Paper Thoughts

Ever felt scared to try something new that you know might be good for you? Here at Paper Thoughts, we love journaling (surprising, right?!). Believe it or not, there was a time where some of us felt too scared to start a journal even though we knew it might be super helpful. This is way more common than you might think. So, here’s a list of some of the fears we came up with and how to deal with them.


I don’t know where to start

Good news! By reading this, you’ve already started, even though you haven’t even done anything other than read. Thinking about doing something is the first step to doing it (hopefully anyway…) If you’re reading this you’re thinking about journaling, so you’ve kind of already started. Fear fixed!

Just kidding. There are a few things you could do if you’re having trouble knowing where to start;

  1. You might want to start out by deciding “how” you might want to try to journal. Some people like to write long paragraphs, some people write poetry or songs or raps, some people like to create art. You can always change your mind if whatever you chose isn’t doing it for you, some people like a little structure when starting out.
  2. Be like Nike and “Just Do It.” No really, just get your journal out and start writing (or making art). You can even start out by writing something like “so…I’m not sure what to write about…but here goes nothing, I’m sitting in my bedroom, on my bed….” Just. Keep. Going. You might find the words or images will just start flowing after a while.
  3. Pick a “way” to journal to give yourself some guidelines. There are lots of ways to journal, some people like to describe how their day was, some people like to express their feeling in the moment, some people like to write letters, some people like to…well you get the point. For more ideas check out our RESOURCES page and click on “Journaling Basics”.
  4. Use journal prompts. What’s a journal prompt? I’m glad you asked. A journal prompt is a question or statement to get you started journaling. An example might be something like “What kind of music makes you feel alive?” or “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” or “If your anger was a monster, what would it look like?” There are a ton of journal prompts on a bunch of different topics on our RESOURCES page. I’ll bet you’ll find one (or 7) that might work for you

What if I do it wrong?

Maybe you feel like you do everything wrong, and so “obviously” you would journal wrong too. It would make sense why you would be afraid to journal if this was the case.  Between school and home, it might feel like you can’t take the chance to find “another thing” you aren’t good at. But you are going to be good at journaling, I promise. I can make that promise because I’ve worked with lots of kids and I’ve met lots of people who journaled, and they all journal differently, but none of them do it wrong. I can make that promise because you simply can’t be “bad” at journaling, because there is no wrong way to journal. How ever you choose to journal, whatever you choose to express, it is good and it is right. You are good and you are right, even if you don’t feel that way.

What if people think I’m weird? 

They might, I can’t promise that they won’t. Someone is going to think you’re weird no matter what you do (or don’t do…I might think you’re weird for NOT journaling…). Seriously though, there can be a lot of stigma around expressing how you really feel, even if it’s in the privacy of your own journal. If people are bugging you about journaling you can try to:

  1. Remind them that it’s just another way to help you feel better, like listening to music or punching a pillow or using a stress ball.
  2. Show off your cool journal to them and ask them if they want to try journaling themselves. Refer them to to help them get started.
  3. Be stubborn and journal anyway to show them they can’t take something away from you that you enjoy.
  4. Ask a grown up for help. Yea I know, I know, everyone says that. I obviously can’t tell you to give them a papercut with the pages of your journal, so talk to a grown up about it.

What if someone sees whats in my journal?

Gosh, I hope no one looks through your journal without asking you. That’s a pretty yucky feeling to have, so it makes sense that you might be a little scared of it happening. Here are some ideas to help you feel a little less scared;

  1. Let people know you’re journaling and why you’d like it to be private. Most grown-ups who snoop in kid’s journals do it because they are worried about them or because they want to make sure everything is okay. Let your grown-ups know that if there’s something big you need help with that you’ll talk to them. Letting your grown-ups know you’re going to be keeping a journal can also help let them know they need to make sure annoying siblings keep away from them.
  2. You can keep your journal on your phone, tablet, or computer and keep it password protected.
  3. Keep your journal in a safe place in your bedroom or keep it with you. 
  4. You can get rid of pages by ripping them out of your journal and destroying them.
  5. You can black out the pages of your journal with sharpie or paint; some people even take it a step further and will write or draw on their darkened pages with white ink to create something new.

What if I find out something scary about myself?

This is the toughest one for me to write about, because in all honesty you most likely will learn new things about yourself while journaling, and that can be pretty scary for a lot of people. My best advice would be to have a “Plan B” in case stuff comes up that is difficult to deal with. Maybe you can also have a plan C, D and E, just in case.

  1. Keep journaling. Sometimes something comes up and upsets us, but the more we think about it and “process” it the easier and less scary it is. If you’re able to, just keep journaling about it.
  2. Have a list of coping skills handy. A coping skill is something you do to help yourself feel better. You probably do a lot of them naturally (listening to music, talking to a friend etc.) but it’s good to have a list to refer to when you’re having a hard time.
  3. Talk to someone about it. Sometimes it can be really helpful to talk it out with a friend or loved one. It might be helpful to keep a list of numbers handy including the crisis lines in your area and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255


Having fears about journaling is pretty common, but they actually offer a really great chance to “test” out journaling and if it would be helpful for you.

  1. Get a piece of scrap paper that you can throw away later, write down all your fears about journaling.
  2. Now go back and explain why each of those fears is true for you.
  3. Now go back (last time, I promise!) and see if you can come up with ways to get rid of those fears by seeing things from a different angle or arguing a different point (you can use this blog as a cheat sheet!).

Was that exercise helpful? Did you learn anything about yourself and how to manage your fears? Good news! That means journaling is probably for you! Hopefully this helped get rid of some of your fears and now you can start journaling. If you need more help you can always REACH OUT TO US, we LOVE to talk about journaling and would love to help you learn to love journaling too!


*If you came up with any fears that aren’t listed in this blog we’d love to hear about it! If there’s lots of fears we missed we’ll make another blog post to talk about them. You can comment here or email us at or message us on Facebook Don’t worry, we won’t use your name or contact information.

A few months ago, right when Paper Thoughts was still more of an idea than anything else (we didn’t even have a facebook page yet…), I got an email about TedxNewburgh.
For those of you who don’t know what a Ted Talk is, its a small non-profit that spreads ideas in the form of short, powerful talks. Their catch phrase is “Ideas worth spreading.” I love Ted Talks. I’ve watched hundreds of them. And now there was going to be a Tedx event close enough for me to attend in person?! I was excited!
Then a tiny idea popped in my head…what if *I* did a Ted Talk…what if I did a Ted Talk on Paper Thoughts and journaling?
I imagined myself up on stage, with the TedXNewburgh sign behind me. Microphone on, talking, spreading information. Anyone who knows me well can tell you I love to learn and I love to help others. TedX was the perfect space to get to do both. Also, it would be a great chance to help Paper Thoughts grow.
But anyone who knows me well can also tell you I tend to be an anxious person. The thought of standing up in front of all those people was terrifying.
I told myself, what’s the harm in trying to apply, at least I could say that I tried. So I submitted my application. I assumed that there would be hundreds of applicants and in a few day I’d get an email saying “thanks for your submission, but we regret to inform you you have not been chosen as a speaker.” I could pretend I had been brave and move on with my life.
That wasn’t what happened.
Instead I got an email saying I’d made it through the first round of selections and asking for a 4 minute video explaining who I was and what I wanted to talk about. I begrudgingly made my video and made it through to the final round.
Time to write a speech. And practice. And practice and practice and practice.
This was really happening. I was really going to do a TedxTalk. I was terrified. Can you guess what I did? I journaled. I journaled…a lot. In fact, I’ve almost filled up my journal pouring out all my anxiety onto the paper. Countering all my negative thoughts on the terrible things that “could happen.”
What if I fell getting on stage? What if I threw up on stage? What if I had a migraine that day? What if i froze? What if…what if…what if…
What if I forgot what to say?
Well guess what. I did forget what to say. The night of the Ted Talk I got all dressed up. I got up on stage, went out there in front of all those people, said the first few lines of my speech…
and then nothing.
My problem was, I looked down…I saw everyone looking at me.
And then I had what we call in therapy, an “intrusive thought.” An intrusive thought is an unwelcome and involuntary thought or idea that pops into your head. We teach clients to counter involuntary thoughts by thinking the opposite thought or by rationalizing them away.
“Look at all those people down there that came here to learn, you’re going to let them ALL down when you mess up.”
I stood there like a deer in the headlights for what seemed like an eternity.
I couldn’t remember the next line. I don’t know how long it was I stood there (I guess we’ll see in the video!), but it was long enough for me to imagine myself calmly turning around, walking backstage, handing the microphone back to the Tedx team and going back to my seat in the audience. Back to safety. Away from the eyes of the crowd and their looks of disappointment. Then it would be over. I inhaled deeply.
I worked REALLY hard on this speech, and there are other people that worked really hard to help me with it. And it is a good speech, and an important message. All these people are here to learn and I DO have something to teach them. I can’t take the easy way out because it feels more comfortable for me. I’ve already messed up and that’s okay, I need to keep going.
I took a deep breath, centered myself. And then I continued. And then I finished. Everyone clapped and several people approached me after to ask about Paper Thoughts and how they could get involved.
It was worth it.
I’d like to say that my ability to overcome that anxiety in the moment and persist was because of journaling. It would be really a good story for Paper Thoughts, but it would also be a lie.
Because a similar thing happened when I was 4…and I couldn’t write yet, so I obviously wasn’t journaling back then.
I was in ballet and it was my very first dance recital. I was all decked out in my fancy blue tutu and way more makeup than any 4 year old should have been wearing. I was scared. My family told me they’d be in the audience watching while I was on stage.
But then I got out on stage. I could only see the first few rows because of the lights…and none of my family was there.
They’re gone. Now you’re alone forever.
I started sobbing. I really believed that was true.
But I danced anyway.
I stood in line with all my friends and my teachers and I did ballet. Tears and makeup running down my face.
I danced.
At 4 I didn’t have the tools yet to manage my anxiety so it overwhelmed me. I didn’t know how to counter those thoughts and to get through it. I didn’t know that I could think “your parents love you and are just a few rows back, you just can’t see them because of the lights.” I didn’t have the skills.
Working as a therapist I’ve seen lots of kids without the skills to deal with negative intrusive thoughts. Lots of kids believing, panicking and sobbing instead of breathing, countering and overcoming.
Obviously, journaling is helpful for doing this. If you write down your intrusive thought, you can take a step back and remove yourself from the emotions that are attached to it. By doing that you can think more clearly. You can then write down a reframed thought; something more logical, or kinder, or more realistic. Sometimes I make a chart like this

Intrusive Thought Rational Thought
Look at all those people down there that came here to learn, you’re going to let them ALL down when you mess up. I worked REALLY hard on this speech, and there are other people that worked really hard to help me with it. And it was a good speech, and an important message. All these people are here to learn and I DO have something to teach them. I can’t take the easy way out because it feels more comfortable.
Your family is gone. Now you’re alone forever. Your family loves you and are just a few rows back, you just can’t see them because of the lights. You’ll see them when you finish dancing

You can go back and look at your reframed thoughts whenever you have the same intrusive thought and remind yourself of what is true and real. You can also track your intrusive thoughts and see how often they happen. The more practice you get countering, the less likely they are to happen.
This is such an important skill to have. And it’s something so many kids lack. If anything, this TedxTalk and my experience with it has illustrated how important getting journals into the hands of kids and teaching them how to use them is. They NEED to learn these skills, just like I did.
They need to know they can keep dancing.
They need to know they can keep talking.
They need to know they can keep learning.
They need to know they can keep growing.
And most importantly….
They need to know that we care enough to help them do it.

If you want to help Paper Thoughts show kids we care, please donate to our gofundme page or visit our get involved page to learn how you can do more to support kids in finding their voice. page to learn how you can do more to support kids in finding their voice.