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.



Moving House and Journaling. Will You Have Time?

Will you have time to write in a 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? I find that you are unpolished and truthful in the rush of the moment. Your real thoughts come out. I find that comparing what your expectations in the moment with your new reality months or years later to be useful in finding the best way forward.

It’s also fun to get a glimpse of an old house or apartment or show your future self how you organized the move, should you need to move again.

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.

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.

In my last move, I made a video diary of getting the keys in my new town and how I now feel like a local.

The other year when I moved, I made audio diaries which I listened to as I drove to my new place. I 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.

I’m so glad to have taken the time to record what I was thinking during a transition.

In the hubbub of moving on 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.



Book Review Journal Tips

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

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 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, perhaps 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, if you feel you might not disturb them or if you have a decent lens.

If you have not yet mastered bird photos. . .

Yours truly has had very little success with taking 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)

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.



One Journal, 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.



Writing To Someone in the Journal

Another way to journal is to write an entry as if you are writing a letter.
Imagine writing to a trusted friend or confidante; what would you say to them today? Write this letter in your journal.

This format of epistolary journaling is also helpful if one is leaving an heirloom journal. What would you like those you leave behind to know? Jim Rohn, an avid journal writer and speaker, would jot down as much wisdom as he could for many years and left those volumes for his children.

Some have said that writing a letter to a loved one that you have lost can also be helpful with the grief process.

Even if you don’t use “Dear diary,” this format of letter writing within the journal can be useful to jumpstart an entry, to be a journal prompt.

What warm, non judgmental friend would you like to write to today? If you cannot think of someone to whom to write, can you imagine someone who would like a letter and write to them in your journal?



Author Kyoko Mori Discusses a Personal Journey with Journals

The journal, “allows me to find out what my ideas are without boring another person with an observation I haven’t yet made clear to myself…” – Kyoko Mori

Are you reading my mind? Is what I thought when I first read what Mori has written. I, too, prefer to gather my thoughts in writing first before talking.

Mori is a writer who contributed to the journaling anthology titled Writers and Their Notebooks. The author mentions many uses of journals while weaving in her personal story.

Her grandfather would journal with a fountain pen about the state of his garden, or about spending time with his grandchildren. He would do so every day at a certain time. He would never express his disappointments or regrets in his personal book.

The author recalls sitting with him as a child and writing in a journal in which each page was divided in half- a blank space at the top for photos or illustrations and lines at the bottom for words.

The author would also describe her day of swimming, or eating produce from the garden, etc.

The writer describes their mother as one who would express her grief in a journal after the family moved far away from friends. Journaling was sporadic.

Mori describes journal habits as an adult as being a combination of these two adults from childhood – allowing for the description of emotion, if needed, like the mother, and some order like the grandfather (sans fountain pen).

Mori goes on to say that journaling is sometimes used for travel, but it is also used to remember the people who are long gone, putting memories down on paper.

Whatever your reason for journaling, I hope you find it fulfilling and useful.



Who Are You? 3 Journal Prompts for Exploring Yourself

Humans have many facets. This does not mean one is necessarily deceptive; it just means that we wear ourselves like clothes- often rearranging ourselves for that which is appropriate for the setting.

With this in mind, here are 3 journal prompts to explore three of our facets.

  • Who are you in private?
  • Who are you with those closest to you?
  • Who are you in public?

Remember to be gentle with yourself as you explore.



What Comes to Mind When You Hear the Word “Journal?”

When you hear or read the word “journal” or “journal writer,” what comes to mind?

What about the word “diary” or “diarist?”

After reading an undergraduate describe resistance to journaling because of the image of a journal writer that they had in mind, I was intrigued.

The author’s preconceived notion was that the word “journal” or “journal writer” was associated with people who share carefully-curated pictures online of a life that seems to be without problems. A journal writer, to the author, is a kind of new hippie health enthusiast who eats granola and shares gratitude platitudes from their journal.

Although many people enjoy granola, in the U.S. referencing this food is sometimes used as a pejorative to describe someone who is out of the ordinary, but also someone who maintains their health. To this student, journaling was part of a lifestyle brand that no one can maintain.

The student found a way around her prejudice and admits that journaling has helped maintain mental health in tough times.

The article caused me to pause and ask questions.

  • What else can prevent a person from trying to journal?
  • What ideas come to mind when you think of journaling?
  • Where did this idea come from?
  • Could you journal about your notions of journaling?
  • Could one investigate the origins of why one resists journaling?
  • What preconceived notions do we have that prevent us from journaling or trying something new?

One preconceived notion that yours truly had (and I did not realize this until reading the article) was that when people think of journaling, they think as I do, that is, of famous people and their books that we are taught from a young age to revere. I was, I now realize, taught to hold in high esteem presidents (and thus, their diaries), monarchs and their personal books, and the diaries of people escaping tragedies that become best selling books. I was also taught to revere fictional characters with journals.

Journal writing examples are from generations past, I thought. Today, that might not be the case. For a younger person, a peer online is just as likely to influence a person to write in a journal as some august figure from the past. Or, in the case of that article writer, a peer online is just as likely to repulse a person and make the writing practice undesirable if it seem unattainable.

This is a new wrinkle for yours truly to contemplate as I try to discover how best to help and inspire people with their personal books.

What preconceived notions prevent you from journaling? What can you do about it?



On Journaling: Use What You Have

Sometimes a person has been fed the lie that a narrow set of features equates to the perfect or proper journal. Depending on where you live or how you were brought up, that could mean that you do not feel that you are journal writing properly until it is a leather bound volume, or until you are writing with a restored fountain pen from 1932.

Although these features can feel great to some, understand that the right journal is the one that suits your purpose. Sometimes the right journal is the one that you have right now.

Taking a look at the first journal that I still possess, it is not what would be considered a proper journal in the circles in which I swam as a child. The journal, or diary as I called it, came from a kiddie casino named for a clothed rat mascot called Chuck E. Cheese. The place offered arcade games with prizes. Apparently, I had won a palm sized notebook featuring on the cover a cartoon character from the line of Chuck’s friends – an anthropomorphic hound named Jasper.

Above the character’s head is his name. My 8-year-old self drew a line or two through that word and scrawled the word “Diary” under it. My first bound personal book was born.

In writing the word “Diary,” in repurposing the bound pages, a life-long habit – which had already begun on scraps of paper long since lost- was solidified.

The point is to start where you are with what you have. Figure out your preferences as you go along, when you can, but start with what you have for right now.



Pick Up the Habit of Journaling Again

When one no longer journals, picking up the habit again might become a challenge for some, depending on what has stopped the habit in the first place.

Perhaps life’s many trials and distractions have gotten in the way and you have lost your habit of writing in the journal. Give yourself grace. Also give yourself regular journal prompts to prime the pump. Place your journal in a place convenient for your schedule and your life.

Perhaps the last time you journaled was for an assignment in school many years ago and you would like to try it again. Consider my article on Journal Writing Suggestions to get you started.

Perhaps you have become bored with the writing task. Mix it up a little. Have you tried various elements of a journal to include in your personal book such as art, ephemera, photos, an index? Read the article on Elements of a Journal to Consider.

Perhaps you don’t know where to start again. The previous journal was fine, but you have moved on in life. A journal can be many things. Visit my article on the Types of Journals to Consider. It is possible that the reason you originally started journaling no longer fits your life today. It might be time to find a new reason, and perhaps a new format.

Perhaps someone read your journal without permission and you, understandably, walked away from the practice of journaling. Someone reading your journal without permission is a betrayal best helped by a therapist who can help you reclaim your private space, your personal book.

Perhaps you no longer see the purpose of a journal. Before you give up, read this article on What If I Have No Purpose for a Journal? In it, I give suggestions on how to discover the purpose of your journal.

Whatever your journey, I wish you well in saying hello again to your old friend. Your journal awaits.



To Preserve Your Journal,Use the 3-2-1 Concept

If you want your journal to stick around for a while, you might try the 3-2-1 preservation concept.

The 3-2-1 Preservation Concept:
Possess at least 3 copies
In at least 2 formats
At least 1 is far away from the others.

Purpose: To mitigate the risk of losing information by diversifying.

Example: 3 Copies – If you have a physical journal, this is copy #1. Digitally scan your journal to your hard drive; this is copy #2. Upload the scans to a cloud; this is copy #3.
At least 2 Formats – The physical journal and digital scans
At least 1 copy elsewhere – The scans in the cloud are not in the house with the hard drive nor with the physical journal.



Restoring a Chateau with Journals

Journals can help the next generation to understand the past.

A Youtuber is currently renovating a chateau which was previously owned by a millionaire but never lived in until children during World War II needed a safe space to live for the duration of the conflict.

It is during that time of waiting that more than one occupant would write in a diary or journal, describing the building.

The building has since partially burned down. A Youtuber has purchased the estate and uses the diaries to understand what each room looked like and where every room might have been.

Often one believes that a diary or journal is mundane or not worth bothering. Actually, your journal might be of great importance to a future person who wants to understand the past.

View Dan’s discussion of a diary as he cleans out a chateau basement on his channel Escape to Rural France:



Redeeming Your Time With an Unwanted Journal

We have discussed before that a journal exists to help you; it is not your master. Think of your journal as a non-judgemental friend who exists to help.

At times, you might procure a journal that does not fit your goals. At that point, it is useful to think of the journal as sunk cost. Be grateful for your time with it, but move away from it.

It is also a good reminder not to believe that all is lost. You did not completely waste your time. You learned something from the encounter with the journal. To redeem your time with it, look for the lesson with the unwanted journal.

For example, I had journaled for years with just words, no doodles, no ephemera. What I had not realized is that deep down I had cordoned myself off into the identity of writer and felt that adding ephemera was to become a scrapbooker, which was an identity that did not seem to fit. I also rarely used guided journals or prompts from other people as I always have something to write, rarely at a loss for words for a private book.

On a whim, I decided to so something different and purchased the guided book titled Wreck This Journal. Unfortunately, the book asked its user to do activities that did not make sense to me and made me uncomfortable, such as grinding dirt into the pages. I did not finish it.

However, as I mentioned in my review of Wreck This Journal, it was not a waste of time. What came from that experience was a loosening of my reticence to add mixed media to the journal. After being told to do extreme things to a journal, the idea of merely adding photos, or tickets -something meaningful to the story I was writing- did not seem intrusive or out of place. In fact, the objects enhanced the story.

The lesson from the encounter with the journal that I never finished was to expand my idea of a journal beyond the way I had always done it. It helped me to become comfortable with an expanded view of journaling and an expanded view of my identity within the journal writing space.

What lessons have you learned from your unwanted or useless journal? In what way can you redeem the time that you have spent with an unwanted journal?