Journaling 101 for Smarties

Begin at the beginning ... open the journal and just write from your heart.

Begin at the beginning … open the journal and just write from your heart.

Writing in a journal helped me to launch a passion for writing. If you have never written down your thoughts, prayers, or desires, you may wish to try it.

The following is an article I wrote and wish to share with you today about how to journal.

Journaling 101 for Smarties

by Linda Gillis 

Why Journal?

Journaling is a way of depositing thoughts, feelings, goals, dreams, sorrows, and fantasies to a trust account with little start-up costs. You can pour whatever is on your mind and in your soul to a safe source. The word “I” or “me” can be used as often as you want! Your journal will become more than a diary of details—it will become your new companion, confidant, cheap therapist, and a powerful tool for healing by:

  • spelling out how you are feeling and releasing emotion
  • helping you find clarity in a situation in your life (Be aware that it may open wounds that need to heal and that you may feel worse before feeling better.
  • helping you get through rough times (without losing your health, too!)

When to Journal

Anytime! Some people journal early in the morning when their thoughts and dreams are fresh. Others end their day by taking their journal with them to bed. Journal often—every day is good—once a week is okay—once a month is not enough! Keep your journal some place where you can write whenever you have something that you want to share with your new confidant.  Fifteen minutes a day will make a big difference in your life.

Tools Needed to Journal

  • something to write on—a fancy journal or a simple notebook, preferably without tear-out sheets. (Note what kind of paper you like best and try to use it consistently.)
  • a pen or pencil that fits comfortably in your hand and a color that is pleasing to you.

How and What to Journal

There is no right or wrong way to journal. But know that journaling is not the same as keeping a diary in which facts are detailed.

Write whatever comes to your mind—brain draining! It’s okay to write a day-to-day diary, but take it a step farther. How did it feel, what did you learn, what would you do differently? Pour feelings into it!  Show anger, frustration, fears, joy, weaknesses. Take your truths and turn them into fantasies. Be patient in your journaling—sometimes it seems hard, especially when writing about hurts or memories that bring back pain. Let your journal rest before reading it—weeks, months, or years! Note if there is a pattern to your journal—a common thread of hurts (mental, physical or spiritual).

When journaling, know that there is no grammar, spelling, or vocabulary police, and that you can write as messy as you want—side ways, upside down, or in Pig Latin. Feel free to attach little news clips or draw pictures in your journal. I recommend that you leave space in the margins to write notes to recap what you’ve written, such as “dream” or “story to write.” Date your journal entries, and when done with a journal book, put the beginning and ending dates on the front cover or inside cover of the book for easy tracking.

 Who Should Read your Journal ?

No one! Especially those you write about! Let everyone in your household know that your journal is “for my eyes only!” If you can’t trust that to happen, hide it, tape it shut, or whatever you need to do. Your words will pour on to the pages of your journal without being edited. Raw emotions will show.

Your journal may be a legacy to your children, grandchildren, or the historical society. But it is up to you as to whether you will burn it or let anyone read your collection of journals after you have passed on or are in a comatose state. If you wish to share parts of your journal with someone, read it to them!

Special Kinds of Journaling

Prayer journaling. Write your prayers as you talk to God. Keep track of answered prayers. Rewrite unanswered prayers!

Devotional journaling. Use a daily meditation book, and after reading the lesson, write your thoughts about the scripture and the message for the day.

Time capsule journaling. Recreate memories of when you were 0 – 7 years old; 8 – 14; 15 – 21, etc. Write about one period of your life at a time.

Morning pages: Julia Cameron, author of An Artist’s Way, introduced a concept in journaling. Soon after rising in the morning, grab a cup of coffee or tea and your journal and write three pages without stopping. Whatever comes to your mind goes down on paper. If nothing comes to your mind, write “I’ve nothing to write about” until something surfaces. This method of journaling clears your mind for more profound thoughts for the rest of the day.

Topic journal. Journaling through a crisis can begin the road to recovery, give you an opportunity to acknowledge and feel the pain. With journaling, and prayer, you have a better chance to move from despair to hope and from loss to acceptance.

  • Depression. Journaling can work for minor situational
    depression. Clinical depression needs professional care.
  • Sorrow. Time heals, but only if there is work done! Writing is one tool to begin to heal.
  • Disease or illness. Balance the body, mind, and soul. Start a new journal if you’ll be dealing with a long-term situation.
  • Grief. The loss of a loved one or pet, divorce, the empty nest, loss of job, or leaving one plateau of life and moving on to another.
  • Joy! A journal full of joy is good to refer to when times are not so joyous. (Remember, joy is not the same thing as being happy.)

Benefits of Journaling

Your journal is always available to talk to!
  • You can be honest and transparent with thoughts and feelings you’d never share with anyone (except God).
  • You can let your inner person take control of your pen (the mother, worker, wife, sister, etc.).
  • You can work out problems, concerns, and gain clarity from more than one angle and get a feeling of well-being.
  • Your journal writing can make you aware of when you need to ask God and others for forgiveness.
  • Blocked areas of your mind (anything that keeps you from becoming whole) can be released for healing.
  • You can be transported to another place or time.
  • You can become more creative in your writing skills.

Others forms of Journaling

  • Journaling may be done through scrapbooking, photography, and other art forms. Experiment what works for you!

When to take a rest from Journaling

If Journaling becomes work, or if journaling makes you feel worse, you may need to talk to someone— a pastor or therapist instead, or if you do not feel like you are getting anywhere by journaling, put it away for awhile and try again later. (Maybe you need to only write about the sure things in your life—back to the diary.)

You learn to pray by praying;you learn to journal by journaling!


Resources for Journaling

Writing as a Way of Healing by Louise De Salvo (Beacon Press, 2000)

Journaling Your Work, article by Doreene Clement, author of The 5–Year
(Morgan James 2006)

Page by Page, article by Ron Klug, The Lutheran Magazine, May 2007. Author of How to Keep a Spiritual Journey: A Guide to Journal Keeping for Inner Growth and Personal Discovery (Augsburg, rev. ed. 2002).

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (Jeremy archer/Putnam 2002)

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