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Journal Writing 101

Have you ever seen a beautiful blank journal in a bookstore and wondered what you could write in it? Did you receive a blank journal as a gift, and it is still waiting for you to fill it up? Anyone can begin a journal at anytime. Journaling is a simple pursuit, requiring only pen & paper; you don\’t have to go anywhere or get anything.

Journal writing is an active form of meditation.

There is a connection between writing and spirit. What you put into your journal is your personal touch, keeping you in touch with what\’s important in your unique life experience. A journal may be a written record of events, observations, emotions, and thoughts. During illness, you can log symptoms, side effects, and improvements. As in traditional forms of meditation, journal writing is done without the interference of others. You do not have to react to others\’ expectations and responses. As in meditation, journal writing is done for your SELF by yourself.

Journaling is a way to care about you by yourself.
When you are writing in your journal you are talking and listening to your self at the same time; you are confiding in yourself.

You can use journaling as a tool for:

  • self-discovery
  • self-expression
  • managing feelings
  • reflecting on life events
  • healing emotional wounds
  • examine the past
  • explore the present
  • plan the future

You are putting your experience into words, thereby giving it meaning and substance. This will lead you to change and growth.

A journal is a place where you can:

  • Record events
  • Work through feelings
  • Improve communication skills
  • Gain insights about relationships
  • Explore memories, ideas, and goals

Journal writing can also help to cultivate creativity by putting you in the mind-set or creative flow.

Journal writing is therapeutic.
Research has shown that writing about traumatic events has a positive effect on the immune system and overall mental health because writing relieves you of the burden of keeping your secrets to yourself.
Writing facilitates the ability to cope by putting on paper what you may not be able to verbalize. Writing of events helps you to identify your truth, rather than going by what others tell you is your truth.


There may be fears associated with journal writing.

One fear is of feeling guilty for taking time for your self. Remember, you need to balance care for self with care for others. Think of your journal session as your daily period of time out or quiet time.

Another fear is of having your writing exposed to others. Your journal is yours alone, so declare it off limits. If possible, write by yourself and in a place that feels safe and private.

Yet another fear is of having discomforting feelings stirred up while writing. If you can, continue to write while experiencing these emotions. You may feel a sense of release afterward. There may be things you don\’t want to write about. You may not want to commit bad memories to paper. Give yourself permission to write them down when you are ready.

Journaling is like soaking in a tub: you take time for your bath, you expect your bath to be private, and you feel cleansed afterward. When you write, you are soaking in the positive while draining the negative, and you feel relaxed after your session.

Write spontaneously, daily, and consistently.

Writing spontaneously ,means that you don\’t censor, criticize, or edit. You may have an inner censor that says, “Don\’t write that” and a critic that says, “That\’s stupid” or the grammar police that say, “You forgot a comma.” When you write spontaneously, you are writing what comes to you as it is coming to you. Start with your thoughts and feelings at the moment to clear the psyche, clear the air without judgment. Remember, you are writing for you only.

Write daily for a pre-determined amount of time. How long you spend writing is up to you, but I suggest 20-30 minutes. You may write in the morning to gear up for the day or in the evening to wind down. Journaling in the morning is beneficial because dreams are fresh and serve immediately as something to write about. Journaling is an experience you can control. Try to carve out time for daily practice, and develop a ritual that becomes second-nature.

Be consistent with the number of pages you write every day. Two or three pages may be enough. No matter the number you choose, keep writing until you\’ve filled up those pages. If you can\’t think of anything to write about, fill the journal by writing a prayer you\’ve memorized, or making a grocery list, or complaining about the weather. Just write until you\’ve finished your daily quota.

Using these principles helps you to form a habit that your mind and spirit can rely on, and your body will automatically respond by relaxing when you sit down to write.

List 10

  • Things on your wish list
  • Moments that bring you joy
  • Things that you are proud of
  • Things that are important to you

Visual exercise:
Images may prompt you to write in your journal. Like photography, journaling is a written snap shot in time. When you are taking a picture, you can zoom in on a part or change focus and capture the whole scene. Look at a photograph of a landscape or a person. Describe in your journal what you see and how you feel. There are no right or wrong answers.

  • Write a description of your ideal day.
  • Write a letter, even if you don\’t intend to send it.
  • Take a conflict and write a dialogue to seek resolution.
  • Rehearse a conversation, even if you don\’t intend to say it.
  • Choose a quote and write about what the quote means to you.
  • Improve decision-making skills by determining pros and cons.
  • Ask yourself questions before bed and get answers before breakfast; write them down!
  • Dump anger, guilt, or fear into your journal instead of dumping it on those you love.

Look at a photograph of yourself as a child, or any younger age. Write a letter from the age you are now to the age you were then. What would the mature self tell the child self?

Think of the pen as a key and the journal as a door. When you put pen to paper, it\’s like turning the key. When you write, you are unlocking the door. Writing in your journal is a way to open the door to yourself, connect with what\’s inside, and express it fully.

Lynn C. Tolson is artist, advocate, and author of Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor\’s Story. This article is excerpted in part from the book. TEARS is Ms. Tolson\’s memoir about overcoming abuse and adversity to achieve health, happiness, and hope. Visit the Author\’s website at www.beyondthetears.com
Lynn Tolson Author and Founder of Project for TEARS: Telling Everyone About Rape & Suicide

After her first eighteen years in the Northeast, Lynn Tolson moved to the Southwest where she engaged in careers in real estate and property management. During those years, she survived post-traumatic stress disorder, which manifested in addictions and suicide attempts. Through the therapeutic process, she determined the causes of her dysfunction and was able to ultimately achieve a life that reflects health and happiness. Her memoir, Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story (1st Books), illustrates physical, emotional and spiritual transformation. Tolson lived in the Midwest for nine years, where she returned to college to obtain a degree in Social Work. She is the founder of Project for TEARS: Telling Everyone About Rape & Suicide. She currently resides in the Rocky Mountain region with her husband and two energetic West Highland White Terriers.

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