LifeJournal Newsletter – December 2013

Yes, it’s hard to believe we’re at the end of another year!  In this last newsletter of 2013 we have two related articles: One is a journal entry I wrote in which I review my work year, and the other is a less personal and more objective discussion about reviewing your journal, called Re-Read Your Journal: Elevate Your Journal From Companion to Personal Coach.

I strongly encourage you to be a full journal participant this coming year. Write in your journal more often and in your fullest, most authentic voice.  (If you can’t be fully honest in your journal–where can you be?)  Learn about and try a feature of LifeJournal that you haven’t used before. Take chances while writing. Try a new journal technique. Take a class.  Become an IAJW (International Association for Journal Writing) member. Surprise yourself with trying out new things both in life and in your writing, and dig deeper into what you are truly passionate about and has meaning to you. You can make this coming a year in which you shine!

And because I am unwavering in my confidence about the many benefits of journal writing (better physical and mental health; examining what holds meaning for you; setting and working towards goals; improving your writing) we’re offering some really great end-of-the-year specials. It’s our way of thanking you for your support–for some customers, the full fifteen years!

Wishing you joyous, fun-filled holidays from our LifeJournal family to yours!

Ruth Folit — LifeJournal Software–click the LIKE button!

Have questions? Email; or, call 877-456-8762; or,go to the LifeJournal Support page.

PS Concerned that you won’t find time to write during these hectic times?  Here are a some tips:
Use these three ideas for quickie writing techniques: (A) Write just a one-word journal entry that summarizes your day. (B) Write for just six minutes (à la Gillie Bolton). (C) In LifeJournal, click the Pulse Input button and enter the values of the day and write a really brief Pulse Note.

PPS If you have gmail, there is a new format with tabs which separates your email into primary, social and promotions.  If you want to find future LifeJournal newsletters more quickly, click and drag this email into your “primary’ tab.

A Look Back At My Work Year

by Ruth Folit
What follows is journal entry I have written after looking back and re-reading some journal entries about the last year working on LifeJournal and its sister organization, IAJW (the International Association for Journal Writing). Since I know this isn’t for my eyes only, this is only a kinda/sorta real journal entry, but you’ll still get a good idea of some elements of periodic reviews.  

I’m looking back to see what I—with the excellent work of programmers Lee and Trent and project manager Scott—accomplished this year with LifeJournal. And I am surprised. Kind of shocked, actually. Sometimes the day-to-day tasks (the setting up and learning the behind-the-scenes systems, the bookkeeping, staying current with social media, the ongoing correspondence, the myriad details!) becomes overwhelming. I can lose perspective. Reading my journal entries which also trigger other memories which I haven’t written about sharpens my long-distance retrospective vision. And that in turn sharpens my long distance prospective vision. How energizing!  Why don’t I do this more often?!

First thing I note is that LifeJournal Online launched! LifeJournal Online, an in-the-cloud journaling app, is young but born out of 15 years of users’ experience. I’m so pleased and excited to help nurture it from young seedling to mature sturdiness!  LifeJournal Online is not just a place to write safely and securely, but a way to categorize entries for later easy searching; a place which encourages you to think and write in new ways; a place to track progress of your goals. I think the Online version simplifies the program a bit and I like that.

With LifeJournal Online we’ve accomplished what journal writers were clamoring for: People can write in their journals from either Windows or your Mac computers, from iPad or other tablets—whether at home in San Diego, Perth, Oslo, or Toronto—or traveling in Hong Kong, or Buenos Aires, or Marrakesh. And still keep the journal secure and private. (In fact, I think it’s more private than having a paper journal which I can accidentally leave where it can be read!)

And when someone’s computer crashes and there isn’t a backup (as I hear about way too often—it’s very distressing) or when a customer buys a new computer or tablet—the transition for using your LifeJournal and getting to your journal entries is seamless. I’m elated to have this sticky issue solved.

A couple of days ago I was on the phone with a woman who was upgrading from LifeJournal version 1 which she had used for more than 10 years. I was helping her convert her hundreds of journal entries to LJ for Windows (version 3). I was glowing hearing her rave about what she loved about LifeJournal. So good to hear feedback directly from customers!

So, now with two kinds of journal software—LifeJournal for Windows and LifeJournal Online—writers have a choice.  Unfortunately, there are still some sticking points: LJO and LJ for Windows doesn’t yet sync. Yes, I am disappointed and frustrated that this is not working yet… but our programmers have identified the critical issue that stymied them, and they are now on course to have the syncing piece finished by the very beginning of next year. I’m optimistic about how well this will meet many journal writers’ needs. People with LJ for Windows will be able to move their LJ data online. The road of software development is inevitably bumpy. It’s inherent in the complex world of computers. 

One of the things I like about working on IAJW (the International Association for Journal Writing, a membership site for writers that I conceived of, created, and direct) is that it’s less technical and more people focused. It offers a full spectrum of ideas, classes, interviews, online courses with WORLD CLASS journal writing experts. (I’m not prone to hyperbole—so when I say WORLD CLASS journal experts, I’m not overstating.)  Just this year alone we’ve had Natalie Goldberg (writing advocate and best selling author of Writing Down the Bones); Pat Schneider (founder and director emeritus of the Amherst Writers and Artists and author of two Oxford University Press books, Writing Alone and with Others and How the Light Gets In: Writing as a Spiritual Practice); UK’s foremost expressive writing advocate, Dr. Gillie Bolton; best-selling memoirist Mark Matousek; and social psychologist Dr. Jamie Pennebaker who first did the original research demonstrating that writing about emotional upheaval improved one’s health.

I’m not a fan of taking a particular journaling point of view and inculcating others with that view. Rather I love gathering these diverse people so journal writers can see and experience the fullest panorama of personal and expressive writing. I delight in meeting and personally introducing members to these big thinkers and doers.

I believe that we’re each our OWN EXPERT— and I invite each IAJW member to listen and see if a topic appeals, to selectively experiment with ideas from each of these independent and very talented professionals. It’s satisfying to me to be able to bring that belief into practice.

IAJW has even been the inspiration for several Journal Council members who spun off their own journal and/or writing websites and I’m flattered that they found IAJW such a good model.

The combination of creating journaling tools (LifeJournal apps and specialized content in Add-Ons) and bringing together quality, experienced teachers, best-selling authors, dedicated therapists and coaches who bring their individual perspectives to the world of journal writing and offers invaluable insights to refine and re-define journaling by offering interviews, classes, as well as one-on-one work at truly affordable prices gives me great pleasure. This aligns with my values that writing is for every economic and social group—plumbers, professors, and prisoners.

Writing this review of my work has been an eye-opener. Next time I’m feeling exhausted or overwhelmed and need a boost, I’m going to re-read this.

Re-read Your Journal: Elevate Your Journal from Companion to Personal Coach

By Ruth Folit 

December and the subsequent months are especially exciting times for journal writers everywhere. We’re in the harvest season where we gather the fruits and glean the wisdom of our journal writing for the year. Although we can step back and reflect during any calendar month, the time around the New Year calls us to act.

Now is the time to renew interest and dedication to expressing ourselves in writing fully; knowing ourselves better through observation, self-inquiry, and reflection; getting perspective; tracking our change and progress; moving through difficult transitions; and reviewing and breathing new life into the journaling process.

We know that journal writing is pleasurable and rewarding, but it can also be challenging. We often write alone feeling isolated; we may need injections of fresh ideas and perspectives. We might need a little butt-kicking or back-rubbing to muster the courage to take a new tack or look squarely in the mirror of self-expression.

In journal entries we have captured a series of subjective views of individual days. Later, using a wide-angle lens of time and a little detective work, we can get a big-picture perspective. It’s like hiking to the top of a mountain and looking back to see the route we have traveled. Re-reading our journal thoughtfully helps in our evolution. When we re-read our journal with an eye towards seeing our life patterns, we are transforming the journal from a receptive listener to an active personal coach.

GOOD ATTITUDE IS KEY. Before you start on re-reading your journal, create some ground rules.  The review process is about learning more about yourself, NOT about beating yourself up. Journal re-reading may bring up all sorts of feelings–astonishment, admiration, shame, tedium, respect, outrage, grief, and scorn. The trick is to approach the re-reading with self-acceptance, openness, compassion, humor, and non-judgment. That’s a tall order! How to do it?

BE YOUR BEST FRIEND. One approach to maintain a positive and non-judgmental attitude as you are reading your journal is to imagine that you are listening to a good friend. Good friends can help each other look for the silver lining, the positive spin, life patterns, and lessons learned from an experience. 

IT’S ABOUT PROCESS, NOT PRODUCT. Remember that keeping a journal is about process, not product. Don’t even think of judging your writing ability or style, or spelling and grammar skills. Toss the interior red editing pen. 

LIFE IS VARIABLE. Remind yourself that journal writing serves different purposes for various times in your life–to record facts and events, to vent feelings, to confide secrets, or to sort out meaning. What was momentous for you a month ago, may barely be a blip on your radar today. Perspectives shift. Remember, too, that your understanding of your journal will be based on your feelings of the moment and in successive rereading you might see things differently. 

HELP. Occasionally rereading a journal will allow you to see more than you may want to know about yourself. If you can’t maintain a constructive perspective, stop reading your journal and try again when you are in a better head space! You may want to talk to a good friend and/or see a professional counselor or coach.  Keeping a journal and not talking about issues with anybody can be isolating. So remember to keep a balance. And please choose wisely who you will confide in.  You want your listener to hear you fully and help you find/learn what you want—not simply give you their advice.


UNSTRUCTURED. Consider trying different ways to review your journal.  You can read through it, with an open and inquisitive mind and see what your impressions are. This is an intuitive, non-structured process in which impressions and flashes of insight surface as you re-read the year’s entries. Write down those insights! Add comments as you read. Use a different color pen or type in a different font style, color or size to make clear that annotations were written later and you may even want to include a date in the commentary text. 

STRUCTURED. If you are looking for a little more structure while you reread your journal, you can keep some questions in mind:

  • Are there particular feelings which keep coming up?
  • What are the areas of conflict, challenge, and growth that I write about?
  • Were there any lessons from difficult situations that I was in?
  • Are there recurring themes, subject, or issues that I visit? Is there a pattern to when the subject or issue re-appears? Am I making progress understanding and dealing with these issues or going round and round in circles?
  • Do I often write about health, physical, stress, or sleeping related problems?
  • Is there a part of my body in particular that keeps causing distress in my life?
  • What accomplishments have I achieved? What new skills have I mastered?
  • How did I overcome obstacles?  Am I bumping into similar obstacles?
  • What am I feeling as I reread different sections of my journal?  Do these feelings give me clues about areas that   I am still working on, that I have moved beyond, or that I am ready to change?
  • Who or what has strongly influenced me?
  • What loose ends or unanswered questions do I have? 

Try another perspective when reviewing your journal entries:

  • What is left out from my journal?
  • Are there times when I can tell that I am are censoring myself? What’s keeping me from writing fully?
  • Am I asking questions instead of puzzling out the answers?
  • When appropriate insert the word “censoring,” so that you can go back and search later for those areas. You may want to highlight the text where you know you suppressed information and assign the topic “censored” to it, so that you can go back patterns and see where you self-censor.

MORE QUESTIONS. Another approach to reviewing your journal focuses on questions that you may want to ask yourself after your re-read your journal.  Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What are the highlights of my year?
  • What can I celebrate about my year?
  • Can I summarize my year, encapsulating it in just a sentence or two?
  • What would the headline or title of my year be?
  • If I had goals for the year, did I reach some of them? Are there some goals I want to drop?
  • Is my journal representative of my year?  Is there anything meaningful that I omitted? Add that now.
  • What did I learn this year? What did I wish I had learned?
  • What was my tone of voice in my journal? Did the tone change much?
  • What mood am I in when you write in my journal? What is my motivation for writing?
  • What have I gained or lost this year?
  •  What is left unfinished that I want to work on in the future? That I want to stop working on?

SUMMARIZE. You might also want to create a journal entry or series of journal entries to summarize the portion of the journal that you are rereading.  Make it clear what the entry is by giving it a title that you’ll understand in subsequent years, like “Summary, 2013.” With time, you’ll be able to compare these entries from summary to the next.  That will give you even more information and a greater vantage point to see yourself.

Re-reading your journal is a rich source of self-knowledge. It does take time but it’s really a rewarding time. Use that knowledge that you gleaned to change and plan for next year, and your journal becomes a critical tool in becoming your own personal inner coach.

©Ruth Folit

The International Association for Journal Writing (IAJW) News 

The first IAJW telechat in 2014 is with blockbuster author Dan Millman (The Way of the Peaceful Warrior) and his daughter and co-author Sierra Prasada who will discuss The Creative Compass: Writing Your Way from Inspiration to Publication. IAJW members can join us on Thursday, January 23 at 5 PM Eastern/ 2 PM Pacific.  Click here to learn more and sign up. 

John Evans will be teaching the class, Transform Your Health: Write to Heal, an online class with a flexible schedule, which begins Tuesday, January 28. Sign up now to secure a spot!

End Quotes

“All serious daring comes from within.”  –Eudora Welty

“If you don’t make mistakes then you aren’t really trying.”—Coleman Hawkins

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