Journal writing has a long history. Famous people who kept journals include Leonardo da Vinci, Lewis Carroll, Andy Warhol, George Bernard Shaw, Anne Frank, L. Frank Baum, and most U.S. presidents.
Journaling can be an excellent way of getting started on your memoirs. Personal development guru Steve Pavlina says journaling can help with problem solving, improve clarity of thought and expression, and provide markers for determining progress toward your goals.
Beyond the Writing
Besides helping us remember things, journaling causes us to think beyond the act of writing and beyond the events we are recording. Benefits include stress management and emotional release, self-discovery, relaxation during quiet time, a learning tool, a teaching tool of medical and academic experts, and an aid to professional and personal growth. Researchers have found that healthy people who journal visit their doctors less often. For those with chronic illnesses, journaling reduces their physical symptoms. Experts declare it to be a gentle and safe therapy.
There is no right or wrong in journaling form or purpose. The important thing is what works for you. I know a journal writer who writes about the day’s news events and adds scriptures and references from religious experts to expand or confirm his ethical and moral positions. Some journal writers use their writing to interpret dreams to help give them meaning to life’s uncertainties. Others simply capture events in preparation for someday assembling their notes into a published memoir.
Memoirist and workshop presenter Sharon Lippincott says, “Journaling means to me: A place to clear my mind, make my thoughts visible and organize them, and record events. Primarily, it's a place to make sense of life and find deeper meaning. Journaling is my Practice, a form of meditation.”
Just Do It
You don’t have to be a great writer, speller, or creative thinker to journal; just write down your thoughts and experiences, although you can be as creative and as self-analytical as you wish. No fancy equipment is required. Some journal writers write in longhand in a three-ring binder while others write on their computers or online. Still others us a bound book of blank pages they carry with them. Some write everyday and others write several times a week or month.
You can even give journaling as a gift. A writer friend of mine distributed bound journal books with blank pages to members of her family at their annual Thanksgiving gathering. She invited them to write for one year and then bring the journals to the next Thanksgiving gathering for sharing.
If you have a journaling experience you would like to share with our readers please send it to me. I promise not to publish your experience without first getting your permission.
Photo: Children’s writer L. Frank Baum (1856-1919), author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, writing with a pen. Courtesy sandiegohistory.org.