My Experience with Journal Writing
Written by Lisa Montanaro | December 23, 2010

Recently, I was giving a presentation to a group of professional women on organizing and time management for the busy entrepreneur. In passing, I mentioned that I am an avid journal writer, and that my new book, The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, which is due out in February 2011, has pages for readers to journal at the end of each chapter. What followed amazed me. The participants asked tons of questions about my journal writing experience: how long have I been writing a journal, how often do I write, do I write long hand or on a computer, where do I store my journals, has anyone ever read them, what time of day do I write, etc.

Wow! I was blown away. I answered their questions, and let other participants comment. I never expected my off-handed comment to result in such a lively discussion. It seems women are hungry for information on keeping a journal.

So, I decided to post about my journal writing experience in case there are more women that are interested. Here goes:

To me, my journal has always been a safe haven to work through my desires, dreams, problems, obstacles, challenges, and goals. Journaling is a great way to dialogue with yourself, and often leads to powerful breakthroughs. There is something magical that happens when you put words down on paper. Words are powerful in and of themselves. But writing down words is even more powerful! I received my first journal as a gift when I was eight years old. I have filled countless journals since then, and the act of journaling remains an important one to me up until this day. So think of a journal as a gift to yourself.

For years, I wrote daily. But now I write whenever I want, for however long I want, and in whichever format I want (see a pattern here?). Julia Cameron advocates writing morning pages in her book The Artists Way. I did morning pages for years, and liked how it seemed to help me “look forward” in my writing, as opposed to when I wrote in the evenings, which felt more like I was “looking backward” and reporting on past events. But you should write whenever it is convenient for you to carve out the time.

I write mostly at a pretty little desk I have in a sitting/reading room on the second floor of my house near my bedroom. It is a lovely room decorated in yellow and red, with a window that faces a big Maple tree. It feels like an escape and helps me to get in the mood to write.

I still love writing by hand. For about 2 years, when my Mom was very sick with cancer and I was stretched thin with running my business, tending to my personal life, and being there for her, I wrote my journal electronically on my laptop. It may not have been my preference (I love the feel of pen to paper and am very tactile so writing by hand is special to me), but it was what worked during that difficult time.

Have I ever been blocked? Well, yes. And when I am, I don’t force myself to write in my journal. I take a break and try to examine why I feel blocked and what will help the journal writing flow again. It always eventually does flow again, and I don’t scold myself for the block.

In fact, as you have probably surmised by now, everything about my journal writing experience is positive. There is no Must or Should – no rules to follow. I give myself permission to let it flow when I want and how I want. In this regard, my journal writing has always been a release for me.

I am blessed with a husband who absolutely values my privacy and thinks my journal writing is a wonderful hobby. He gives me space to write literally and figuratively. And he has never read my journals. I can leave them out on my nightstand, or out on that little desk, and he respects my boundaries.

A few years ago, I found out that all of my childhood journals, from age 8 to 18, had been lost in a move. I was devastated! I felt like I lost a piece of me. I wanted to look back and revisit those early years to prepare for writing a memoir (yes, I do periodically go back and read past journals to see how I have grown or changed, to relive a beautiful memory, etc.). Unfortunately, that will never happen. Upon reflection, and after speaking to some close friends about it, I decided that I am not supposed to write that memoir from the voice of a young girl. I am supposed to write it as the older, wiser woman I am now looking back on those early experiences.

Ironically, I now only have journals from when I met my husband at 19 until present. In my will, I had made arrangements to leave my childhood journals to my Mom. Sadly, the journals are now lost and my Mom has passed away. Thus, my journals will be left to my husband, since by the date of the journals, it looks like my life started when I met him anyway! 🙂

If you keep a journal, I hope you continue to enjoy the process. If you haven’t tried journal writing yet, give it a chance. You may love it. I know I do.

Meet the Author

Helping others be the best versions of themselves gets me jazzed!

I’ve worn many hats in my lifetime—often at the same time—while enjoying fulfilling careers. I’ve been a performer, teacher, sign language instructor, lawyer, career counselor, law professor, coach, consultant, mediator, entrepreneur, speaker, trainer, writer, and author. 

I’m an eternal optimist and life-long learner, constantly researching ways to improve personal and professional effectiveness. And it brings me great joy to then pass on the results of that persistent curiosity to my clients and audiences. 

Of all the career hats I’ve been privileged to wear, my favorite is owner of this business since 2002. Why? Because it provides me the opportunity to work with wonderful organizational and individual clients. On any given day, I get to connect deeply with audiences, work with dedicated teams, improve workplaces, watch clients have a-ha moments, and know I’ve made a difference in their lives and careers. And that is very satisfying.