Dear Diary..... (By Michelle Johnson, P.O.W.E.R. Consultant)


Dear Diary…..

By Michelle Johnson, P.O.W.E.R. Consultant


When you think of journaling, do the words “Dear Diary” echo in your head and you have visions of small books with locks dancing in your head?  For me, journaling conjures an image of a young girl scribbling daily in a small pink book.  As I grew up, my little pink diary held all my secrets, wishes, and desires.  I guarded it very closely and frequently gave it a new hiding space as I have two older brothers with a knack for embarrassing me! I wrote less and less in that little pink book as time went by and as a graduate student with high stakes writing demands, the idea of journaling seemed trivial and childish. Or at least it did until I was reintroduced to the concept of journaling in fall of 2012. 


I was enjoying one of the many perks of being a P.O.W.E.R. consultant and attended a free workshop given by Dr. Dannelle Stevens, from Portland State University, on journal writing.  Dr. Stevens described the process and value of journal writing. She explained how she keeps several journals and in the workshop that night she covered keeping a meeting journal with us.    I left the workshop and wondered do I really have time for journal writing?  Why would I waste valuable writing time on something so low stake? Are there benefits to journal writing?


In order to answer my own questions and being a resourceful graduate student, I did some research on the benefits of journal writing.  Journal writing is regarded as means of personal reflection, which in turn allows for self-assessment and personal growth.  In addition, the art of journaling allows one to have a private conversation with oneself or some else (thanks goes out to Dr. Stevens for this tip).  So, what are the benefits of journaling?  According to some journaling websites, the benefits include but are not limited to:


Stress relief

  • Connects inner thoughts with outside events on a deeper level
  • Increases focus on important things and can add stability to life 
  • Provides a release for stored up emotions

Helps with healing

  • Valuable self-therapy tool
  • Promotes harmony and balance by soothing troubles
  • Provides a way for tracking success and lighting the burden of failure

Getting to know you better

  • Valuable tool for self-discovery
  • Helps clarify thoughts and feelings
  • Enhances self-awareness

Personal growth

  • Increases learning through exploring experiences and lessons
  • Allows for freedom of expression of needs and wants
  • Enhances clarity of writing


For more information on journaling take a look at Journal-keeping: How to use reflective writing for teaching, learning, professional insight and personal change (2009) by Dannelle D. Stevens  and Joanne E. Cooper -or- Promoting journal writing in adult education (2001) by Roger Hiemstra.  


Now, I have to confess that I haven’t used my meeting journal since that night! However, I was inspired to set up my own three journals.  First, there is my personal journal and I write in it every night.  I have a reminder set on my phone for 8 pm every night.  At 8 pm, I sit down and write about the events of the day.  I usually only write a sentence or two about each event that comes to mind.  I don’t worry about editing, spelling, or grammar. I just have mini, uncensored, short conversations with others and myself. 


What other journals do I keep?  My second journal is connected to any project or paper I am writing.  This one is typed instead of handwritten.  It is where I record the struggles I am having writing, frustrations with collaborating (you know what I am referring to here so don’t look so shocked), or work through new ideas for that particular project or paper.  The third journal contains all my hopes and fears for my dissertation topic.  In this journal, I keep all the meeting notes with my committee, ideas for my chapters, and the titles of books or journal articles I could use in my dissertation.  As I looked through it earlier, I realized my topic is becoming more focused.  This process is making me and my topic stronger!


I can’t believe journaling has returned to my adult life and is helping me in ways I never imagined.  So, today I encourage you to pick up a pen and start journaling.  Instead of “Dear Diary”, try something like this: “Today, was a wonderful day! I finished my POWER blog and can’t wait to share my excitement about journaling with others……….”