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Journal Writing

0704320001654366903.jpgWhen I was in elementary school, I kept a diary. It was pink and had a little lock on it. I used it to record thoughts and feelings, events of the day, and other information critical for an elementary school-age child.0769546001654366944.jpg

As a teenager, I upgraded to using spiral-bound notebooks. In them, I wrote about many of the same things I had recorded in my pink diary as a little girl, but I also included poems and prayers, favorite quotes or phrases from books I loved, and other elements of teenage angst and discovery.

As an adult, I continued to use spiral notebooks and continued with my teenage pattern of writing, albeit with somewhat more mature content. A few of my entries developed into poems and songs. One of the earliest (and one my favorites) was a poem that I wrote for my mother about understanding the meaning of motherhood for the first time as I held my newborn daughter.

0030067001654366989.jpgAs I grew older, much of my journal writing involved spiritual exploration and reflection. I suppose the existence of this site/blog is at least, in part, a result of those entries. I wrote about my graduate work, relationships, jobs, family issues, and many other pieces of my life. I also continued the practice of writing prayers, poems, and recording favorite quotes or phrases in the books that I read.

Journaling has been an important part of my life, but I rarely keep my journals. I’ve never had the desire to have any of them survive me. They have served private, personal purposes. Consequently, no one will ever find my name listed among those of famous diarists—and there have been many! Some of the more famous ones include:

  • Samuel PepysThe Diary of Samuel Pepys provides us with a glimpse of what it was like to live in London in the 17th Pepys (1633—1703) wrote of the Great Fire of London in 1666 and he wrote about some of the horrors of the Great Plague of London in 1665.
  • Anne FrankThe Diary of Anne Frank describes the harsh realities of hiding from the Nazis, but it also describes, with moving tenderness, the details of a young girl becoming aware of herself as a person and as a budding young woman.
  • Anais NinThe Diary of Anais Nin (in eight volumes, from 1931—1974) is perhaps best known as the platform for Nin’s erotic writing and the sharing of her many sexual experiences. It was also the foundation for Nin’s professional writing (essays, novels, short stories, and erotica).

At any of the journaling times in my life, I have not been aware of the journaling activity of any of my friends. It just wasn’t something we discussed. That seems curious to me now, but it didn’t at the time. I suspect that at least a few of them keep diaries or journals, but it’s not something that has ever been a “cool” thing to do (but since I have never been one of the “cool kids,” I’ve never been concerned about that). However, I think maybe that has changed.

If you go to Amazon.com and search the books category with the terms “journaling” or “journal writing,” you will find that there are over 90,000 results! Wow! And many of those books are on Bible journaling (including Bibles with journaling space within their pages) or other spirituality-themed books. It seems like a kind of journaling Renaissance!

Although I know many people still use spiral notebooks, there are countless blank and bound versions available for those who prefer something more personal, unique or permanent. A simple, “everything” journal seems to be out of style, though. Among the 90,000 results, there are journals for almost every imaginable purpose. There are:

In addition to various kinds of journals, you will also find many, many books about journaling. I have read many of these over the years, but I wanted to share three books that I have found especially helpful.

Journal to the Self: Twenty-Two Paths to Personal Growth - Open the Door to Self-Understanding by Writing,0620434001654367040.jpg Reading, and Creating a Journal of Your Life by Kathleen Adams

Adams is a pioneer in the field of journal writing. She now heads the Center for Journal Therapy, which is a rich resource of information, training opportunities, and continuing education.

Journal to the Self is a good place to start for someone who is just beginning to explore journal writing. It provides basic techniques and styles of writing as well as some of her own experiences with journaling. It may not be the best choice for someone who has experience with journaling or who wants to go a little deeper.

0934916001654367089.jpgLife’s Companion: Journaling as a Spiritual Quest by Christina Baldwin

This is an absolute classic in the field of journal writing for spiritual reflection and development. It includes sample entries, exercises, techniques, and great quotations to facilitate deeper movement into self-understanding and personal fulfillment. I highly recommend it!

Opening Up by Writing It Down, Third Edition: How Expressive Writing Improves Health and Eases Emotional0203669001654367129.jpg Pain by James W. Pennebaker, PhD, & Joshua M. Smyth, PhD

I came across this amazing book (2nd edition) when I was in my doctoral program. (Note: The link here is for the 3rd edition.) Pennebaker is Regents Centennial Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. For over decades, he has conducted ground-breaking research and has published numerous books and articles on the relationship between expressive writing and physical and mental health.

Dr. Pennebaker’s co-author for this 3rd edition is Joshua M. Smyth. Smyth is Professor of Biobehavioral Health and of Medicine at The Pennsylvania State University. He, too, has an extensive body of research in the area of expressive writing as a tool for improving health and well-being.

Although both authors are profound researchers and scholars, this book is written in a very accessible way for the general reader as well as professionals who are interested in writing as a tool for healing. The 3rd edition includes practical exercises, new information on the health benefits of writing, and also addresses situations in which their approach may not be beneficial.

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