Jot Down Your Laughter, Reread Later

Sometimes we need a laugh. Sometimes it helps to have a list of the situations where laughter is more likely to happen. With this we can revisit those times of pure mirth or recreate those circumstances to give ourselves a new laugh. Your journal can help in this endeavor.

For one week, write a quick note about what has made you laugh. If you can remember to do it immediately, that would be great. If you have a mobile device or a pocket notebook on you all day, jot down the moment. Otherwise, try to recall at the end of the day what made you laugh.

Jot down the circumstances, location, who was there (if anyone), a certain type of film, a certain performer, a certain type of book. What seems to have triggered the laugh? Was it a joke? Was it a pratfall? Was it that other people in the room were laughing?

For example,

“The baby giggled when we played on the living room carpet today. I found myself laughing as well.”


” I finished that autobiography from Mr. John Doe just now. It was largely sad, but when he referred to members of the invasive press not by their names but by types of insects, I chuckled a bit.”


“After the water runs in the kitchen sink, turn off the faucet. There is still a bit of water in the faucet spray hose. Press it. A spritz comes out. I laughed every time I did that today.”

Over time, you will see a pattern of the types of places and spaces conducive to laughter for you. You can use this list for nostalgia or to recreate the patterns that made you laugh in the first place. However you decide to use your list of laughter, I wish you…



An Executive’s Journal Prompts for Success (Journal Writers #7)

Robin Arzón is the Vice President of Fitness Programming at Peloton. The executive is also a journal writer. In a webinar with BetterUp (a corporate coaching business), Arzón talks about her family of origin. Her father is a law professor and her mother is a medical doctor; both moved from elsewhere to live in Philadelphia. She felt the need to become a lawyer without thinking through in detail about what she wanted.

After experiencing a traumatic event, Arzón began to question her goals in life. What did she want to do? She wanted to run. She began running marathons and ultramarathons, and made athleticism her career. The athlete now refers to herself as a recovering lawyer.

When asked how she switched careers and what motivates her, Arzón shared three questions that she regularly asks herself in a journal. She did not have time to go into detail, so I will give you the three questions with my commentary beside them.

  1. What is my “why?” — What is the reason for me to do the thing that I claim to want? Use your “NO” to protect your “YES.” You might have to refer to this in the middle of achieving the goal when reassessing whether the trouble is worth it.
  2. Why not me? – A rhetorical question that suggests that you should not doubt that you are worthy to achieve the goal.
  3. What decisions would I make if I were twice as strong, and twice as confident? — This is where the beginning of planning comes in. This is your “pie in the sky,” “if there were no obstacles” moment where you think of the life you would want if there was nothing in your way. Then take the essence of those dreams and pursue them step by step.

Arzón says that she imagines the future self that she writes about in her journal as a person who is cheering her on in her goals. She is forever working towards consciously becoming the future Robin; the journal helps to create the environment to know herself and achieve that future.



How To Journal About Walking For Pleasure

Of the many topics one could write about in a journal, a regular walk is another subject that could grace the pages of your personal book. If you take a morning, mid-day, or evening constitutional or go hiking and enjoy it, writing about the walk can be fun.

Often when you search for discussions of walking journals they are for the purpose of measuring health, (e.g tracking heart rate, miles walked, etc.) which, of course, you can do.

However, what yours truly is advocating here is to use your journal for the expression of enjoyment of moving your body. Journaling about your walk can be a way of extending the pleasure of the activity.

Charles Dickens was fond of describing walks. In The Uncommercial Traveller, the author notes the following:

My walking is of two kinds: one, straight on end to a definite goal at a round pace; one, objectless, loitering, and purely vagabond.

Charles Dickens, The Uncommercial Traveller

It’s a shame that Dickens describes his less-planned walks as objectless. Wandering and filling one’s senses with the world around is a wonderful thing. Sometimes the journey is the objective.

In any case, in writing about our walks, we are in good company. It is interesting how the author distinguishes his walks. How would you describe your walks?

The following are a few more questions to get you started on a walking journal for pleasure:


Do you like the area where you walk? Is it flat? Mountainous? Sandy? Residential? Public park? A trail in the back acreage?

Is your enjoyment derived not from the location but from the movement of your body? Or some other reason? Why?

How do you feel about the walk? Why?

What little details give you pleasure?

Do you walk alone or with a companion? The baby? The dog? Why? How does it make you feel?

Do you like to walk and listen to music? How about podcasts? Is the sound a distraction or an enhancement? Does the sound keep you from feeling bored? Why do you walk with extra sound in your ears?

When you walk do you think of other things, such as what you will have for dinner? Describe what you think about during these moments.

While you walk, do you produce ideas planning the next day? A few years from now? If so, what are those plans?

Is there a certain pair of shoes you enjoy using? Describe them. Do you walk barefoot?

If you art journal, could you illustrate something from your walks? How about printing an image of the area from an online map?

Do you take a camera with you on your walk? Do you take photos? Include them in your journal and use them as memory prompts.

Is there a preferred path? Where is it? Why do you prefer it?

Do you not think of anything in particular on the walk and just enjoy whatever stimuli you encounter (wind, rain, snow, the sight of squirrels)?

Is your walk scheduled and clear about its destination? Do you wander more?

Do you take food or beverage on your walk? Why? What is it?

Is it a leisurely walk or more brisk? If it might take longer, do you sometimes opt for a picnic along the way?


Walking can be fun. Perhaps we can capture the pleasure of walks in a journal.



Journaling On a Picnic (Story Time #4)

Some of my most memorable journaling from childhood was on a picnic. I would not journal while on a picnic with other people; it was often a solo venture to the backyard.

Whether it was after school or a random summer day, I would grab a book, a journal, a ball point pen, a blanket, and (depending on the season) cherry tomatoes from the garden or apples slices in vinegar, and sit in the backyard reading and writing.

I would write about school, the family, or what I dreamed of doing some day. I would attempt poetry and know it was terrible. Then I would switch to reading the book of the moment and wonder when I would write as well as this author.

An introvert, I needed time alone after spending all day around people at school, or after playing with friends on a Saturday. Those times with other people were fine, but one was always in that space having to answer questions, having to be social, having to perform.

Yet, here in the out-of-doors, I performed for no one but myself. (Well, maybe for the birds who sometimes wanted a morsel or two.) Despite my frustration at the quality of the writing, it was satisfying to try to improve. Being in a space of writing for the fun of it, not feeling that one must be onstage at all times was a privilege and a necessity that I did not fully recognize at the time.

On the blanket, the wind would whip around me and blow my pages around, insisting that I shut the book and pay attention to nature. I would comply.

Through the years, the need of the journal on a picnic increased. It is a simple, safe space in a complex world. As you age, society requires you to step outside, not for the solace of the birds, nor to feel the wind, but to perform onstage to ever increasing audiences as the marker of your value in your industry.

However, my journal (7 inches by 9 inches) on a twin size blanket, performing for my own pleasure is the greatest stage I ever want to play.



More of Deborah’s Personal Journaling Story Time

A Movie Titan’s Journal and What We Can Learn from It (Journal Writers #6)

Movie studio head, director, philanthropist, and compassionate billionaire Tyler Perry is known for his comedies and dramas. What might be less well known is that he uses journals.

According to Success Magazine (as well as numerous interviews of the director), at a young age, Perry watched the Oprah Winfrey Show wherein the talk show host encouraged everyone to use a journal for catharsis.

Perry’s experiences were enough to break most people. The pain and anger grew inside him like a fire, eating away at him. It wasn’t until he caught an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show championing the therapeutic benefits of writing about your experiences that Perry’s outlook began to change.

Roger Brooks, Success Magazine- February 1, 2023

Finding self-therapy by being able to offload the problems onto the page helped to lighten his load at a young age and encouraged him to continue living.

However, there was another problem – the fear of others reading his private writings.

But even in the private pages of his diary, he couldn’t be truly honest about his tragic upbringing. Fearful others might read his words, he invented characters who revealed his experiences and feelings. In the process, he let the hate and venom flow through his pen. He was still livid, but he had a place to siphon off the bile when it threatened to overwhelm him.

Roger Brooks, Success Magazine- February 1, 2023

Some of characters he created when he couldn’t write about himself in the journal became the basis for characters he would later write into plays and films.

One take away from this story, in addition to the catharsis that sometimes comes with journaling, is that when you do not feel comfortable writing as yourself, you can write as a different character or write as if talking about someone else.

Wherever you are in your journaling journey, I wish you…



Skipped a Day of Journaling? Feel Like a Failure? Here’s a Thought.

If you have the habit of writing in a journal daily, but you have skipped a day or more and feel like a failure, here are a few tips. (If you don’t feel like a failure, that’s great. This might not be the article for you.)

    If you find yourself missing your daily writing habit, especially if it starts happening often, reassess why you write every day.

    1. If you write every day for discipline reasons, if you write to give yourself the habit, then you might need to address what interrupted your flow yesterday and how we can eliminate this problem and give you the uninterrupted time you need.

    Do you write at a busy time of day when everyone wants something from you? Then it might be time to write before everyone in the house awakens, or after everyone goes to bed.

    Do you normally write in long paragraphs and you knew you wouldn’t have time for that so you did not write at all yesterday? Next time, write a sentence or two. Stick to your routine, even if the result is not ideal on that day.

    Did you not feel like writing yesterday? Why? That might be a topic to explore in today’s journal entry. Do some freewriting (i.e. just write whatever you think about a subject) to get to the root. e.g. I know a person who could not figure out why she was not writing every day. Eventually, she stopped writing altogether and felt like a failure until she began to freewrite and discover why – her parents were always strict. In trying to create a daily habit of journaling, her inner child felt oppressed again, too many rules. After that revelation, she decided to write whenever she felt like it, and began to enjoy the process of writing, even if it wasn’t every day.

    Do you give yourself the best possible chance to succeed at daily writing by making it easy to do? If you keep your journal where it is easily accessible for you, you are more likely to do it. e.g. There is a person who keeps a large journal propped open on his desk. Every time he passes the desk, he is reminded to write something.

    2. If you write every day to brag that you write every day, then I cannot help you. This sounds like a form of perception management that is best discussed with a therapist. I wish you the best.

    3. If you write daily because you enjoy re-reading your entries, then perhaps retroactive journaling might be the way for you. The following tips are best if you have a space all laid out for the day’s entry and just did not write in it so it is blank.

    Write yesterday’s missing journal entry so that you can have the information. The data is still fresh enough in your mind the next day; jot it down and back date it.

    Write yesterday’s activities in today’s journal entry. e.g. “Yesterday I went to the store and bought a bushel of apples. Today I am trying out an apple cobbler recipe.” If you do this, then you can use yesterday’s blank space for doodles or art.

    —You might not have written in a paper journal yesterday, but there might be a trace of you from that day in some other media. Did you take a photo yesterday? Put that in the journal and back date it, using the image to prompt your memory.

    —Let’s say that the day that you skipped journaling is farther back than yesterday and you cannot recall what you did or how you felt. Look at the search history on your mobile device or desktop. This will give you a glimpse of what you were thinking that day. Did you search for paste in your area? Will that prompt the memory of making a papier-mâché dog? Look at receipts (paper or digital). Did you fill up your gas tank using a rewards card? Was that the day you took a trip out of town? Write about it.

    — Let’s say that you cannot remember what happened that day, or you would rather not recall what happened that day. Then write in general terms about how you have felt lately, as opposed to activities on the specific day. You can write about your latest music playlist, a particular movie genre you have explored lately, a thought that you’ve ruminated over for a while, etc.

    Ultimately, don’t berate yourself about missing a day of daily writing. Grieve the loss of the time you could have spent journaling, if you need to do that. After that, find your way forward.



    Should I Own More than One Journal? A Minimalist Issue

    There are journal writers who, inspired by minimalists, will not own more paper journals than they need at one time. If they are writing, then that is the only (semi) blank journal in the house. This method keeps down unnecessary objects and clears the mind. The lack of visual noise can quell anxiety and create a peaceful space.

    However, while trying to keep objects in the house down to a minimum, one might discover that a second blank book is useful for sustained journaling.

    It has been this author’s experience that sometimes you might finish a journal before you finish a thought. It is best to have the next journal handy to continue jotting down the idea for a couple of reasons. One, in case you forget the idea before buying a new journal. Two, you want the inertia from writing in the finished journal to carry over into the next one.

    There is something about a completed journal that feels final for some of us. Some of us do not want the finality of completing the book to lead to resting on our laurels and not picking up a journal again for a while . . . or ever again. Have an extra journal on hand to sustain the journaling habit.

    When one has immediately opened a new journal to continue a thought from the previous book, one has broken in the new journal, played around in a fresh space, marked the territory. In this situation, one is likely to return to the book.

    If a person is in a tug-of-war with a need to remain minimalist (to own only what you need) and a need to continue the inertia of journal writing by having an extra book around, then think of the extra book in the house as a need, because, in that case, it is a need.



    Most Popular Journaling Articles of 2022

    Thank you for reading Journal Writing with Deborah. Here are the most-read articles of 2022. Enjoy!


    Most Popular Journaling Articles

    Journal Writing Sugggestions

    A letter to an acquaintance who wanted tips for restarting journal writing after 20 years.

    How to Use a Journal to Remember a Recently-Deceased Relative

    When a loved one dies, you might wish to remember the person by writing about your experience in a journal, writing about the deceased, and keeping mementos.

    Here are a few things that I have done with a journal during Aunt C’s illness and death.

    On Journaling: Use What You Have 

    Sometimes the right journal is the one that you have right now. I talk about my first journal and how it was not “perfect.”

    Types of Journals to Consider

    Here is a list of journal types. Choose what works for you.

    Most Popular Journal Prompts

    How to Write a 5-Minute Journal

    The 5-Minute Journal is a series of writing prompts to recall daily highlights and improve oneself for the next day.

    Journal Prompts After a Concert

    Do you need journal prompts after attending a concert to remember an event? Here are a few prompts to get you started.

    Heirloom Journals – Prompts for the Journal That You Will Leave to Your Children.

    Not all journals are for yourself exclusively. Some would rather leave their writings to their children as heirlooms. Here are  a few writing prompts to get you started.

    Journal Prompts for Aunts and Uncles

    The following writing prompts are not only to help aunts and uncles capture the moments, but also to help you think through the relationship that you would like to have with your nieces or nephews, whether they are minors or adults.

    Holiday Journal Prompts

    Holidays can be a sensitive topic for many people. A journal can be the perfect place to download your feelings and attain a bit of relief from a stressful time. Conversely, if you enjoy festive seasons, journal writing is the perfect time to remember as much as you can about the day or days that you celebrated.

    Here are a few prompts to get you started.

    Image as Journal Prompt

    It can be a personal image or one you randomly find online or in a print publication. Allow the image to evoke an idea or a memory.

    Lunch Break Journaling

    Taking a break at work can include fueling oneself physically and also refreshing oneself psychologically. Journaling can help with the latter.

    On your lunch break, after you have had your meal, pull out your journal and jot down a few thoughts.

    You can talk about the day, or your plans, or the bird that has flown by as you sit on a bench. This is especially useful for those who feel as if there is no time in the work day for journaling.

    Write a sentence or two. Get into the habit of journaling, unfurling the blossom of your thoughts on the page. It can be a restful and refreshing experience.

    There are those who take lunch in the employee break room and journal, if they feel that they will be undisturbed. There are others who eat in the car in the parking lot just to have privacy; journaling there should prove very easy to do. There are those who would not mind pulling out a journal in a restaurant and jotting down a thought or two. Some work close enough to home to eat lunch and journal in a familiar space. I’ve even heard of journal jogging, where you chat into a headset microphone into a voice recorder on your phone as you trot around the park.

    However you choose to do it, don’t forget that your lunch break can be a time of mental and psychological refreshment through journaling.



    Cherish the Small Things in Your Journal

    Tomes have been written about Anne Frank – a vibrant young woman taken from this earth by evil forces. Much has been written about her diary. There is a detail in her personal book that has come to symbolize unity, peace, and empathy.

    While hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam, Anne Frank would look out of a window and gaze at a white horse chestnut tree.

    The young woman would write of the tree in her diary,

    “Nearly every morning I go to the attic to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs. From my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver….”

    Anne Frank – Feb 23, 1944

    The writer goes on to say how much happiness the tree gives her.

    The hiding place would later become a museum where saplings were grown from the original tree. These saplings are distributed throughout the world to various important and educational organizations, including presidential libraries and the United Nations Headquarters.

    The Anne Frank Center notes that as, “they grow, the saplings act not only as living reminders of those who have passed, but as tools to educate future generations about the history of Holocaust, a service that is increasingly critical.”

    A diary or journal might seem insignificant. However, these little details of life give us a window into a person’s world, provide a sense of place, and encourage empathy and understanding. One’s descriptions might come to symbolize an idea even greater than yourself, beyond your time.

    Do not despise the small things in your life. Cherish them. Honor them. Give them a place in your journal.



    For more on the chestnut tree, visit The Anne Frank Center.

    Moving House and Journaling. Will You Have Time?

    Will you have time to write in a paper journal while moving to a new home, packing and unpacking, making sure the emergency papers are in the right bag, etc.? Probably not.

    However, if you take time with a camera or voice recorder, you might be able to squeeze in a moment or two.

    Why do this? Why journal in the midst of moving house? A few reasons.

    1. A journal writer becomes raw, unpolished, and truthful in the rush of the moment. Your real thoughts come out.
    2. Journaling in the rush of moving homes preserves the expectations of your new life in your new home. In this way, months or years later, you can compare the dream with your new reality and determine whether they match, determine whether the dream remains the same. It is from this treasure of information that you can find the best way forward if you haven’t yet created the dream life.
    3. It is fun to get a glimpse of an old house or apartment if happy memories are there. Take a photo of the old place before, during, or after packing for nostalgia.
    4. It is useful to show your future self how you organized the move should you need to move again.

    Let’s say you have stopped in the middle of packing to eat lunch. If you can turn on your camera for a few minutes and describe how you feel, a video diary might be just the thing. Describe the day and what you are looking forward to doing in your new life.

    For example, in my last move, I made a video diary of getting the post office box keys in my new town; I described feeling like a local. It wasn’t unpacking boxes that first made me feel at home, it was the keys. I had no idea that would make me feel so connected to my new city.

    Or perhaps, turn on your voice recorder, say the date and talk about what you have to do next. Nothing fancy. No big production. Just talk. These will provide tons of nostalgia some day.

    For example, the other year when I moved, I made audio diaries. When traveling to my new town I listened to these old audio diaries and was thrilled to hear my younger self talk about her plans. This new move was part of what my younger self hoped she could do someday. I was shocked at how I had surpassed her expectations.

    Eventually, I got around to the paper diary to write my feelings and save space for photos. Still, I’m so glad to have taken the time to record what I was thinking in other media during a transition. I wouldn’t have remembered what I felt in the hustle and bustle of traveling, and unpacking, and getting the electricity company to turn on everything, etc.

    In the hubbub of moving to a new place and a new life, capture memories of yourself in transition. They are wonderful memories.



    Journaling with No Journal (Temporarily)

    At times, we find ourselves with no journal or notebook but with a thought that must be jotted down. Here are a few ways to keep the thought until you return to your beloved personal book.

    Alternatives to the Journal

    If you board a plane and have no journal with you, jot notes on your boarding pass (if you have a paper one) or a paper napkin that comes with your beverage.

    Yours truly is known for using paper towels from the public restroom to jot down a note or two in an emergency.

    Programs at events have often been a go-to note-taking space. I deliberately leave my journal at home for the opera or a play. I don’t want to drag a journal around to such an event. But I do allow myself a pen, and jot notes in the margin to transpose to a journal later.

    It is not true that President Lincoln scribbled the Gettysburg Address on the back of an envelope, but that’s not a terrible alternative in a pinch. How many times has one retrieved mail from the post office, had a thought, and scribbled it on the back of an envelope from Aunt May?

    Alternatives to the Pen

    • Sometimes you keep a pouch full of writing implements, but you reach in and the only ones left are bright yellow highlighters. I have jotted down notes with a highlighter and later have drawn over the notes with an ink pen for increased visibility.
    • I would not like to ruin an eyebrow pencil, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make if there are no other writing implements around.
    • Step into a post office or bank to use their pens which are chained to their tables. Librarians are also generous with their pens.
    • Quills were once well used as writing implements, feathers whose tips were hardened through various processes to provide a point with which to guide ink on a page. Let’s say you are in the woods camping with your journal, but no pen. You have found a feather on the ground. It is not processed for writing. Yet, have I dipped such a thing into coffee and tried to write with it? Yes. Is it ideal? No. But if you have to…think of it as water coloring and the frustration subsides a little.
    • Use the voice recorder on your phone for memos to kick-start your memory when you journal later.


    • Consider leaving palm-size spiral-bound notebooks and tiny golf pencils lodged in the spirals in various places – your coat pocket, your car’s console, the guest room at your friend’s house that you frequent, etc.
    • Take a journal with you when you leave the house. I make sure my daily totes are large enough for the task.

    Ultimately, finding alternatives to pens or pencils is much harder than finding surfaces on which to write. Invest in lots of writing implements and strew them about in the spaces that you frequent. That’s the biggest takeaway today.



    How to Write Book Reviews in a Journal

    Before stole my heart and made my book reviews easy to search and find, yours truly would write book reviews in a paper journal.

    I realized that my book reviews are more frequently written when I think I’m helping people, so they needed an audience. Goodreads provided that audience.

    The problem with writing book reviews online on someone else’s website is that they can shut it down and your reviews no longer are available to you. Before that day comes, I plan to retrieve them from online and print them in a book.

    Of course, when I would review a book in a paper journal, there was no need to worry about someone shutting it down, nor plugging in a machine, nor checking for battery life on a mobile device. One could just open the journal and write.

    Whatever your reason for reviewing a book, whether for yourself, or for others, or a bit of both, the following tips might prove useful.

    While Reading the Book…

    • While reading the book, enjoy yourself. Let it wash over you. Note the parts that excite you, surprise you, bore you, etc.
    • Depending on how thorough you want to be in your review of the book, if you don’t mind writing in the margins, you can keep some notes there. Yours truly is known to argue with the author in the margins. I tend to remember those parts of the book when I do.
    • You can also deploy a variety of bookmarks to return to a page to recall a quote you want to include in the review. If you don’t mind slight residue, sticky notes might help you return to the various pages of interest for the review.
    • Once you’ve reviewed books for a while, you start to recognize the highlights that you usually discuss in your reviews. Review notes might become unnecessary to recall what you want to say.
    • Caution: When reading books becomes all about the review you’re going to write later, reading can become a chore that is all about “getting it right,” whatever that means. Under such circumstances, one might stop having fun when reading. If this happens, take a break from reviewing and just have fun.

    Organizing the Book Review Journal

    • The headings for your book reviews can be as simple as Today’s Date, Title, Author, and Review. Keep space in between each heading, leaving the most space for the Review.
    • However, if one is inclined to greater detail, one can include quotes that stand out to you, publisher, date of publication, ISBN, date you started reading, date you finished reading, etc.
    • As with any of the list journals, writing the same subject headings down every time might prove tedious. Consider printing out the subject headings and pasting them onto the journal pages ahead of time.
    • There are any number of ready-made book review journals on Amazon, Etsy, your local bookstore, etc. They save time on the subject headings.
    • You can create different sections in your book review journal and seperate the reviews by genre or other differences. E.g. Reviews of fiction can be written in the latter half of the journal and nonfiction in the front.
    • Another way to organize is to alphabetize the journal to write book reviews in order of book title or author’s last name. E.g. Space your journal into sections such as A through D, and only write about novels from Lynn Aaron to John Duke in that section.
    • You might create different journals for different genres and save yourself the time of sectioning off your genres in one book.

    Reviewing Audiobooks

    • Reviewing audiobooks can be a difficulty for those of us who listen to them while doing something else, like washing dishes. We might not always recall what we liked about it in detail. However, if you can pause the audiobook when a thought intrigues you, and ruminate over it for a while, you might find that the most important parts of the audiobook will be readily accessible to your conscious mind when you are ready to review it in your journal later.
    • Consider an audio journal for reviewing audiobooks. For instance, if you are listening to an audiobook on your phone and have an intriguing thought, switch over to the voice recorder on your phone and record what you think. Push pause on the voice recorder and resume listening. Rinse and repeat until you are satisfied.

    However you choose to organize your book review journal, have fun with it.



    Essentials for Writing in a Journal

    Author Bonnie Morris shares in the book Writers and Their Notebooks a few essentials for writing.

    The author is speaking from a place of journaling while on the go, but this list can work for many in general. Let’s take a look at it.

    Essentials for writing:

    • “Pens for every coat and knapsack and handbag that you own.”
    • “A…loyalty to your brand of instrument: Bic, Biro… fine-point, crayon. And mechanical pencil, too, for the creative engineers among you.”
    • “Ink. Choose colors that won’t fade; this is your stab at immortality, if you can handle the thought of great-grandchildren or grad students reading [your diaries].”
    • “Real paper, creamy, heavyweight, spiral-later, if you wish, you may certainly transfer journal entries to a cold and blinking screen. But the paper in your lap permits your moving hand to caress both pen and surface, a workmanship format centuries old, irreplaceably intimate….”
    • “A writing place and time, a favorite nook or bench, a willingness to create writing space in chaos, solitude in crowds—the ability to write in jail, on subways, during revolutions, at rock concerts, in bed.”
    • “If you like, a tape recorder and a camera rounding out the sounds and sights, interviews and images that collectively inspire you to capture or describe your life.”

    This list is of Morris’ essentials. As with anything, take what works for you and toss the rest. There is not usually a one-size-fits-all situation.



    Battle Negativity with Journaling

    Psychologist Alice Boyes, Ph.D has written

    5 Self-Reflection Questions to Bolster Mental Health

    These prompts might be great to include in your journal; they help to turn around negative thinking. Dr. Boyes makes a note that they are careful not to incite toxic positivity.

    Dr.Boyes’ 5 Prompts

    • 1. What have you done lately that worked out much better than anticipated
    • 2. Who have you thought fondly about that would probably enjoy hearing from you?
    • 3. When have you observed the best aspects of humanity lately?
    • 4. When have you observed something relaxing and calming about the natural world lately?
    • 5. When have you observed something beautiful in the human-made world lately?

    Find the full explanation at 5 Self-Reflection Questions to Bolster Mental Health.



    Cruise Ship Journaling

    Cruise ship journaling is a special type of experience. Your hotel is traveling for you. There is no need to pack and unpack at each new place. Your journal is right there.


    Use paper schedules as headers.

    A few years ago, cruise ships heavily transitioned away from paper schedules and maps, which were once waiting in stacks on every corner of the ship, it seemed. If you left your schedule in the stateroom, you can pick up another one and remember where the art lecture is held.

    They now offer apps for your mobile devices to keep track of the events on board. However, they still have paper schedules at the information desk.

    Use the paper schedule of events as headers. E.g. Did you salsa on the 10th floor? Cut out that event from the schedule, affix it to the journal page and write about how that went.


    It’s up to you if you want to bring more than one journal on your trip. Some keep a large scrapbook style journal on board the ship, and take a smaller, more portable journal on excursions.

    It might be unusual to have time to journal when wandering around a port city for a day if one is the type to try to pack in as many events as possible.

    If you don’t have a moment to journal during your time off the ship, either take photos to write about later, and/or use your senses to savor the moments to remember later (e.g. What do I smell? What do I taste?, etc.)

    Places to journal on-board ship

    ~The ship’s library is rarely occupied. Gather your journal, your adhesive photos, your paper schedules, your scissors and spread out on one of the tables in the library to remember the trip so far. This is a great thing to do during those days at sea when there are no ports, no excursions.

    ~Another place to write on the ship is the back of the Lido deck during a day at sea. Why? Because it is so windy and chilly there, no one is nearby. However, you can people-watch from afar, or just be with your thoughts and fresh air. It’s difficult to write there because of the updraft, but not impossible.

    ~Strewn throughout the upper floors are banquettes with ocean views. Perfect for journaling, if you don’t mind the hubbub of people walking to and fro along the nearby pathway.

    ~At times, there are events in small rooms with small tables. Yours truly has stayed behind after everyone has left to journal a little and was never told to leave. Do this at your own discretion.

    ~Of course, there is always the stateroom for journaling. It’s nice to get up early, ring for room service, have a cup of tea on the balcony (if you have one) and write about your plans for the day.


    Phone app

    Cruising might be the perfect time for digital journaling, especially the digital apps on your phone or other mobile device.

    Whether onboard or on excursions, more than likely, your phone is there. Using the Day One journal for Apple devices, or the Journey app for Android, you can jot down your experience on the go while embedding images.

    One of the best things about digital journaling is key word search options, finding specific words when reading it all later.

    Another advantage to digital journaling is syncing more than one device. You can use your phone on excursions and use your tablet onboard and not need to retype or transfer your words.Whatever you’ve written is on the cloud and on both devices.

    Digital journaling is also a great option should your device become damaged or lost on vacation.

    Print your digital journal

    You can also journal digitally for the purpose of printing later.

    Create a concise photo journal on your phone or online and print it.

    These days, printing photos into hardcover personal books is fairly easy. Take photos on the cruise, then upload them with brief caption underneath to, for example, Google Photos print store, or Shutterfly.

    This professionally printed captioned photo album can become your succinct travel journal with minimal fuss. Your luggage is also slightly lighter from not carrying around a physical journal.

    However you choose to journal and cruise, have fun.



    Journaling After a Flood Evacuation (Story Time #3)

    Story time.

    A flood was set to hit the house in a few days. The river was about to overflow its banks, which it had not done in about a century.

    We were privileged to get away in time, putting most of our belongings in storage. We were privileged to have a place to stay on higher ground. Still, we longed to be normal again.

    Once we settled into our temporary space (It would take over a year to rebuild.), the journal came out of my purse.

    It was time.

    As I wrote about the flood, and the stress, and the gratitude that we were all safe, the topics might have been different than usual, but the act of journaling felt like putting on an old, familiar coat.

    Our couch may have been in storage, but I still had the cozy comfort of the pages of my personal book. It was familiar. It was tactile. It was -if one can confess it- a thing one absent-mindedly hugs.

    In reading the journals later, I noticed that I had given myself notes about how I felt (e.g. I would rather have my foam mattress than an air mattress, since the latter deflates with constant use.) and what to do to feel comfortable if a flood happens again.

    The threat of another flood would occur four years later. We were better prepared this time, including prepared in the knowledge of what makes us less stressed in these difficulties.

    After an evacuation, a journal is not a cure-all. However, when one has time to reflect, trotting out the old habit of journaling can bring a sense of normalcy and might even help you in the future.

    I wish you peace.


    Writing in Public

    There are those who only write at home. There are those who enjoy writing on the go, whether on vacation or just as a regular practice. Let’s discuss the latter.

    When writing in public it has been this author’s experience that it is rare that anyone cares what you are writing or that you are writing at all. Meaning, try not to worry whether someone will be nosy. Just fall into the joy on the page.

    Where to write? Anywhere.

    • Write in the waiting room while having an oil change. You might overhear a fun turn of phrase to jot down.
    • Write in the lobby of the hotel as you wait for your friends to join you. Explain in journal why you all are there.
    • Write in the family room at the hospital. The journal can be a planning space or a place to think through next steps.
    • Write at your place of worship. Jot down notes for spiritual guidance later in the week.
    • Write at the park. Enjoy the fresh air and pay attention to how you feel writing outside. Is it enjoyable? Not so much? Jot that down.
    • Write at funerals and capture the stories you hear.
    • Write at a fueling station while on a road trip. Just a quick note or photo that you can write about later.
    • Write on a pier at the lake. Listen to the sounds of nature. What do you hear?
    • Write on your lunch break. Sometimes journaling can help you decompress.
    • Write on the plane after liftoff, if you have enough elbow room. Write about what takes you on this trip. Use the airline logo on a disposable paper napkin as decor on your journal.

    Why write in public?

    • To capture the moment
    • To ease anxiety around crowds and chaos
    • To give oneself something productive to do while one waits
    • To further a writing goal
    • To continue the writing habit
    • To entertain oneself

    Whatever the reason, writing in your journal in public might be a great habit to start, if you haven’t already. It is enjoyable to write in your journal in public. Wherever you are, journaling is like falling into your favorite, cozy couch.



    Journaling When Your Life is “Boring”

    “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train. – Gwendolyn in The Importance of Being Earnest.

    Writing in your journal regularly is not a waste of time because you are not a waste of time. Each person has intrinsic value.

    Some people might protest, ” But my life is so boring. Why should I write about it?” Is it?

    If our lives are boring then let’s challenge ourselves in our journals to go broad, or go deep, or both.

    Go Broad

    For instance, if you are tired of writing about your feelings, go broad and include something else. Write a movie review. Draw your best friend. Describe the couple at the next table and reverse engineer how they arrived there.[This is how screenwriter Aaron Sorkin practices creating characters.]

    The point is to give yourself variety to write about.

    Go Deep

    Or go deep. You are bored of writing that you like flowers. Go deeper. Could you include a photo of a flower you saw today and write it’s botanical name and its common name? Could you read a book on flowers and discuss it? Could you join a botanical society and get even more ideas?

    The point is that there are worlds beyond the surface. Explore them.

    Your thoughts, goals, dreams, observations are assets to your life. Writing them down can provide focus, appreciation, perspective, or even entertainment. Journaling is not boring and neither are you. Dig deeper or embrace more of what is right in front of you.



    Bird Watching Journal Tips (for beginners)

    Are you a novice bird watcher? How would you keep track of the first time that you see a species of our avian friends? Journaling might be an answer. Here are some ideas to ponder.

    Bird Watching Journal Prompts

    • Where were you when you spotted the bird?
    • What is the name of the species?
    • What is the date when you spotted the bird?
    • Any other notes, such as “The Eastern Bluebird that I saw is too far west. I have never seen any here in California.”

    One might even buy a pre-made bird watcher’s journal for this purpose, especially if you intend to answer the same questions for each bird.

    Photos to enhance the journal

    Images can enhance the journal. To capture the image, one can use a bird feeder to allow for a closer look and a more consistent flow of birds to your window.

    Leave your camera at the window with the bird feeder. You can leave it running for a certain length of time when the birds usually come around and later grab stills from the footage to include in your journal.

    If you have time, you can lie in wait and take a photo in person. Hopefully, you will not disturb them. Hopefully, you have a decent lens.

    If you have not yet mastered bird photos. . .

    Yours truly has had very little success with taking decent bird photos. They are usually blurred and I need a better lens, or I am too late and they have flown away.

    One can content oneself in describing the bird in the journal, or drawing it, or using public domain photos of the species from Pixabay until getting better at taking bird photos.

    Beyond the bird feeder

    The Audobon Society suggests investing in binoculars for your outdoor bird watching pleasure. There are also binoculars with built-in cameras, which might assist in taking those coveted bird photos.

    If you are out and about beyond your bird feeder, not necessarily bird watching, yet you unexpectedly see a new species, quickly jot down your discovery. A pocket journal might be good for this task, or the Notes app on your phone. This author rarely ventures outside the house without some way to journal.

    If you spot a bird that is unfamiliar to you, use the app or website by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to identify the species.

    Read more tips on bird watching at the Audobon Society.



    Journals Helped to Make The Woman King (2022) (Journal Writers #5)

    Director Gina Prince-Bythewood discussed on the podcast Today, Explained how her team pieced together the ancient Kingdom of Dahomey for the film The Woman King (2022) starring Academy Award winner Viola Davis. The episode is called “The true story of The Woman King. ” In it, the director says the following.

    “We found [a] couple of journals written by missionaries who made the trip and that was invaluable. And this was pre-photograph which makes [ getting some information] difficult. So it was great,though, to be able to look at the different sources and be able to piece together what they would have worn.”

    Gina Prince-Bythewood, Director

    I draw your attention to this portion about journals for obvious reasons. When we write down our lives, even if it feels like a mundane life, there is value to it. That value increases over time as the world as we know it fades away and a new culture or set of people emerge.

    When we pen our thoughts we pin down a moment in time that future generations can only marvel to consider.

    Even if you do not plan to leave your journals to someone, nor to The Great Diary Project, your journal is still valuable to you. Just being able to see our progress written down from last year is personally useful.

    Keep going. Keep writing. Your story is useful.



    How to Use One Journal for Multiple Topics

    Can you journal about more than one topic in a journal? Of course!

    You can divide your new book into different mainstay topics. For instance, if you know you want a section on inspirational quotes, another section that plans your day, and another on how you are feeling, then you can section off a journal into three even parts and place a book mark, post-it note, tag, or other marker on the start of each section so that you can get to it easily.

    You can journal about more than one topic on the same page. This is where headers will come in handy. Draw spaces for the different topics on the page and write about them in their designated spaces.

    Play around with formatting to see what works for you. As always, have fun in the discovery process. Understand that even those of us who have journaled for decades change things from time to time. Do not feel obligated to stick with one format if it does not work for your needs.



    Road Trip Journaling

    When on the road, one has the opportunity to write in a journal. Consider these options.

    Journaling When Traveling via Chauffeured Vehicle

    When on a road trip, traveling by carpool, bus, or any other mode of transport where someone else is driving, barring motion sickness or a bumpy stretch of road, you have the opportunity to write in your journal.

    Jotting down a note or two after getting back into the car from the road side attraction might be helpful to recall what happened. Photos also help.

    Journaling and Driving Yourself.

    Let us say that you are alone on a road trip. Paying attention to the road is, of course, important and you cannot write while driving.

    However, when you pause to fuel your vehicle or fuel yourself, you can take a minute to write a sentence or two, mentioning where you are. Or you can take a photo of something at your rest stop that has caught your attention. Later, print the image and recall the moment and why it captured you. e.g. If you see a plant near the gas station that has caught your eye, quickly take a photo of it and save that information for later.

    If you are not too tired, you can write at the end of the day when you stop for a more complete rest.

    One might also try hands-free audio diaries with a voice recorder or other app available. Try this at your own risk.

    Instant Photos

    Do you have an instant photo machine to take on the trip with you? Peel and stick, adhesive instant photos are perfect for a road trip.

    Usually the machine is palm-sized, small enough to carry around in the smallest luggage. There are the cameras that also produce the printed image, e.g. Polaroid.

    However, there are also Bluetooth-compatible portable printers that work with your mobile device. Take the photo with your phone, for instance, then edit the image in the printer’s app (if desired), then print out the image and adhere to a page in your journal. Write your thoughts around the photo.


    Although many people search for attractions online these days, at some rest areas, one might still find paper brochures advertising attractions in the area. If you know that you are going to one of these places, take the free brochure of the destination and use it as decor for your journal entry.

    e.g. Rip off the front page of the brochure, adhere it to the journal page, and then after you have visited the place, write about the experience next to the brochure page. Of course, this can be used in concert with instant photos.

    What tips or tricks do you use for journaling during a road trip?


    Intimidated by a Journal?

    Leaving a Trace by Alexandra Johnson is a book about appreciating the process of journaling. The book is part musings on the concept of journal keeping and part journal prompts.

    In an early chapter, the author reminds you that the object which you use for journaling can be the reason that you do not journal often. The author purchased Italian leather journals and never used them. They seemed too perfect for everyday scribbling. When she gave them away and continued to write in her cheap notebooks, the flow of writing returned.

    If one is reticent to write, could there be a sense of intimidation in the presence of your tools? In what ways have you helped yourself over this intimidation and writer’s rut? Try a different personal book and see whether that helps.



    End-of-the-Year Journal Prompts

    We are coming to the end of the year. Here are a few questions to consider as you reflect on the last 12 months.

    1. What was a highlight of this year? Where did it happen? Was anyone else there? Who?
    2. What are you grateful for this year?
    3. What surprised you this year? How did that make you feel?
    4. Did you meet anyone memorable this year? Who is it? Where was it? Why do they stand out in your mind?
    5. Who has remained consistent in your life this year? How do you feel about this?
    6. What has remained consistent this year? Do you enjoy this consistency?
    7. Did you go somewhere special this year? Where? Why?
    8. How did you grow or improve this year?
    9. Can you include in your journal a photo or draw an image of your year that means a lot to you? Why does this image mean so much to you?
    10. What are you looking forward to next year?

    Remember that your story is worthy to be told even if you feel it is mundane. Remember to be gentle with yourself as you reflect on your year.