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.
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.
- Create a playlist. Leave it unnamed for now — we’ll come back to that.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.