a young woman writing in a notebook while sitting on a couch

A conversation with a journaling coach

Recently I had a web-based conversation with a journaling coach. I was able to ask questions about journaling and learn more about the art.

This is that conversation.

What is journaling? Has it been around long?

Journaling is the act of regularly writing down your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a notebook or other form of writing. It’s a practice that has been used for centuries as a tool for personal growth, self-reflection, and creative expression.

The exact origins of journaling are unclear, but people have been using writing as a form of self-expression for thousands of years. From ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics to the diaries of medieval European scholars and explorers, humans have long recognized the power of writing to record their experiences and insights.

The practice of journaling really gained popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries, with the rise of the personal diary and the increased availability of affordable writing materials. Writers like Virginia Woolf, Anais Nin, and Sylvia Plath famously kept journals as a way of exploring their thoughts and emotions, and these journals have since become valuable historical and literary artefacts.

Today, journaling remains a popular and effective tool for personal growth, self-reflection, and creative expression. With the advent of digital technologies, it’s easier than ever to start and maintain a journal, whether through online platforms, apps, or traditional pen and paper.

Tell me why you started journaling. What do you get out of it?

I started journaling as a way to cope with the stresses and challenges of daily life. Writing down my thoughts and feelings allowed me to process them in a healthy way, and to gain a better understanding of myself and my emotions.

Over time, I’ve come to see journaling as a powerful tool for personal growth and self-discovery. By regularly reflecting on my experiences, goals, and challenges, I’ve been able to identify patterns and behaviours that may be holding me back, and to set goals for myself that align with my values and aspirations.

One of the most valuable aspects of journaling for me has been the opportunity to cultivate self-compassion and self-acceptance. Writing down my thoughts and feelings without judgment has allowed me to acknowledge and work through difficult emotions in a way that feels safe and supportive.

Overall, I’ve found that journaling has helped me to become more self-aware, more resilient, and more in tune with my own needs and desires. It’s a practice that I plan to continue for the rest of my life and one that I would recommend to anyone looking to deepen their understanding of themselves and their place in the world.

I have heard some people claim that journaling can help people achieve goals and stay focused on priorities. Would you say you agree with this? How can I use journaling to achieve my goals and stay focused on my priorities?

Yes, I definitely agree that journaling can be a powerful tool for achieving goals and staying focused on priorities. One of the key benefits of journaling is that it helps us to clarify our thoughts and intentions, which is essential for setting and achieving goals.

To use journaling for this purpose, I would recommend starting by setting some specific, measurable goals that you want to achieve. Write these goals down in your journal, and then begin to explore why they are important to you and what steps you need to take to achieve them. Use your journal to track your progress towards these goals, and to reflect on any obstacles or challenges that arise along the way.

In addition to setting and tracking goals, journaling can also be helpful for staying focused on your priorities. Try using your journal to identify your core values and beliefs, and then use these as a guide for making decisions and prioritizing your time and energy. You might also find it helpful to use your journal to make daily or weekly to-do lists, and to reflect on how you are spending your time and whether it aligns with your priorities.

Overall, I believe that journaling can be an incredibly effective tool for achieving goals and staying focused on priorities, as long as you are willing to commit to the practice and use it consistently over time. With dedication and persistence, journaling can help you to clarify your intentions, stay motivated, and make steady progress towards the things that matter most to you.

Would you say that journaling is for everyone or are there some people that it will not work for?

As a lifelong journaler, I believe that journaling is a tool that can benefit everyone. However, like any tool, it may not be the right fit for everyone or every situation. Some people may find that they don’t enjoy writing, or that they struggle to express themselves on paper. Others may prefer other forms of creative expression, such as drawing, painting, or dancing.

That being said, I believe that anyone can learn to journal effectively, regardless of their previous experience or skill level. With practice and patience, anyone can develop the habit of journaling and use it as a way to process their thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

One thing to keep in mind is that there are many different approaches to journaling, and it’s important to find the method that works best for you. Some people prefer to write free-form, without any structure or guidelines, while others may find it helpful to use prompts or specific writing exercises. Some people may journal every day, while others may only write when they feel inspired or have something specific they want to explore.

Ultimately, I believe that journaling is a tool that can be adapted to fit anyone’s needs and preferences and that with an open mind and a willingness to experiment, anyone can discover the benefits of this powerful practice.

Would you say that I could use journaling to improve my mental health or emotional well-being?

Absolutely, I believe that journaling can be a powerful tool for improving mental health and emotional well-being. There is a growing body of research that supports this idea, and many therapists and mental health professionals recommend journaling as a way to process emotions, gain insight into one’s thoughts and behaviours, and reduce stress and anxiety.

When you journal, you have the opportunity to explore your inner world in a safe and private space. By putting your thoughts and feelings down on paper, you can gain distance from them and start to see them more objectively. This can help you to identify patterns in your thinking and behaviours and to make connections between different areas of your life.

Journaling can also be a way to practice self-care and cultivate mindfulness. When you set aside time to journal, you are giving yourself permission to slow down and focus on your inner experience. This can help you to reduce stress and anxiety and to feel more grounded and centred.

Overall, I believe that journaling can be a valuable tool for anyone who wants to improve their mental health and emotional well-being. Whether you are struggling with a specific issue, or just want to gain a deeper understanding of yourself, journaling can help you to tap into your inner wisdom and find greater clarity and peace.

Let’s say that I have never journaled before so what do I need to get started?

Great question! To get started with journaling, all you really need is a notebook and a pen. Of course, you can use a computer or a phone to journal digitally if that’s more your style, but I find that there’s something special about putting pen to paper.

When choosing a notebook, look for one that is sturdy and has pages that won’t easily tear. You may also want to choose a size that’s comfortable for you to write in. As for the pen, choose one that writes smoothly and comfortably in your hand.

Once you have your materials, it’s simply a matter of making a habit of writing in your journal regularly. Start with just a few minutes a day, and build up from there. Don’t worry about making your entries perfect or polished – just write whatever comes to mind. The key is to make it a habit and to be consistent in your writing. Good luck and happy journaling!

Once I have that, what should I write about?

What to write about in your journal is entirely up to you! There’s really no right or wrong way to approach it. You can write about your day, your thoughts and feelings, your goals and dreams, your challenges and triumphs, or anything else that’s on your mind.

To get started, try writing a stream-of-consciousness entry where you just write down whatever comes to mind. This can help you get into the habit of writing and may spark some ideas for future entries. You can also try using journal prompts, which are questions or statements designed to inspire you and give you something specific to write about. Some examples of prompts include:

  • What are you grateful for today?
  • What is something that made you happy today?
  • What is a challenge you’re facing right now, and how can you overcome it?
  • What is something you’ve been avoiding that you know you need to address?
  • What are your goals for the week/month/year?

Remember, your journal is a safe space for you to express yourself freely and without judgment. Write whatever comes to mind, and don’t worry about making it perfect or polished. The important thing is to get your thoughts and feelings down on paper.

What do I do with my journal once I have written in it?

Your journal is a personal and private space, so what you do with it is entirely up to you. Some people like to keep their journals as a way to reflect on their growth and progress over time. If this is the case for you, you may want to consider storing your journal in a safe place, like a locked drawer or cabinet, to ensure its privacy.

Others may choose to dispose of their journal once it’s filled up. If this is the case for you, consider shredding or recycling the pages to maintain your privacy.

Regardless of what you choose to do with your journal, it’s important to keep it as a personal and private space for you to express yourself freely and without judgment. Remember, your journal is a tool for self-reflection and personal growth, so use it in a way that feels comfortable and empowering for you.

Would you recommend reading back over your old journal entries?

Reading back over old journal entries can be a valuable way to reflect on your growth and progress over time. By revisiting past experiences and emotions, you may gain new insights and perspectives on your life and yourself.

However, it’s important to approach this practice with self-compassion and an open mind. Reading back over old entries can sometimes be difficult or triggering, especially if you are dealing with sensitive or painful emotions. If this is the case, it’s okay to take a break or to only revisit certain entries when you feel ready.

When you do read back over old entries, try to do so without judgment or criticism. Remember that you were writing from a particular perspective at a particular time and that your thoughts and feelings may have changed since then. Use this opportunity to practice self-reflection and gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your journey.

Overall, whether or not you choose to read back over your old journal entries is a personal choice. If it feels helpful and supportive to you, then go for it. If not, that’s okay too. The most important thing is to use your journal in a way that feels empowering and healing for you.

You talk a lot about expressing and exploring your feelings. If someone was not entirely sure of their own feelings and tended to say, like me, think in terms of facts – how would you teach them to journal about their feelings?

If you’re not used to expressing your feelings, journaling can be a powerful tool for exploring and understanding them. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  1. Start with physical sensations: If you’re having trouble identifying your emotions, start by tuning in to physical sensations in your body. For example, do you feel tense, relaxed, energized, or drained? Write down any physical sensations you notice, and see if you can connect them to specific emotions.
  2. Use descriptive language: When you do start to identify emotions, try to use descriptive language to capture their nuances. Instead of simply saying you’re “happy” or “sad,” try to describe the qualities of those emotions. For example, you might say you’re feeling “contented and peaceful,” or “heavy and weighed down.”
  3. Write freely and without judgment: Remember, your journal is a safe space for you to express yourself freely and without judgment. Don’t worry about making your writing perfect or polished. Instead, focus on writing down whatever comes to mind, without censoring or editing yourself.
  4. Experiment with different prompts: If you’re still feeling stuck, try using different journal prompts to spark your creativity. Some prompts might include: “What am I feeling right now, and why?”, “What situations or people trigger strong emotions for me?”, or “What does it feel like to be me in this moment?”
  5. Practice self-compassion: Finally, remember to practice self-compassion as you explore your emotions. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed or unsure at times, and it’s okay to take breaks or come back to your writing later if you need to. Be gentle with yourself, and remember that the process of exploring your emotions is an ongoing one.

How can I get past writer’s block and any fear of writing down my thoughts?

Writer’s block and the fear of writing down one’s thoughts can be common challenges for those who are new to journaling. Here are a few strategies that I have found to be helpful for getting past these obstacles:

  1. Set a timer for a short period of time, such as 5 or 10 minutes, and just start writing. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or making sense – just let your thoughts flow freely onto the page. You may be surprised at what comes out when you give yourself permission to write without judgment.
  2. Use journaling prompts to get started. There are many resources available online that provide prompts for self-reflection, creative writing, and more. Choose a prompt that resonates with you and use it as a starting point for your writing.
  3. Write about your fear or resistance to writing. Sometimes acknowledging and exploring our fears can help to reduce their power over us. Write about what scares you about journaling, or why you are struggling to get started. This can help you to gain clarity and identify any underlying beliefs or assumptions that may be holding you back.
  4. Try a different form of journaling, such as drawing or collage. If you are struggling with writing, it may be helpful to experiment with other forms of self-expression. Use images, colours, and textures to capture your thoughts and feelings in a nonverbal way.
  5. Remember that journaling is a personal practice – there are no rules or expectations. You can write as much or as little as you like, and you don’t have to share your journal with anyone. Give yourself permission to be imperfect and to explore your thoughts and feelings without judgment.

By experimenting with these strategies, you can start to overcome your writer’s block or fear of writing and begin to experience the many benefits of journaling.

Is journaling a helpful tool for writers and poets? Are there any areas that a creative writer might want to focus on in their journalling journey?

Journaling can be an incredibly helpful tool for writers and poets, as it can help to unlock creativity, clarify thoughts and emotions, and generate ideas. Here are some areas that a creative writer might want to focus on in their journaling journey:

  1. Brainstorming and idea generation: Use your journal to brainstorm new ideas for writing projects, and to explore different angles and perspectives on topics that interest you.
  2. Character development: If you’re working on a novel or a story, use your journal to develop your characters more fully. Write down details about their appearance, personality, backstory, and motivations.
  3. Reflecting on the creative process: Use your journal to reflect on your own creative process, and to identify any patterns or habits that might be helping or hindering your work.
  4. Exploring emotions: As a writer or poet, your emotional landscape is a rich source of material. Use your journal to explore your emotions and feelings, and to identify ways of translating those emotions into your work.
  5. Experimenting with different styles and forms: Use your journal to experiment with different writing styles, genres, and forms. This can be a great way to stretch your creative muscles and discover new approaches to writing.

Ultimately, the focus of your journaling journey as a creative writer will depend on your own goals, interests, and needs. The key is to approach your journaling practice with curiosity, openness, and a willingness to explore new ideas and perspectives.

I take it, then, you would recommend journaling to writers and poets?

Yes, I would absolutely recommend journaling to writers and poets. Journaling can be a powerful tool for unlocking creativity, clarifying thoughts and emotions, and generating new ideas. Many famous writers and poets have used journaling as a way of exploring their craft and their inner worlds, and there’s no reason why it can’t be a valuable practice for aspiring writers and poets as well.

In addition to the benefits I mentioned earlier, journaling can also help writers and poets to build discipline and consistency in their writing practice, overcome writer’s block, and develop a deeper sense of self-awareness and emotional intelligence. By regularly reflecting on their experiences and their craft, writers and poets can gain valuable insights into their own strengths and weaknesses, and identify areas for growth and improvement.

So if you’re a writer or poet looking to enhance your craft, I would highly recommend giving journaling a try. Start small, commit to regular practice, and see where the journey takes you. Who knows – you may just unlock a whole new level of creativity and insight along the way!

Could you, perhaps, offer some tips on how we writers can incorporate journaling into our daily routine?

Certainly, here are some tips to help you incorporate journaling into your daily routine:

  1. Set aside a specific time for journaling: Choose a time of day when you can regularly sit down and write in your journal. It could be in the morning when you wake up, during a lunch break, or before bed.
  2. Start small: If you’re new to journaling or finding it difficult to make time for it, start with just a few minutes a day. You can gradually increase the time as you get more comfortable with the process.
  3. Keep your journal in a convenient place: Keep your journal in a place where you can easily access it, such as on your desk or bedside table. This will make it more likely that you’ll use it regularly.
  4. Use prompts: If you’re not sure what to write about, use prompts to get started. You can find prompts online or in books, or come up with your own.
  5. Be consistent: Try to write in your journal every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. This will help you establish a routine and make it a habit.

Remember, journaling is a personal process, so find what works best for you and stick with it.

Could you share any prompts that you have found particularly helpful to stimulate ideas for journaling?

Certainly! Here are 12 prompts that you might find helpful for your journaling practice:

What is something that you are grateful for today, and why?

Describe a person who has had a positive impact on your life and how they have influenced you.

Write about a challenge you faced recently and how you overcame it.

Describe a place that makes you feel happy, calm, or peaceful.

What is something you want to improve on or learn, and why?

What is something you wish you had said or done differently in a recent situation, and why?

Write about a time when you felt proud of yourself and why.

What is something you have been procrastinating on, and why do you think that is?

Describe a dream or goal that you have for your future, and what steps you can take to achieve it.

Write about a book or movie that has impacted you in some way and why.

Compose a letter to your younger self.

Write about a time when you felt overwhelmed and how you dealt with it.

Remember, these prompts are just suggestions – feel free to use them as a starting point, or come up with your own prompts that are tailored to your interests and goals.

Thank you for letting me use up so much of your time. Would you like to share some concluding thoughts for our community?

Of course! It has been a pleasure to share my knowledge and experience on the topic of journaling. As a parting thought, I would like to emphasize that journaling is a personal and unique practice, and what works for one person may not work for another. It is essential to be open-minded, experiment with different techniques and prompts, and find what resonates with you.

Remember that journaling is not just about writing down your thoughts and feelings, but it is also a tool for reflection, growth, and self-discovery. It can help you gain clarity, improve your mental health and emotional well-being, and enhance your creativity and productivity. So, make it a habit to journal regularly, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day, and be kind and patient with yourself throughout the process. Happy journaling!

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