Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Entry #43 - "Words for Your Inner Journal"

Photo Credit - Jan Bowman - October 2011

This week I’ll continue a thread from last week about creating a purpose for your journal.  Last week I wrote about journal entries that focus on the physical outer world by describing, for example, travel, or food. This week I want to think about how we use journals to examine our inner world.  How do writers explore their inner worlds without getting so caught up in the mundane and ordinary?  Or does it matter if the journal does focus on private thoughts, observations and obsessions? Isn't that what a blogger does? 

I talked with several writer friends about the types of journals that, in their experience, allow a more detailed focus on the inner world.  Journals that explore the inner world include, but aren’t limited to: Personal Diaries, Therapy Journals, Health Journals, Religious or Prayer Journals, Wish Journals, Gratitude Journals, and Anger Journals.  I assume there are others, as well.  So inner world journals explore the most intimate, private thoughts of the writers and are rarely shared unless writers decide to mine these journals for ideas or content to be used in novels, stories, memoir, or general nonfiction.

Personal Diaries:  For centuries people across cultures and continents used personal diaries to describe their lives. Such diaries provided rich primary source materials for historians. In our current culture, perhaps driven by a human need to connect with people, the memoir has become a form of greater interest to the reading public. As a competitive nonfiction form it seems to have taken root as sales for memoir continue to grow.

Other Types of Personal Growth Journals: Some writer friends keep separate journals for their inner world or they alternate within the same journal describing daily experiences along side the more gut-wrenching perils of living inside a fragile human body in the world.  One friend devoted a year of journal entries to her first year after her divorce, while another is still writing about the baby she lost late in her pregnancy. Another writer friend from a workshop kept a two-year journal to explore her feelings of anger and betrayal after her husband’s suicide. It helped her heal and move forward.  So good  things often come from exploring thoughts on the page.  I recently read a couple of articles that talk about how such journals help heal the body, mind, heart, and soul.  And a writer in my journal class last session spoke eloquently about how keeping her inner journal was helping her sleep better and feel happier.

And while the technology seems to drive the form that journal tending takes, the desire to connect to the daily lives of others by sharing our own experiences is alive and well in the virtual world.  That is to say that traditional diaries have been replaced, more often than not, by blogs and text messages. People, who don’t necessarily view themselves as writers, write.  And they send photos of everything and anything in their world. And sometimes it’s more than you needed to know. Some well-intended folks send pictures of everything from their cats – to the kitchen before and after it was cleaned. My son recently emailed pictures from California of the table set for dinner, and another time he sent a picture of a lovely pizza just before he ate it. And yes, it helps me feel a connection to his world.

"Mary Amaryllis" Photo Credit  Jan Bowman
There is a basic human need for reflection and self-expression and a written record allows us to look within and assess our past and anticipate our future growth.
“What you plant in a journal today you harvest later. Seeds need sun and soil and water." Jan says.

A Special Thanks to Florence Miller for the Amaryllis Bulb - beginning to bloom here on the right.  Next posting will be fully opened flowers.  How exciting!   March 5, 2012

Comments are most welcome.  How do you readers and writers use your journals?

Jan Bowman’s work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, Broadkill Review, Trajectory, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes, and others. She won the 2012 Roanoke Review Prize for Fiction. Her stories have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best American Short Stories and a story was a finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest. She is working on two collections of short stories and currently shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection. She has nonfiction work pending publication in Spring 2013 Issues of Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at:


  1. I have a journal of sorts through email. My sister and I email each other every morning with news of how the previous day went and what our expectations are for the current day. These "email journals" to my sister has been a good way to be an observer in my life and make note of remarkable things going on with me that might be foder for writing during my "official" writing times.

  2. Hi - Yes. We continue to alter how we talk to our family and friends. My friends and some family do talk with each other via phone and also using software that is friendly. One of my three sisters is always in touch via email. The other (older) two - not so much. Makes me sad. Thanks for your note. Jan says...

  3. A friend just reminded me after reading this, that the personal letter is one of the most intimate forms for describing and connecting. Do people write these anymore?
    Is the personal letter almost dead? If not, what takes its place?