Why And How To Start Journaling

“Journal writing is a voyage to the interior.” -Christina Baldwin

Journaling is a mysterious hobby. I’ve been keeping a journal for years, but I’ve only discussed it with a handful of people- it just doesn’t come up in conversation that often. When someone does discover that I journal, though, they are invariably intrigued. I am asked, “How do you do it?” “When do you find time?” and “Do you have any tips?” However, it’s the unspoken question: “WHY do you keep a journal?” that’s the most meaningful of all.

In the interest of shedding some light on a secretive habit, and hopefully inspiring some of you to give it a try, here are my answers to those questions…

How to start journaling

First, figure out your preferred medium (how you write best). When I started my journals as a teenager, I used big sketchpads and bold markers. (I was inspired by the work of the artist/writer Sark.) I have about 15 of these journals, and I’ve managed to keep them safe and private throughout several location changes. They are a storage issue, though, so I’m grateful that I’m now more comfortable writing on my laptop. I keep a word document called “journal” (original, I know; if you don’t trust your housemates not to snoop, call it “alfalfa pie recipe” or something as unappealing) and start a new file every year.

How to create a journal entry

I like to start with a day/date heading, so that if I choose to look back on previous entries, I can orient myself easily. Other people prefer writing blog-post style, or simply picking up where they left off the day before. It’s your choice.

The biggest potential roadblock to journaling is the dreaded “blank page” syndrome, where you’re sitting there having no idea how to start. You can solve that problem by starting the same way every time, either with a journal prompt (the same one every day, or a variety- Lacuna Loft can help with this); a list, a la Bridget Jones’s Diary; or by cataloging what you did that day. I take the last option, and I’ve never once had to sit and watch the cursor blink. Generally, starting with what I did becomes how I felt about what I did, which leads into deeper topics. If it doesn’t, well, at least I wrote something.

When to journal

This is entirely up to you, of course, but from personal experience I strongly recommend writing every day. Once you skip a day or two, it becomes a lot harder to reestablish the habit. It also helps to write at the same time every day. I like to journal first thing in the morning.

And now the big question:

Why keep a journal?

This is a personal question, and everyone will have a different answer. I don’t mind sharing my reasons, in the hopes that one or more will resonate with you.

1. It keeps me feeling positive and grateful. Like most people, I tend to focus on the negative things that happen to me. Writing about my life gives me instant perspective on my problems. It helps me to remember that when my doctor called with questionable test results, my husband stood there and massaged my shoulders, then offered to get me frozen yogurt. Telling the story of that moment brings the positive memories into greater focus.

2. It helps me release feelings I didn’t know I had. Throughout my teens and twenties, I had a lot of trouble getting in touch with my own feelings. I would act out by overeating or fighting with family, and I would know I was unhappy, but I honestly didn’t know why. Journaling helped put an end to that phase in my life, by giving me time and space to talk about my feelings to the one person who really needed to understand them (me).

3. It’s a great warm-up to the other writing I do. I’m also a musician, and I’m a big believer in a daily warm-up that sets the tone for the practicing my students and I do each day. The same goes for writing. Once I’ve journaled, I feel much more ready to dive into the bigger projects I have scheduled.

4. It documents my memories. I often return to journal entries from meaningful times in my life, such as when my son was born, to remind me what really happened and how I felt about it. It’s also a great resource if my husband and I disagree about when something happened- I can just look it up!

5. Maybe my journals will be a memoir one day. Hey, it could happen!

Best of luck with your journal habit! If you’d like to talk more about journaling, I’d love to hear from you. Please email me at leannesowul@gmail.com, or visit my website, leannesowul.com.

Welcome Cecilia!

Lacuna Loft is excited to continue introducing some guest bloggers!  These great folks represent a variety of perspectives on the myriad of topics covered here at Lacuna Loft.  Before everyone starts really getting into the nitty-gritty of all they have to say, we wanted to introduce them a bit.  Without further ado, here is Cecilia!



My name’s Cecilia & I’m a new contributor to Lacuna Loft. Here’s a little about myself. I am 24 years old & was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer on January 28, 2014. My cancer is ER/PR-, HER2+. I am BRCA negative.  I had a unilateral mastectomy with DIEP reconstruction on March 13. I am currently working my way through 12 weekly rounds of chemo (Taxol & Herceptin, 4 down, 8 to go!). I was living in upstate NY with my boyfriend when I received my diagnosis. I had my surgery there & my first chemo. Then I moved back to Southern California to finish my treatment with my family. At the end of August, I will be moving to Boston to go to grad school (& finish up my year of Herceptin). So as you can see, cancer is just a speed bump & I am not letting it get in the way of my plans.

I decided to become a contributor because the more open I am about my cancer journey, the more I see there are other young adults out there who are experiencing similar things. Facing my own mortality has been a learning experience for me & it’s an experience that I still struggle with daily. I wanted to be able to share my experiences, my thoughts, my feelings, my advice, with other young adults in similar situations.

I’d also like to introduce myself as Cecilia, not just a cancer fighter. I am a 24 year old vegan who is preparing to go to Northeastern University to get her Masters in Law & Public Policy. I have an overweight cat, Snacks. I love reading, music, hiking, yoga, social justice, tattoos,  and fashion. I have a wonderful boyfriend (who’s been supportive through all of this). I received my Bachelor’s in English Literature & Political Science. I enjoy both a night out with friends & a night in binge watching Netflix. I’m just a typical 24 year old girl who is figuring out where she wants her life to go, but now I’m battling cancer.

I look forward to sharing my cancer journey with you & hope to provide any help I can to other young adults out there.