“No Rules” Journaling

by Joan C Webb on June 23, 2009

Vacation Nov. '08 End-Solera pool 011Is it journaling if you write on a paper napkin? Or in a fancy notebook? Or online? I think so. There’s no perfect way to journal. So if you’ve wanted to journal, but never tried it, dive in—or least stick your toe in the journaling waters. If you’ve journaled in the past, consider testing the waters again.

Too busy? Yes, I get it. Not oodles of discretionary time. Still it’s worth it. It has been for me—and many others.

Journaling Research Study: In a recent study, 41 unemployed professionals were divided into 3 groups. All searching for jobs, they submitted resumes, made phone calls and had interviews.

  1. One group wrote about the frustrations and trauma of unemployment for 20 minutes each day.
  2. The second group wrote about non-traumatic job-search events.
  3. Third group didn’t write at all.

After eight months, the results:

  1. Over one-half of those who wrote about their frustrations had full-time positions.
  2. 25% of the non-trauma writers found work.
  3. In the non-writing group, 13.6 % had started new jobs.

Researchers concluded that the difference in re-employment wasn’t differing job-hunting skills; they all took approximately the same steps. The difference seemed to be a more positive attitude evidenced in those who paid attention to their thoughts, emotions and frustrations as they wrote honestly in their journals. Interesting, huh?

Journaling Benefits: Recently I asked several people for reasons they journal. A writer friend said, “It is my way of keeping track of myself.” My hair stylist said, “I don’t have much time with three boys, a husband, and job, but I like to journal. I do it off and on—just 2 paragraphs at a time. It helps me stay aware of the bright spots in my busy day, so I can enjoy the moment. Otherwise, I tend to overlook the good times.”

Journal book clip art“A journal is a book . . . in which you carry out the greatest of life’s adventures–the discovery of yourself,” writes Ron Klug, one of my former editors and the author of Keeping a Spiritual Journal. “A journal . . . is a place to record daily happenings. But it is far more than that. A journal is also a tool for self-discovery, an aid to concentration, a mirror for the soul, a place to generate and capture ideas, a safety valve for the emotions, a training ground for the writer, and a good friend and confidant.”

Journaling and God: In case you or someone you know pooh-poohs the benefit of journaling, consider this:

  • The book of Ecclesiastes is King Solomon’s published journal.
  • In Numbers 33:2 God instructed Moses to write a diary/journal of his journey with that often grouchy bunch of people he led.
  • The Psalms include many of King David’s journal entries.

Journaling and You: Okay, so your writing might not sound like David’s songs (or maybe it does.) But your diary/journal doesn’t need to look like anyone else’s. Do what works for you. Keep it up or let it go. If you’re tired of journal writing, admit it on paper and skip a few days or longer. If you want a jump-start, consider jotting down your responses to these questions: When did I get frustrated today? What am I grateful for this morning?

Remember the basic guideline of journal-keeping: There are no rules. Enjoy. Your way is a good way. I’ve journaled on paper napkins, church bulletins, paper plates, as well as in fancy notebooks.

What are your experiences with journaling? I’d love to hear. (Send me your thoughts and stories and get your name entered into the summer drawing for an autographed copy of my new book, It’s a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

diane June 23, 2009 at 11:03 am

When you’re a writer people assume you journal. I LOVE to write…couldn’t stop if I tried, but journaling my personal stuff is really hard for me. It seems so permanent and what if (OH NO!) it fell into the wrong hands. Someday when I die my kids will read stuff about my marriage or frustrations toward them that I never intended them to see.
The other challenge I have is that once I start journaling I get a bit obsessed about filling in the details, back story and completing the tail. It’s more exhausting than liberating. Maybe I’ll try again and keep it to your questions. If I allow myself to focus only on the day at hand and limit myself to a couple of paragraphs about frustrations, gratitude and how I’ve seen Jesus that day, maybe I’ll stay in the game this time.
Thanks for the encouragement to use this important tool.

Mary Pierce June 23, 2009 at 11:06 am

Hey Joan – LOVE the new site! Can’t wait to read what you have to say next!

Sue Wilbur June 23, 2009 at 11:25 am

Like many, I suppose, I am an on-again, off-again, journaler. If I spent as much time journaling as I do reading about journaling, perhaps the book I dream to write would be written!

Celebrating Him!

Carla June 23, 2009 at 11:32 am

Joan – love your new site.

Journaling – I started once and really enjoyed it until I thought I was writing for someone else to read instead of what I really though. So I quit. I started again (after about a year and one-half) – but quit when I thought I’d lost my focus. I started again (later) and thought it was taking too much time away from Bible reading or prayer or something…!

After reading your blog today I realized I’ve laid journaling aside on several occasions due to preconceived ideas about what it should be. If, in reality, there are no rules about journaling, I might just enjoy spilling onto the page whatever I was moved to say that day.

I just might sermonize in my journal! I might talk through a problem with the Lord. I could even write poetry if I wanted, couldn’t I? =)

Debbie Gilster June 23, 2009 at 11:57 am

What a great new site! Congrats on moving forward with tech stuff.

You are SO right about journaling. It is a release to be able to talk about your feelings in private. I always start mine with “Dear God,”. It is my more formal conversation with Him as opposed to . It is amazing because when I actually ask Him a question he responds – it is just my hand writing.

I need to get back to doing this on a more frequent basis. Thanks for the kick!

Hugs and blessings from a grateful coaching client
- Debbie :)

Jodi Shaw June 23, 2009 at 12:35 pm

Your new site looks wonderful!
In the past 2 years, I’ve journaled often. It’s become a passion of prayers, of hearing from the Lord, of recording where I have seen the Lord, things my children say that I want to preserve. Sometimes it’s a prayer, sometimes it is what seems to be His answer in my handwriting, sometimes I record significant details, sometimes just a note that triggers me to write more about it later. Sometimes I write in abbreviations or “codes” to keep it private. Because I’ve given myself no rules, it is a place to let the writing flow and if I want to share it and develop it, I can come back to it later. I find that when I think about an audience, it stifles my writing. But when I just write, it seems my best thoughts and ideas flow.

Sometimes my journal is my best counselor because I get in touch with The Counselor.

Our ladies study group did the workbook and DVD series by Mark & Patti Virkler, “How to Hear God’s Voice”. Since then, journaling has enriched and deepened not only my writing, but also my prayer time and my relationship with the Lord.

Journaling is not a chore or a burden. For me it is rest, relief, reflection and healing.

Marsha Crockett June 23, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Joan: You know how much I love to journal. Your thoughts on it are right on. Love the study on journaling, proving the power of the process. Always remind me that “journal” and “journey” come from the same root word which means a place of progress.

Thanks for your insight and encouragement.

Mary June 23, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Pretty cool post. I just came across your site and wanted to say
that I’ve really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case
I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon!

Joan C Webb June 24, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Writing during break on my Maui business trip. Big thank you to you all, Diane, Mary, Sue, Carla, Debbie, Jodi, Marsha, and Mary! I loved reading your “journaling” stories, posts, and experiences. Wish I could sit down and chat with each of you. You’re all entered into the summer drawing for It’ a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life. Watch for the winner announcement. Enjoy your “no rules” journaling experiments.

Michael June 26, 2009 at 7:23 pm

Hey, have you seen this news article?
New details about Michael Jackson’s Death Emerge
I was wondering if you were going to blog about this…

Molly July 31, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Joan: Accidentally I listened to the Family Life Ministries today and heard you. It blessed me a great deal. I have been journaling for a long time. I do have the fear what if my children end up reading it some day. But the joy I get when I flip the pages and see how God has worked in my life through out the years, it is worth the effort. I do not do it every day, may be couple of times a month as I find time. Thank you for your encouragement to continue.

Joan C Webb August 19, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Thanks, Molly, for your encouraging words. Glad you found the FLM interviews. And enjoy your journaling!

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