I’m not very good with words. Just kidding (kind of).

I have lots of opinions on movies, art and, especially, music — I write to share those opinions. So, when everyone started to get into journaling and writing down introspective thoughts and feelings as a way to cope during the pandemic, I thought I’d be a natural.

“I’m a journalism major,” I thought to myself, “I can do this.” Pen in hand, and a cute, blank journal staring up at me, I started to think — but I couldn’t find the words.

[Justin Bieber’s TikTok concert made me want to become a Belieber again]

I quickly noticed that knowing how you feel and being able to say it are two different things. I melodramatically shut my still-empty notebook and turned on my comfort album, Melodrama by Lorde, instead.

“Hard Feelings/Loveless” came on, and I realized — that’s it. I snapped back into focus, opened Spotify, and clicked “New Playlist.”

Instead of journaling, I compiled a list of songs that spoke to me at that moment. Some of the songs had lyrics explaining how I was feeling, and others just had, for lack of better words, a similar vibe.

Making playlists soon filled the journaling void I had created. Not only did this process start exposing me to lots of new artists as I searched for songs I related to, but it also felt like I had expressed how I felt in a coded way only I could understand.

I think even if you have success journaling, doing this is still super fun. Plus, it provides a soundtrack for every emotion in your life, leveling up mundane day-to-day existence to a coming-of-age-film level of creative expression. Here’s how I do it, if you’re looking to try it out for yourself.

[Review: ‘Attack on Titan’ comes back with better imagery, more mature themes]

  1. Create a playlist. Leave it unnamed for now — we’ll come back to that.
  2. Find your first song, which is the most important as it provides the foundation for the rest of the playlist. Typically while practicing playlist journaling, I’ll pick a song that has a lyric that really encompasses how I’m feeling at that time.
  3. Now, find more songs. As I mentioned before, these songs don’t all need to have a lyric that speaks to you — maybe it has a specific sound that represents what you’re feeling. I try to find about 10 songs, but if you’re on a roll, feel free to keep going.
  4. Write a playlist description. This is where you provide context or a little background to the group of songs you’ve chosen. It doesn’t have to be that deep: You can go the status update route (“Back home again”), or the abstract life lesson route (“Learning it’s OK to take a break!”) Both of those are real examples from entries in my playlist journal.
  5. Pick a cover photo. This is optional but, in my opinion, the best part of the process. I usually turn to Pinterest to find images that fit my vibe, but it can be photos you’ve taken that represent how you feel. For example, in a playlist I made when I was homesick, I chose a picture of my best friends taken on a disposable camera as the cover photo.
  6. OK, finally: name the playlist. You can do this however you best see fit, but I think the vaguer the better. Since you’ve already provided some context in the description, you can name this literally anything you want. Could be an inside joke, a word you’ve noticed yourself using lately or just the first reactive thought that pops into your head. Some real examples from mine are: “im confused,” “decisions decisions,” and “oh no !!!” While these don’t really have a specific meaning to me now, they represent my immediate thoughts at the time.

Since I’ve started doing this, I’ve been left with lists of songs from different eras of emotion. I can put on an older journal entry and immediately be transported back to what I was feeling at that time. I almost think it’s more powerful than just jotting down thoughts, and I think everyone should give it a try.