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The Elements Of Journal Writing | Unleash Your Internal Creativity And Heal From Within

Updated on November 22, 2014

The Purpose of Journaling

Journaling is an age old past time that many of our forefathers and mothers relied heavily upon. Yeah, yeah – that is all boring stuff – so really why journal? Writing down thoughts, recording important events and emotional record keeping are but a few reasons journaling is useful. But journals are much more than that. They can help keep track of favorite quotes, a way to practice writing or a method of improving handwriting. Don’t forget journals can be free of words – art journals are a therapeutic tool for many. Ideas about journaling are endless, however, the emotional benefits are evident and lead to places of self-discovery.

Starting A Journal

Well that might be a silly question, How do I start a journal? My answer would be to just start one day, any day, maybe even today. Jotting down ideas, thoughts, emotions or future plans can be a perfect reason to keep a journal. If the journal will be used to reflect on emotions, thoughts and behaviors making regular entries is an ideal approach. Downloading an app on your smartphone could lend a helping hand toward consistent writing. Or rather taking it back to when you were a child and hiding the plain covered pages of babbling under your mattress. No matter the desired journaling habit search for a way that works for you and assert dedication to begin.

DIY Journals

I thought about appealing to the crafty side of some and thought what better way to encourage the use of journaling than to create your own. Your own crafted journal can be a discrete book that blends in among your bookshelves or one that blares “DIARY” on the front. No matter the design making a journal is pretty simple and all your own. This can easily be done in a few steps. Supplies needed include:

  • Composition book
  • Fabric or decorative paper to cover up the ugliness of the composition exterior
  • Any decorations that will add your personal flair
  • A lock and key if you wish

Online Journaling

Technology has created a new world of journaling and documenting personal thoughts are right at your fingertips and kept private with a password. Today there are several online journaling sites that are completely safe and confidential, unlike those lock-and-key fancy journals that everyone has pried into once in their lifetime. These can be a tried and true way of maintaining regular journal entries.


Benefits Of Journaling

Allowing words to unconsciously flow on the page has the power of opening one’s eyes and solving a great deal of internal conflict. Rather than sitting on your bed pondering your next move, write about your feelings to explore a deeper sense of self. As the words escape from your mind and magically appear on the page or screen – in a hopefully coherent manner – emotional release will surely follow. Many times feelings are overwhelming, not because of the emotion, but rather due to the lack of expression that the emotion is hoping to produce. Journaling can lead a person on a wild goose chase to nowhere or it can be a great form of expression. Some days are better than others, take them as they come. Ways I have found to be helpful through journaling are:

Stress Relief

Transferring your feelings from your mind to a blank page aids in relieving internalized tension. Pressure builds when emotions are not effectively expressed. When feelings are pent up and tension builds one is likely to experience stress, many times without being able to pinpoint the origin. Moreover, when not appropriately released tension has the tendency of exploding during less than ideal circumstances or when least expected. Though, by letting negative and unhealthy thoughts out one can reduce or manage a stressful day, relationship or otherwise stressful situation. Think of it as letting out a big sigh of air that is full of words.

Memory Storing

As in the old days, as some would say – storing memories or family happenings took place by journaling. It worked then, why can’t it work now? Well, actually it can if you use it, but the culture today is one that is fast paced and with the inclination to overlook sentimental or quiet moments. Storing memories in a fashion that is tangible and solidified is very powerful for generations to come. A story is great but imagine holding a letter written by your great-great grandmother from the 1800’s as she depicted the times in which she existed. That letter holds on to everything of the past and as she saw it where nothing can be lost in translation and there is no other perception but her own. You can do this for your future generations as well if tradition is something honored.

I can shake off everything as I write;

my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn

— Ann Frank

Consolidation Of Thoughts

When thoughts become rapid or scattered journaling can help to pull out themes of thought. Also, as time goes by thoughts can be summed up into common topics or even aid in recognizing the fluctuation of thoughts during the month, week or season. Furthermore, using this technique can be valuable when a discussion or argument is brewing in the distance. Putting together thoughts and ideas that are relevant to convey will hopefully help to reduce miscommunication while allowing you to get your thoughts out appropriately. If you feel that won’t work, write a journal entry to hand to that person whom is causing difficulty in your life.

How often do you journal?

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Emotional Release

In heightened emotional states it is very hard to manage fleeting thoughts. Therefore, the logical answer is to write down emotions to avoid losing any feeling or relevant thought. Also, by recording thoughts and emotions in this manner one can go back and consolidate. Allowing emotions to freely run out of the body and mind lets the person move through that emotional state rather than trapping it inside to be unhealthily buried or destroyed. Even erratic emotions have a place in our world and should be expressed, appropriately of course, but none-the-less acknowledged.

Dream Tracking

A fantastic idea for those that lose track or forget dreams immediately after they occur. Holding onto dreams can be difficult, though they are important pieces to our psyche and unconscious world. Documenting right when you wake from a dream is best in order to gain the full picture. Quickly write down every recalled part of the dream including the what, when, where, why and who of the story. Taking your dreams to a professional to analyze can give some real insight to your unconsciousness and what may be troubling you.

Writing Practice

The old saying, practice makes perfect, applies here. Being committed to writing takes time and effort and jotting your thoughts can be one avenue toward improvement. Daily entries work best, both for writing improvement as well as emotional and behavioral tracking. Nowadays, journal entries resemble blog posts. All of us have come across someone that has a personal blog and tells all their private business as often as they get the mojo to blurt it out. That is a perfect example of journal entries but that may not be your style. Make your journal as private or public as you desire.


Collecting thoughts and feelings over time opens the writer’s mind to look back and explore what their feelings are trying to say. Emotions are a great indicator of personal fears, inadequacies and perceptions. Listening to them is key; but evaluating how they are unhealthy are equally as important. For instance, are many of your entries about relationships – good and bad? Well that may direct you to evaluate the manner in which you relate to others and explore if you could benefit from change. Can the relational problems be narrowed down to specific behaviors or times when conflict occurs? What else does the relational conflict imply?

Journaling Can Be More Than Copying Your Thoughts

As described above journaling has surpassed the ideas of the past of a young girl sobbing and writing to her “dear diary” about her problems. Writing can be tremendously helpful and therapeutic. Using journaling as a way to improve overall writing abilities or as future writing prompts is simply genius. Learn to let go of emotions and express them even if inappropriate as they are released in the privacy of your own space – not in your head – but on a fresh page.

Enjoy And Happy Writing.


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    • mdscoggins profile image

      Michelle Scoggins 3 years ago from Fresno, CA

      Thanks for the comment teaches12345. Glad you found a renewed inspiration to write in your journal. Hopefully those thoughts can serve you well in many ways.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      I used to journal every day. Somehow I let this important task slip away. You have reminded me of how important it is to keep track of time, dreams, precious moments and I will have to pull my journal out and catch up. Thank you for the inspiration.

    • mdscoggins profile image

      Michelle Scoggins 3 years ago from Fresno, CA

      Thanks Bill for the comment. Journaling certainly has a place in some of our lives and doesn't fit so well in others.

    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

      William Leverne Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Gone as far as "getting a journal" a couple of times, but it just doesn't work for me. Best wishes, for those who find it useful. You shared the reasons and the ways very nicely.

    • mdscoggins profile image

      Michelle Scoggins 3 years ago from Fresno, CA

      Thanks Sheila for stopping by. Journal writing is great but I have also stopped but hope to get back into it :)

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      This is great information. I used to write in a journal, but stopped about five years ago. One of these days I might get back to it.

    • mdscoggins profile image

      Michelle Scoggins 3 years ago from Fresno, CA

      Thanks for reading Iris. I love that journaling is cathartic for you as that is very therapeutic when you review past entries. Tracking your thoughts has a great potential for personal growth. Keep writing :)

    • Iris Draak profile image

      Cristen Iris 3 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      I journal almost every day. It's very interesting to go back and read later. I can see my personal growth and also learn things from my past self. It's cathartic. I used to use a journal book, but now I do it on my computer. I find that better for me because I can type very quickly and my thoughts free flow. When I write with pen and paper it's too slow. Great article!

    • mdscoggins profile image

      Michelle Scoggins 3 years ago from Fresno, CA

      Thanks tobusiness for stopping by. Journal writing is great no matter the tool used. Dress up your iPad to give it the feel of a traditional journal :) I doubt that you could be less classy - have a great day :)

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      A friend gave me my first journal, I used it to write poetry but not lately, I tend to use the iPad. However, it's not really the same, less classy.

    • mdscoggins profile image

      Michelle Scoggins 3 years ago from Fresno, CA

      Hey Bill. I do recall journaling during my awkward teen years but I recommend it for many clients as a way of self-evaluation. Surprising that many people do not know the hidden treasures they keep in their minds and do not share with themselves or the world. It's ok normal is really overrated and hardly ever achieved, not sure if I have ever found it myself :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Oddly, Michelle, I've never been a journal writer. Having said that, I think it is highly valuable for many writers to do so. Hey, I never claimed to be normal. :)