Journaling After Brain Injury

Posted by Barbara Stahura

February 8, 2011

How to Journal, Part 1

Wonderful! You have decided to begin journaling. How do you get started? It could be that you simply put your pen on the paper, or your fingers on the keyboard, and go. But sometimes you need a little more structure, or a way to get started. While journaling has no rules, some guidelines will make your journaling more satisfying and effective. These are from Journal to the Self by Kathleen Adams:

    • Start with a meditation or mindfulness technique
    It helps to have a few minutes of quiet time beforehand, to get you in the right frame of mind and heart. This can be as simple as closing your eyes and concentrating on your slow breathing for a few minutes.• Date every entryThis helps you observe cycles and trends over time, and simply to have a chronological record.Keep what you write Even if what you write now seems worthless, it could be valuable later.

    • Write quickly

     Keeps your internal critic from stopping the writing, and offers more access to your subconscious. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar that will slow you down and let your critic into the process.

    • Start writing, keep writing

    Again, this allows your more creative and intuitive right brain to speak more freely and keeps the analytical, critical left brain quieter. This means to keep your pen moving even when you think you’ve run out of things to say. If you get stuck, you can rewrite your last sentence, or even  write “blah, blah, blah” until the flow kicks in again.

    • Tell yourself the truth

    Giving yourself permission to do this is the best thing you can do for yourself. Your own truth is not your enemy. You get better results if you don’t try to snooker yourself.

    •Protect your privacy

     You’re entitled to your privacy, so do what’s necessary to keep your journal private. You’ll feel freer to be honest if you know that no one else will read it. 

    • Write naturally

    Do what works best for you, write when the mood strikes, don’t force yourself etc.

    Also, find a notebook or journal that’s comfortable to use. If you have to fight with the journal simply to write in it, you’ll be less likely to write. There are plenty of nice journals on the market. Inexpensive composition books or spiral-bound notebooks (my favorite) work well, too. Find a pen that you enjoy writing with. My journaling pen has to write smoothly; a scratchy pen interrupts my flow.

    You can also journal on your computer. Be sure to keep it protected with a password, especially if other people use the machine.

    If your brain injury has left you unable to write or type, there are other options. There are some good voice-recognition software programs available, so that you can speak your journal entries and your computer will type them for you. It will take a while for the software to understand your voice well enough to be accurate. Another option is to speak your journal entries to a trusted person, who will scribe them for you just as you say them, without judgment or comment.

    Next week: How to Journal, Part 2

    See Barbara’s website at and her blog at

3 responses to “Journaling After Brain Injury”

  1. Hey thanks for putting in the effort to write up this post. Cheers

  2. These are great tips, Barbara! Yes, journaling is important for coping with life’s changes. Although my TBI occurred more than 20 years ago, I can still find a sense of peace when dealing with frustration and other issues which may come up as a result of my injury.

    Very often, when I’m stuck on what to write, I write, “More ideas are coming,” or sometimes I just look around the room and if something reminds me of a clip from a movie…

    I find it’s easier to journal in a notebook rather than on the computer: Since I type a blinding 30 words a minute (haha), I have difficulty keeping my internal editor muzzled. Writing longhand, I think that I can more easily “Let the Crazy Child Write.”

    Seriously, there’s a book by that title, though I can’t recall the author’s name.

    But just keep writing…Just keep writing…

  3. Lynne says:

    This idea of journaling sounds great. I have a handicapped child and I’m trying to teach her to journal to help her express her emotions. She doesn’t have the fine motor skills to write well. I’m wondering if anyone has keyboard suggestions? She gets frustrated when she can’t get the keyboard situated right so that it is “just right”. It’s hard to do! I’m considering using a wireless keyboard with a touchpad.

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