The Joys of Journal Writing

If you’ve followed this blog, you know I am a journal writer. A the end of the past year, I decided to gather my journals from the various shelves, nooks, and crannies where they’re tucked and put them all into a plastic container. I want to store them under my bed, an easy place to get to them and begin taking them out one at a time for re-reading.

Tonight I discovered that I had vastly underestimated the size of container needed. I have approximately thirty-five years of journals, and the container I bought that fits under the bed will only hold ten years worth.

Ten years worth of journals, two a year.

I began journal writing in my early twenties. There were no journal writing teachers or classes or gurus like there are now. Nor, as far as I knew, the term journal writer. I thought more in terms of diary, until I read about the journals kept by one of my favorite authors, Catherine Marshall. Mrs. Marshall used simple spiral bound notebooks, and this simple idea inspired me. I had no idea that my compulsive journal writing was a clue to my being a writer.

Day after day, year after year I have written my heart on lined pages. In the first writing course that I took, mystery writer and teacher Carolyn Hart required the class to keep a journal, and to turn it in. There were moans from the younger students around me, but I smiled, eager to do something that came naturally to me. I wasn’t about to turn in my real journal, of course, so I kept a second, far less intimate one.

Sometime in the late 1980s, A friend gave me The Artist Way, by Julia Cameron. Morning pages is Cameron’s famous tool for connecting to creativity. I wanted to keep a second notebook, or just write on legal tablets what was likely to be an abundance of gibberish flowing out, and best thrown away. Yet mostly I wrote in my journals. I discovered that I had pretty much been letting my thoughts flow for years into my journals– my thoughts, my struggles, frustrations, heartaches, and, more and more, my hopes, dreams, and joys. And I never have thrown them away.

If you are a journal writer, you might find interesting the video below, by Christian Baldwin, author and journal writer. She offers some intriguing suggestions to get you started and deepen your journal writing.


12 thoughts on “The Joys of Journal Writing

  1. just found your page. I too kept a diary off and on when I was about 8yrs old or so. I spent a lot of time alone because I had 5 brothers, no sisters.
    I have been journaling consistently since October 1997 and have all my journals safe on my bookshelf in my room – so grateful for that. but about 2 weeks ago, I signed off after reading a good number of them. it seems they are full of the same stories of mistreatment by my family and have not helped me move forward. I watched the video by Christian Baldwin and will try her suggestions. thank you for posting it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Review: The Right to Write by Julia Cameron « Seymour Writes

  3. Dear, Dear CurtissAnn,
    Here you go again, talking to me and telling me what I should be doing, just when I need to hear it. I have always made half hearted attempts at journaling throughout my whole life. After a few days, life (or laziness) would get in the way, and journaling went by the wayside. I have about as many journals as you do, but they each only have a few pages of dialogue. I should have combined them, and saved a lot of paper and money!!! But in the past couple of years I have gotten much better at writing down my thoughts and feelings. As I am going through this Alzheimer’s journey with my Mother, I realize how fragile the memory bank is, and I don’t want to lose a single minute of it. i have journaled more in the past three years than I have in all of the past thirty! It has recently become even clearer how important this journaling can be. I have just found a journal that mom wrote over several years. Stories of her early life that was never shared before. Stories that I wish we could have talked about. Stories that can only come to life in my own imagination. Who knows, maybe someday it could be a “bestseller”. No, it will be like the other books and journals that I have started and never completed. All tucked away in my head. But I do need to work on that journal for my own girls to have one day. Thank you for your inspiration and your nudgings! Hugs!! Carolyn


    • Carolyn– now listen here :)– don’t let skipping days, weeks, even months or years discourage you about journal writing. Now you’ve seen and felt how wonderful it is, the great benefit it provides. What a gift, the writings from your mother! Any bit you write is a gift from yourself to yourself and your children. When you have a block of time that you don’t write, just start writing again. That’s what I’ve done all these years. I made a promise with myself early on that I would not require I write every day or even every week. If time went by, I’d just pick up again. That freed me from guilt, and so I’ve written. As Jo said, “Journal writing is good for the soul.” It will strengthen you and help you through this difficult time with your mother.

      I’m excited to have journal writing buddies!


      • THANK YOU!!!!! my dear sweet and very wise friend. You put things in perspective, bring tears to my eyes, and lighten the soul all at the same tme.
        A blogger = current day pen pal. Love ya girl!


  4. Wonderful post! I’ve been journaling since I was a little girl, back when it was called a diary. Unfortunately, my mother, and years later, an ex-boyfriend didn’t respect my privacy and routinely read my writings without permission. Around 2001 I finally began journaling again. 3 years later during a nasty breakup with a different ex-boyfriend, he threw out all but 3 journals I’d had throughout my lifetime, including the one I wrote in on September 11th (and days after) and my first gardening journal (the only 2 I still mourn not having). I know what’s in those other old, lost journals and honestly, I was going to purge those volumes from my life but it still upsets me even at times now that I wasn’t the one to dispose of them and that someone else did so instead of me, someone who before throwing them away probably violated them as my mother and other ex-boyfriend did. That bothers me deeply. But, not having the pain that was held in many of those volumes in my life any more is also at the same time liberating. I’ve been journaling consistenly now since 2004 and if I don’t jourñal for two or more weeks at a clip, I become very cranky and out of sorts! Journaling is good for the soul!


  5. I’ll be watching the video. I’m no writer, but I journal, and then I “scratch”. The “scratch” is the unrelated miscellaneous thoughts that clutter my head. I find if I put them down in writing, it frees up brain space!


    • You are a writer, Nola. A writer ‘scratches’. The old term was ‘scribbler’. In addition to my daily journals, I keep a notebook handy to write down all manner of thoughts: things to do, quotes, ideas. Sometimes I can only grab a Post-it pad or envelope. And yes, it frees up brain space! 🙂


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