Writing a Journal
By Barbara Stahura, CJF and Marilyn Lash, MSW
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“I’m not a writer.”
“My spelling and grammar are terrible.”
“I’ve never done it.”
“I don’t have time.”
These are just some of the reasons folks give about why they can’t or don’t want to try journaling. But perhaps the most important question is “Why? How can it help me?”
While journaling may not increase the range of motion in your shoulder or steady your gait, a brain injury can have far greater impact on your life than the physical changes. The invisible injuries – the cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioral changes – can alter not only your life but your relationships.
Journaling is a tool to express your feelings, deal with your inner conflicts, mourn the past, and consider the future. No matter how many challenges your brain injury has created, one thing is certain – you have a new story to tell. Journaling is a way to tell your story.
Telling your story can be your medicine. By creating a new story after your injury, you can use your own words and insights to guide you through an unfamiliar world.
Writing a Journal
Journaling is a simple writing technique. It lets you express your innermost thoughts, free of judgment from anyone else. You don’t have to correct and revise your writing – just get it down!
You have many choices. You can keep your writing private or you can share it with others. You can write alone or with a group. If writing or typing is too hard, you can use a recorder. You can journal for just minutes a day, several times a week or month. It’s up to you to decide when, how and where to journal.
Writing is for Anyone
Anyone can journal. You may have an injury, disability, or disease. You may be a family member or a caregiver. Writing down your thoughts and feelings about what is happening in your life can help you find ways to cope with change and stress and help rebuild your life and relationships.
How So I Start Writing?
A journal can be anything you choose – a computer file, a notebook, pad of paper, or a bound book of empty pages to fill. Whatever format you choose, your journal is a dated record written over time. What you choose to write about is up to you. It may be events, feelings, thoughts, dreams, fantasies, future plans, memories, sketches, letters, photographs – anything you want.
Writing a Journal is a Way of:
- relieving stress
- exploring change
- clearing up confusion
- developing creativity and intuition
- getting in touch with your feelings
- trying new behaviors
- imagining possibilities
- and much more.
Tips on Writing in Your Journal
There are no rules but here are eight simple tips:
- Start with meditation.
Sit quietly for a few minutes before you begin to write. Let your mind calm itself.
- Date every entry.
Having dates in your journal lets you identify and follow patterns over time.
- Keep what you write.
Even you think it’s not good or important at the time, you may view it differently later.
- Write quickly.
Don’t think about what you’re writing – just write!
- Start writing and keep writing
Don’t correct mistakes. It slows down the flow of thoughts. Just keep going.
- Tell yourself the truth
Tell the truth about what you think and feel.
- Protect your privacy
Store your journal in a special place. Write your name and phone number on the first page in case it is lost along with this warning – “This is my personal journal. Please don’t read it without my knowledge and permission.” Or you can just warn, “KEEP OUT!”
- Write naturally
Do what works for you and don’t worry about what you’re not doing. Pick up your journal when you feel like it. Put it down when your mood changes. You can create whatever and however you like on its pages.
A Word of Caution About Writing
Do not write about something if it could be harmful to you. Writing about traumatic events can cause anxiety and panic. If you are not prepared, you could end up feeling worse. It’s best not to write about a trauma immediately after it happens. Let some time pass before writing about it.
As you write, pay attention to how you are feeling. Stop if you feel yourself becoming overly upset or emotional. You can always come back later. You may choose to write about difficult issues under the guidance of a therapist or counselor.
It helps to being with a phrase that focuses your writing – this is called a “prompt.” Write the date at the top of the page, then write your prompt and then – just start writing. Here are some helpful prompts to get started:
- Today I feel…
- I feel stronger when…
- I’m proud of myself because…
- If I could change…
- Even though now I can’t (fill in the blank), I can still…
- I am grateful for…
- I feel powerful when…
- I want my life to include…
- One year from today…
Remember, don’t worry about the “rules” of writing. There are no rules for journaling. Just let the words flow. Be kind and don’t judge yourself or what you write.
About the author
Barbara Stahura discovered the power of personal journaling years ago and now shares her knowledge in workshops that provide pathways to personal growth and self-empowerment. Her book After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story grew from her long-running journaling group in Tucson, Ariz.
She has also facilitated journaling events for the National Guard, family caregivers, Brain Injury Association/Alliance conferences, Gilda’s Club, equine-facilitated experiential learning groups, and others. She is also an award-winning author and a certified journal facilitator and a Transitions Writing Specialist. She now lives in Indiana with her husband, a TBI survivor. Visit her website at http://www.barbarastahura.com
Lash and Associates has great resources on journaling used for this newsletter.
After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story – A Journaling Workbook
By Barbara Stahura and Susan Schuster
Journaling after Brain Injury
By Barbara Stahura
Tracy W. Teregis
Blogs from Lash and Associates on Journaling
Lots of free blogs on journaling can be found at
You can read online, print out, and share – enjoy!