Journaling: What the heck is a journal anyway?

A reader expressed an interest in posts on journal writing.

A journal can be just anything you, the writer, want it to be. So the first step should be to decide what that is. Why do you journal? What do you hope to accomplish?

Journals and diaries are sometimes considered to be the same. In fact, one of the dictionary definitions of journal is diary. However, generally journals focus more on self-analysis, thinking, analyzing, learning. Diaries are usually more straightforward accounts of day-to-day activities. A journal may include day-to-day activities, but instead of just listing what you did and where you went, a journal might also include what you learned from your experiences.

You may have more than one kind of journal, or you may have one journal with several purposes. Some kinds of journals, in no particular order, include:

  • Idea/goal/dream journal – to capture ideas, record goals and dreams, keep track of your progress, learn from your mistakes, hold yourself accountable
  • Creativity journal – to develop your creativity. In Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity Julia Cameron recommends what she calls “morning pages” – three pages of writing about anything at all, stream of consciousness, unedited thoughts. She even has The Artist’s Way Morning Pages Journal to make it easy.
  • Spiritual journal – to record Scriptures that touch you or thoughts on Bible study, prayers and their answers, your spiritual journey
  • Writer’s journal – to store ideas and future writing projects or to practice and improve your writing
  • Business/career journal – to document plans, learning, and progress in your business or career
  • Personal development journal – to grow and develop by gathering great ideas from others and writing your own thoughts
  • Catharsis journal – to express your emotions, fears, joys, hurts, challenges (perhaps during a difficult time such as illness or grief at the loss of a loved one)
  • Gratitude/positive/nature/beauty journal – to remind yourself of all you have to be thankful for and to enjoy and appreciate beauty
  • Hobby/special project journal – to concentrate your experiences with a hobby, vacation, or special project
  • Memoir – to reflect on your life experiences, perhaps to share with loved ones

The way you journal will differ based on the kind of journal you are keeping as well as your preferences. You may prefer writing in a beautifully bound journal with a fine writing pen. You may be more comfortable typing into a word processing program on your computer or writing in spiral notebooks with a ballpoint pen. The choice is yours.

You may write in a single journal beginning at the first page and continuing through the book. For example, if you are writing morning pages, you will write each day consecutively without censoring your words or editing what you write.

For some other kinds of journals, you might have several different sections rather than filling the pages from beginning to end. A section could be a file on your word processor, a section separated by a tabbed divider in a spiral notebook, or a completely separate journal. A writer’s journal might have sections for ideas for stories or articles, golden words that you cut from a novel and hope to use in something else in the future, submissions/responses and how you may want to change your writing as a result.

The style of writing and whether or not you are conscientious about grammar and spelling will also depend on your purpose. If your journal is personal with a goal of improving your creativity, you will write in a stream of consciousness without censoring or editing. If your journal is a memoir that you intend to share with family and friends, you will be want to be more careful.

If you are interested in journaling, comment and let me know what you’d like me to cover about journal writing. I’ll write future posts based on the feedback

Here are some journaling resources you may find helpful:

Journal for You
Journal Writing
Journaling Pages
Memoir Writers
Writing the Journey

[tags]journaling, journal writing[/tags]

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