus & Recipes: Doing your holiday pages? Don’t forget to scrapbook a menu of the family’s traditional meal—whether it’s dinner on the town or a home-cooked meal. Include recipes for family favorites.
  • Lists: You know all those lists you have floating around—they’re in your purse, posted by your desk at work, taped on the fridge at home. Why not use a few to spark your journaling? What about your Weekend To-Do List, your son’s birthday wish list or your family shopping list?

You can also use a list format for journaling. Try a David Letterman approach: Top 10 Reasons I Love My House, for example, or 10 Ways ________ Inspires Me. Don’t feel like you must come up with 10, either—three items can work just as well!

  • Receipts: Save those receipts! Whether it’s your receipt for a typical trip to the grocery store, the receipt from your first car purchase or the obstetrician’s bill, receipts provide great snapshots of our lives. Note: Since receipts aren’t usually printed onto acid-free paper, it’s a good idea to have copies made before putting them in your album.
  • Quotes: We’re not all writers. Some of us struggle with spelling, let alone composing elegant prose. Why not let the great writers help you tell your story? Quotes or a favorite religious verse, snippet of poetry or song lyrics can be used to illustrate a page.

Challenge Yourself

Don’t forget, there are many ways to tell your story. Let your creativity go (remember, no one is grading you!). Try a new technique—even the ones you never thought you would like.

Need more ideas? Take note of journaling styles you admire in other pages you see, whether it’s minimal journaling or a more elaborate story-telling style. And most important, remember you are creating a scrapbook as a personal and family record; the more information you include, the more exciting it will be for those who read your album.