How To Journal – Part 2

Posted by Barbara Stahura

February 15, 2011

How to Journal, Part 2

notes on paperLast time, we covered some of the guidelines for satisfying, effective journaling. Now, let’s look at some journaling techniques you might find helpful.

One way to journal is simply to begin writing. This can work well if you are strongly moved to write about something. Begin by writing the date, and then go from there, keeping your pen moving the whole time. This is called freewriting. This technique is good for “dumping,” when you just need to get a lot off your mind, or when you simply feel “talkative.” However, there is one caution to freewriting: If you are dealing with an extremely traumatic event or if you have PTSD, for example, freewriting is probably not the way to go. Since there is no structure or built-in guidance to it, you could re-traumatize yourself and have no way to bring yourself back to a healthier state. Try some of the other, more structured techniques first, or work with your therapist when freewriting.

We often need something more than a desire to write to get our pen moving on the page (or fingers on the keyboard). For those times, here are some wonderful techniques from Kathleen Adams, in her book Journal to the Self.  You can do many of these in only five or ten minutes; feel free to write longer if you choose.

Captured Moment

With this technique, you capture a special moment in time. Before you begin writing, sit quietly for a few moments and recall all the sensory details you can. Do your best to re-experience what your senses were bringing in at the time. Calling on these details adds a richness and clarity to the writing and the emotions involved.


On the page, this looks like a script, where you write both sides with lines alternating between you and your dialogue partner. A dialogue can be written with anyone living or dead, real or imaginary, or with someone no longer in your life. You can dialogue with your higher self, or with various aspects of yourself. You can write a dialogue with anything as well—for instance, an injured body part, such as your brain, or with an illness, to see what it has to tell you. You might feel awkward at first, but keep going anyway. It gets easier with practice. A dialogue is helpful when you’re feeling conflicted or confused; it allows you to examine your dialogue partner’s side of things.

Unsent Letters

These are letters you write but do not send. They can be a good way to clarify your feelings about a confusing or painful issue. You can write to a person, or to something, such as an illness or injury. You can write to God or your Higher Power. Begin with “Dear _____,” and then pour your feelings onto the page. You can get your feelings out on paper, where you can then examine them. Unsent letters are an excellent technique if you need to vent but don’t want to, or can’t, face the other person directly. If someone in your life has died and you still have something to say, write an unsent letter. Of course, you can write a cheerful, positive unsent letter, too.

Next time: What Journaling Can Do For You

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