Skimming the surface of life with poetic journaling

Why I Love Journal Writing

You’ll often see me browsing the journals and pens section in a stationery shop seeking out the perfect tools for my passion. The constant thoughts that flow from my mind to connect to the pen and onto the page provide me with the power to transform an ordinary day into something quite spectacular. Therefore it’s important to me that I acquire something spectacular to write with and to write in.

My love of journaling originates from a traumatic childhood event when, unable to express emotions verbally, I began writing my feelings down in a secret journal. I discovered through this solitary practice of writing that I didn’t have to keep things bottled up inside me. I could release pent up emotion through my words. It was OK to talk in my journal any way I wanted to about anything and everything. No-one else was going to read it. Only me. I was free to be myself without the fear of being punished for speaking out. I had a voice. It’s what saved me.

I’ve kept a journal as an ongoing therapeutic tool ever since and this has grown into a mountain of words and phrases over the years. As well as the recording of each day’s unfolding events, the books (now digitalised) contain quotes by fellow writers, sketches, doodles, snippets of overheard conversations, my personal reactions and reflective enhancements of any emotional response to these observations.

The journals provide me with a wealth of emotionally-charged raw material thus, periodically, I’ve re-read something I’ve written in the past that’s acted as a springboard to inspire me to create a poem or short story. Hence, I’ve built up a vast collection of these derived entirely from life within my journals.

In looking back I can also measure how time has changed my reaction to particular memories. Where once they were too painful to remember, I’ve come to a place of peace with them because I’ve been able to let go of the negative emotions connected to the memory through the initial process of writing about it in my journal. This enables me to lift the emotion from the actual experience and write about it in a different setting, eg as a poem or short story, which forms part of the healing process. The outcome being something positive has been created from something negative.

I’m content that through writing for myself, and not an audience, within my journals, I’ve seen progress in my work, understood the changes in my writing and my life, and been inspired to create poetry and stories to share with others.

I’ve considered self-publishing the journals as they are. I’m thinking Anne Frank/Samuel Pepys but my journals are not historical. Also, to prevent any harm (unintentional) to persons I’ve written about, they have more of a leaning to the work of Helen Fielding (Bridget Jones) or Sue Townsend (Adrian Mole), though I’m not professing to be in the same league as any of these writers by any means.

I’m more inclined towards writing a memoir and this is where my poetic journaling comes to the fore as a resource. Many memoirs have been borne from creative journal entries that have dealt with the turmoil that comes to the fore when we are struggling to cope with overwhelming situations. For me, this offers a safe emotional response to the day-to-day changes in society, as well as our personal life events. This raw emotion and resolving of problems is invaluable when it comes to writing memoir in whatever style is its best fit.

I believe that, because I’ve made journal writing a habit, I’ll write forever.

With love for the journey,


(An adapted version of the above article was published May 2020 in various outlets through the ‘Why I Love….’ Series, commissioned by Sue Wilkinson, Features Editor at The Scarborough News)

Author Coral McCallum writes that ‘journaling can be an extremely emotional journey. It can be hard if you are admitting to a fear to see it written in black and white on the page in front of you. The very words, previously unspoken, suddenly become very real and are harder to ignore. However, journaling can be a powerful tool to help you process thoughts and to help you to deal with the some of the difficult emotions and situations we experience as humans.

A journal doesn’t criticise so in that aspect alone it can make an ideal confidante.

Bottling feelings up isn’t good for any of us so a diary or a journal can be the perfect conduit to releasing and processing those pent-up feelings. Journaling can be good for us both physically and mentally.’

Personal Journals

1a. What is truth anyway?

1b. The passage of time

1c. A realisation of faith

2. That faith thing

3. Bubble-wrapped

4. A race for life

5. One day it will all make sense

6. Grief: love with no place to go

7. Vision

8. Choices

May journaling help you stay present with the moment-to-moment unfolding gift of this life you are living.”

Lynda Monk, Director, IAJW.Org

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