Wednesday, August 26, 2009

WORKSHOP: How To Journal

Journal is a form of writing.
Shawneda Marks, Unika Howell-Molden, LaShaunda Hoffman, and Angela Breidenbach share their journaling experiences.


Angela Breidenbach said...


I'm a life time journaling junkie :-) I started as soon as I could write my emotions. It's morphed over the years into different purposes.

I have an emotion journal. great to go back to later for perspective, but also a wonderful dictionary/reference when writing emotion into characters whether fiction or non-fiction.

I have another prayer journal. This one I started at a time in my life that I could not feel or hear God. I needed to know He was really there. So as I started praying, I would write (and still do) a few lines of my prayers on the front side of a page. Then when I realize or understand the answer/resolution, I write it on the back of that same page.

Another style of journaling is historical or family scrapbooks. My step-mom actually started this as a gift when we kids each graduated high school. I have an amazing life history book from her. I continue the generational gift to my children. Their lives are journaled with photos, events, and the people they interacted with through out childhood.

You may think that's a lot of journals. Yet there's more ;-) Some of my author friends suggest journaling in character. I tried it. Guess what? It's a really enlightening experience.

The most important thing about journaling is not to get caught up in worry. What if someone doesn't understand? What if someone reads it?

More than likely, you've had that worry if you consider it a diary because we've been conditioned to protect our privacy.

Some of the most fascinating works are the journals of those who have gone before.

I don't worry anymore about someone reading or finding my journal. I do put it away, but I realized that by journaling I am doing some important things.
1. I'm creating a snapshop of a moment in my (or my family life.)
2. I'm able to write out emotions that might otherwise be destructive.
3. I'm discovering more about myself in the process.
4. I found out God really does answer prayer! I've lost count of how many now over the years.
5. If someone finds my journaling that I've kept private, they'll know me much better than they ever thought possible. And maybe, just maybe, they might consider how little they really knew me ;-)
6. I'm so gonna write a book about my life
7. I use things from my journals in my writing often. I change certain aspects, but I really do use it.
8. I feel lighter, less worried after journaling because it clears my mind.
9. I can have more than one.
10. Journaling is very creative and causes my writing to flow.

How about you?
Angie Breidenbach

Shawneda Marks said...

Two of the ways Merriam Webster defines a journal is as an account of day-to-day events c : a record of experiences, ideas, or reflections kept regularly for private use. When I think about it I’ve been journaling for a large portion of my adult life. Some people would call it a diary but I propose it to be something different…not better…just different. A diary is for you to layout personal feelings, purge your feelings good, bad and otherwise. Many people don’t go back often if at all and read their diaries but that is not true of journals.
When I began journaling it was to chronicle my growth as a person when I rededicated my life to walking with Christ. It became an integral part (and still is) of my process of maturation. It is intimidating to some because it sounds serious but journaling is not only rewarding …it can be fun.
My suggestion is to think and if you’re so inclined pray about how you want to journal. There are several different ways you can do it. When there is a major event in your life you can write about it from several vantage points. You can do it by schedule, every night before you go to sleep or each morning with breakfast for example. Sporadic, as the mood hits you go for it, writing a few words or a few pages.
These suggestions scratch the surface for journaling options but some things remain the same. Now you can do all of these things online and make it public or private (and save a few trees) or purchase a special pen and expressive hard cover book and begin. Most important is the ability to stay true to who you are and your priorities in journaling because that is a major component to journaling.
In my journals I not only write out my ideas, experiences, or expectations but I wrote prayers out to God. This is another way to journal. As seasons in life change the way you journal may change as well. Remember you are doing this for positive personal growth so don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work out exactly as you planned…plans can change.
Whether you decide to do it online or off choose equipment very personal to you. Most of my journals have something girlie, swirlie and cute. While I’m not the daintiest person I do have an inner prissyness that is very apparent in my journals. I also like to write with funky colored pens usually hot pink, purple or turquoise. To journal online pick an online server with different themes or the opportunity to purchase personalized templates and if the mood strikes change the font color.
When you’re journaling try to be in a relaxed environment. A quiet cozy corner in the bedroom or oversized chair is ideal. Listen to music or some other audio sensory stimulation to help you unwind or prepare for the day and focus. Relax with your preferred beverage. A wet palate, refreshed palate and crisp mind are great beginnings for a fine journal. Remember the purpose and frequency of writing in the journal is up to you.
Steps to successful journaling recap:
1. Think about and decide why you’ve chosen to keep a journal
2. Evaluate your commitments and choose a frequency impromptu or every Monday, and Thursday at eight (totally up to you)
3. Write where your muse and mood are at optimal symbiosis.
4. Have fun and make the medium (online or offline) personal and unique to you!
Let me know if you have any questions about the process, benefits, drawbacks …whatever. I’ve been keeping a diary or journaling as long as I can remember and would love to answer any questions you may have.

Shawneda Marks said...

I love your post and think I've found some more things to journal. Hooray! Pretty pic too :)

LaShaunda said...

Lessons Learned About My Journaling
By LaShaunda C. Hoffman

I started journaling after reading Little House On The Prairie book at nine. Laura Ingalls Wilder started a diary and I asked my mother for one for Christmas. My mother has always encouraged my writing and she got me my first diary for Christmas.

At nine I wrote everything in that book. I continued to journal until I was 19 in the navy and I made the mistake of letting my boyfriend read my journal and it was never the same after that. I journaled for a few more, but it gave it up after I married.

I thought I'd share with you what I learned in my journaling experience.

* The most important lesson was don’t let someone read your journal unless you’re absolutely certain you can handle it.

At the time I let my boyfriend read my journal; I didn’t realize how vulnerable I would feel afterwards. It actually stopped me from journaling. I’m always worried someone would read my deepest feelings. To me the only person who needs to know these feelings is God.

* Don’t be afraid to write what’s on your mind.

When I journaled as a youngster I talked about everything, from my day to who I liked or didn’t like. I even wrote about my feelings for my step father. We had a bad relationship and the journal helped me get those feelings out instead of keeping them inside.

* Make time to write

I know I stopped writing in a journal mainly because I lost my writing time. I got married and life changed. Instead of writing at night like I use to I was spending time with my new hubby. Then the kids came and I put the journals away.

* Read over your journals

A few months ago, I dug out a journal I kept in the Navy. I didn’t realize what a wild child I was until I read over the words I written during that time period. I learned a lot about myself and I was happy to see how I matured over the years. I was also happy that I’d written those words because I was able to relive that part of my life. Yes I’d survived the heartache for my first broken heart. Yes I was glad I’d left that cheating dog and never looked back.

It also showed me the dreams I’d put on the back burner for other things. Writing was one of them. The desire in those pages was still there, I’d just buried them with my crazy life.

* Don’t feel bad if you don’t have anything to say.

I think another reason I stopped journaling was because I didn’t think I had anything to say. Now I wish I’d recorded how I felt about finally meeting Mr. Right and having my three kids. I can never go back to those feelings just what I have in my head.

My final lesson I’m learning as I type these words, I miss journaling and I’m going to run out and find me a cute note book to write in so I can get some of these feelings out of my heart an on to some paper.

So what’s stopping you from journaling, join me.

LaShaunda Hoffman is the editor of Shades of Romance Magazine – SORMAG. She is an aspiring writer of Christian fiction. Her most important jobs are being a wife to her hero and mother to her three wonderful kids.

LaShaunda said...


WOW I love your journaling. See now you're making me want to get to the store today. LOL

I forgot to say something about the prayer journal I do that off and on.

I love the historical scrapbooks. I might have to do that.

Thanks so much for sharing.

Angela Breidenbach said...

I'm so glad to read both LaShaunda and Shawneda's posts and remarks. (1st, I was getting lonely hanging out here, um, journaling. 2nd, I am learning and remembering through your posts.)

I have to second and third the ladies. I pick really cool journals. I choose the purpose and then choose the format.

There are a zillion different ways to do family journaling. I've tried a few. My favorite is the hands on large flip photo album. I use scrapbooking paper and write my little heart out about the photo or item attached to that page. Usually, I make the "page" the spread and use both open pages.

My prayer journal has to have lines. Just my thing. I want to use numbers to separate the prayers and I prefer clean handwritten pages. Otherwise, it's kind of hard to go back and find the prayer I'm looking for. I had a thought recently though. I could use a large notebook that has sections. It might be easier to have a kid section, work life, marriage/hubby, friends, and extended family. You could choose whatever categories were right for your purpose. Then each section would at least be simple to look through.

I'll respond to the fear of being read. I've been there. I had an ex who felt that everything was his right and that I had no right to privacy. I used to try and write little love stories and he'd accuse me of having an affair. Then he'd run get my journal and read it to try and prove his crazy thinking.

Folks, I gave up journaling for 10 years. I felt bereft. But I didn't trust that man. I didn't write love stories. I didn't write anything but long letters home from an overseas military assignment (me being the military spouse.)

In the end, I gave up what made me--me.

After the divorce, my fears kept me from journaling for 6 months. Suddenly one day I realized that I had my privacy back.

I poured into my journal like the Niagara Falls. And then I hid it. I trembled. I cried. I was afraid. All the arguments and rages. All the fears I'd pent up inside made me physically ill.

Did I really want to give that person THAT much control? Had I really given up 10 years of my life, of being me?


I yanked that journal out and proudly left it on my bed stand. It was me. I am proud to be me.

Nowadays: It's almost exactly 13 years into the future. I have my prayer and personal journals in the top drawer of my bed stand. Right where anyone would think to look for them.

Some day, I hope my children do want to know me better. I hope they want to understand what makes me uniquely who I am. But if someone were to grab, read and accuse again? I am strong enough in me that I can challenge, "Really? Shame on you." I won't be that coward again.

One other thought: I totally forgot that I'm also writing a journal specifically directed to my daughter. Some things that happened in our lives made it hard for communication during her junior/senior high days. I had so much I wanted to share and love into her. She wouldn't let me. So I began writing it. Sneaky me ;-)

One day, I'll give it to her when the time is right. Our relationship is so much better now. But I'm still not ready. There's still more to write.

The Mother's Journal was one I'd found already created at Barnes & Noble. It asks fun questions like when was your first kiss, your first dance, describe your room as a kid. It's quiet in depth including questions about faith, feelings about parents, and life experiences.

You might consider writing a journal for a prodigal child, one you gave up for adoption, or just as an historical gift to share your heart.

Angie Breidenbach

LaShaunda said...


Thank you for your second post, you described how I felt after my ex read my journal.

I like the idea to journal to your child. I thought about starting one and moved on to something else.

LaShaunda said...


Thank you for your post. I forgot that blogging is actually journaling. I love blogging, so I guess my journal bug snuck up on me without knowing.

I have four blogs I maintain. three are for SORMAG, but one is my own. It is a different way to let someone into your world.

I also realized that I've gotten over my fear of someone reading my journal, online is as public as you can get.

Here I was trying to share my experiences and I'm learning too. Now that's a good workshop :)

LaShaunda said...

Welcome to our panel. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experiences.

Angela Breidenbach said...

Ladies, I'm loving this workshop. So glad to hang out with you.

I also blog. I have 5, plus I manage the ACFW blog. I post often on my own as well as do book reviews and blog tours (that one is God Uses Broken Vessels), post weekly on Writing By Faith with my day being today, Wednesdays ;-) Then I am a frequent poster on a couple of other group blogs.

I agree that blogging is journaling. I think it's important in our culture now as well as a great way to add value to other people's lives. I'm still learning how to do that better.

I've heard of people turning there blog posts into books. I'd love to hear any experience or knowledge on that from someone. I don't know that I ever would, but why not if there's a cohesive message?


Lynne said...

I just finished reading the journaling workshop. I have been mulling the ideas of journaling for quite awhile. I just don't seem to push myself to get started. I did keep a diary for a little while in my preteen years when I first heard of it and it was fashionable but then when life got busier it seemed I never found the time. I couldn't see it as something that would help me when I probably most needed it. I think then I was afraid to put my thoughts into words as it would be seeing my emotions let out in black and white and I was working so hard to hide them. Now when I want to become a writer I need to find a way to get better in touch with emotion. Maybe the journal could help. Does anyone use an online journal site to record and save? Can anyone recommend some sites for help getting started?

Shawneda Marks said...

You reminded me of the journal I wrote to my husband before I met him. God told me I was to be married and to wait for a quality guy, the nights my friends would be out and I'd get lonely I'd pour my heart about my expectations, fears and that part of me I reserved for him into the journals. I believe that outlet helped keep me from making bad choices and was a tool God used to fight the lonely have any ol man right now vs wait for the RIGHT man for me attack!.

Shawneda Marks said...

Lynne, is a great free online tool for journaling.You can choose to make your posts private or public so you have options. There is also but I'm not familiar with the privacy and posting options, There is also I'm not sure about the privacy options but they have great template options especially through (free99). Writing emotion is an area of growth for me and I believe my journaling helps.

I came before you posted but wasn't sure what to do...thanks for leading the way :)

Unika Molden said...

Hello All,

I have been journaling for several years now. My journals have followed me everywhere I go and through every experience that life throws my way. I have introduced several friends and family members to the art of journaling. Yes, I said art because one definition of art is the product of human creativity.

How I Got Started……

I must admit that my journaling experience began when I was about 10 years old. I am an only child and I used journaling as a way to entertain myself. I would use a tablet to put my feelings into words or to just jot down things that happened at school. I really didn’t know what I was doing then but I soon realized how therapeutic it was.

What led me to keep it up...

When I was about 12 years old and living in California with my parents, I went to Mississippi for a family reunion and to visit my grandparents. After the reunion was over I begged my parents to let me stay for the rest of the summer. Thank God they obliged.

I kept journaling as a way to remember all of the things that I was exposed to during that summer in Mississippi. I just couldn’t depend on my brain to remember it all. I was excited. I wrote about my grandmother making homemade ice cream, leaving tea out in the sun all day for dinner, all of the interesting characters that made up the neighborhood and going to the “Candy Lady” down the street.
Every Sunday, I would call my parents and read off all of the events from the past week that I had written in my journal. My grandmother even convinced my parents to let me enroll in school in Mississippi. It’s amazing how one summer turned into 24 years.

Journaling became an outlet for me throughout high school and college. My journal entries became more serious as the years passed and I got older. Looking back, in high school, the topics ranged from peer pressure and my friends to school work and my future.

During college, I often wrote in a journal but as my study load increased, my spare time decreased.

Through the years, I noticed that I never let anyone read my journal. I think that was a wise choice because, for me, journaling is just too personal.

My favorite 5 journals……

Family Journal-I used this journal to document things that go on with my immediate family. I have used this journal to write about my first pregnancy and several events activities that seem to follow my children.

Prayer Journal-My prayer journal is the most special to me because nothing is my intimate than my time with GOD. I use this journal to thank GOD, to praise GOD and to ask for guidance. I have learned that when I pray, Im sometimes selfish because I feel like I am bothering GOD. I know that no matter what I am going through, somebody somewhere is dealing with something worse. I tend to express myself better when I journal.

Aspirations Journal-My aspirations journal allows me to express my hopes, dreams and aspirations. I use it as a platform for my goals.

Writing (Manuscript)Journal-This journal is strictly dedicated to my book ideas.

Life Journal-My life journal is all about me. I dont have a certain topic to write about in this journal, but it can only pertain to me.

5 Effective Journal Writing Tips

-Be creative

-Dont try to stick with a certain format, just let your thoughts flow naturally.

-Never let anyone read your journal until you have gone back and read it thoroughly.

-Create a relaxing environment before you begin.

-Keep your journals in a safe place.

Unika Howell-Molden

Unika Molden said...

You all have some wonderful journaling ideas. I really never thought about blogging as a form of journaling either. I guess its because my journals are private and my blogs are for everybody.

Unika Howell-Molden

Ladysilver said...

I have journaled for years. I started in HS and stopped because my mom read it and it upset her. I started again years later and stopped when my BF read them and felt that i painted him to be a monster and was afraid of what people would say about him if they were ever found. I threw those away and regret that each day.

I have a dreams journal, which I really just record my dreams and abstract thoughts in. I have a Work in progress journal that i use for short stories. my emotions journal is for my eyes only(really they all are) I use it to house my ups and downs. It is the best way for me to deal with problems.

Angela Breidenbach said...

I so agree, Lady Silver, journaling helps me deal with my problems. I keep things mostly private too.

Shawneda, I started here today just like I do everything. I jump, lol. I just started, well, journaling and it came out. :-)

I loved your idea of journaling to the man you would marry. I have a friend who did that for the child she would one day adopt. Now we have a three year old who was prayed for long before he arrived running around our Bible study. It's amazing. I hadn't thought of that until you mentioned writing to your hubby before you knew him.

I think I journaled because I was bored in my room as a child--originally. But I also think I was born to write and speak. It helps me pull my mind together.

I appreciate Unika's Aspiration Journal. In the past, meaning up to this day, I've used lists for goals. I think I need to change that and journal them. It'll help me envision the goal and see myself living it. Great idea, girl! Whoo!

Private online journaling is available. You can do it on many of the blogging platforms as mentioned. Just be sure you read the directions for privacy. I do find Blogger easier to use than Word Press. I use both. I personally prefer the simplicity of Blogger if it is just for personal use.

There are tutorials now on how to get started if you want to do it online.

Another way is a document in your computer that goes nowhere.

I guess I do all of the above and never processed it. I have free flow writing on book ideas, I blog, I hand write certain journals and I scrapbook. I also keep a few private documents in my laptop.

Such a nice group of ladies here today with excellent thoughts and feedback.

I'm honored to be here in your presence.

Anonymous said...

Great ideas and suggestions. I have journaled for some time but always afriad someone will read them. This summer while I was cleaning I found several and they all end the same - about mid year without any warning. I guess consistency is my issue. This has encouraged me to continue and to start a family journal for my girls.

Lynne said...

Unika and others, I see SO many kinds of journals. I am overwhelmed. Especially Unika, how do you find time to keep so many different journals???

Angela Breidenbach said...

Hi Lynne,

Though I can't answer for Unika, I can tell you what I do with so many journals. I pull out the one that is calling to me at the time. Sometimes the journal will sit for months while I have time with another. Sometimes I'll put entries in 2 in a day. Most of the time, I simply go by how I feel and how much time I have to express it. It's not usually more than a few minutes. But I'm always surprised at how much writing can be done in a few minutes :-)

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