LifeJournal™ Newsletter – November 2001

As part of the Thanksgiving season, I’d like to thank each of you, as members of the LifeJournal community, for your support of and commitment to creating superior journal writing software. Without your feedback and input, LifeJournal would not be improving and evolving as it is. Thanks for your financial support as well as for your critical and encouraging comments. We love to hear from you.

We wish you and your family and friends a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving! 


Ruth Folit

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Journal Techniques: Dialog
Book Reviews:
Bird by Bird
A Complete Idiot’s Guide to Journaling
Journal to the Self
The New Diary
A Voice of Her Own
Write it Down, Make it Happen

Holiday Gift Ideas and Specials for Journal Writers!
End Quote by Friedrich Nietzsche
To Purchase LifeJournal

Journal Techniques: Dialog

We keep journals for different purposes.  We have styles that reflects our purpose, personality, and sometimes, limitations. Different journal techniques help us see different points of view, to stretch our horizons to illuminate a wider piece of our inner landscape.  Belief systems—the subtle, unconscious background noise that we often don’t know that we possess (like the hum of a refrigerator that you barely notice, until it stops or changes pitch)—color our worldview.  Using journal techniques can be the stimulation to re-frame our perspective, catch a glimpse from a new angle, magnify the background noise so that we finally hear it, and trick us into seeing ourselves in new and enlightening ways.

The LifeJournal program introduces you to six journal techniques: Dialog, Portrait, Unsent Letter, List, Inner Voice, and Alternate Viewpoints.  See Help menu>Journal Techniques. During the next twelve months we will discuss each technique in a different monthly newsletter.  This month we’ll discuss the Dialog Technique, a flexible technique that works in a wide variety of situations.


With dialog you can create, hear, imagine, visualize, and facilitate a conversation between two or more entities and record it. The conversation can be between you and another person (alive or deceased, accessible or inaccessible), between you and a part of yourself, or you and a part of the world, a concept, a dream, a decision, or a point of view. The options are limitless—whatever or whomever has significance in your life, is fertile ground for a dialog.

Ira Progoff, Ph.D., the grandfather of personal journal writing, used dialogs as a fundamental technique in his Intensive Journal process that he developed in the 1970s. His idea was for the dialog to come forth itself, without censorship or conscious direction.

Dr. Progoff suggests that you sit quietly for a minute or so, breathing deeply, slowly, and peacefully. Once relaxed turn your attention to the other character.  Begin focusing on the other character and write about the person, object, concept, or situation, to get you in touch with it. What are you feeling about the other? What is the history of important events with the other? Try to see the world from the other “character’s” point of view. Soon a discussion will start in your mind, or a question will pop up. Listen to the conversation and record it.

You may feel awkward and silly at first, feeling as though the situation is contrived, but stay open to the process and have fun with it and see what develops. (What have you got to lose?) You may also approach the dialog thinking about the other character as a part of yourself that wants to be heard, to have a voice. Some people like to have two chairs to move between to help them be the two different speakers.

LifeJournal has a Dialog Tool to facilitate your recording of the conversation. You can open it through the Tools menu>Dialog, by clicking the Dialog Tool button on the far right of the horizontal tool bar (it looks like a cartoon balloon), or by using the shortcut key Ctrl+G.  The Dialog Tool dialog box contains four buttons, labeled Character A, Character B, Character C, and Character D.  

Click on the Character A button and a text box appears. Type in the name of one character and click the Enter button. Click on the Character B button, type the name of the other character in the text box and click the Enter button. If a journal entry is open, when you click on those buttons the name of the character appears in the journal entry with a colon after it, ready for you to record the dialog.

If you want to change the name of a character, right click on the button in the Dialog Tool and a text box appears where you can type in new text for the character name.

Here are some examples of other characters that may want to engage in dialog.  Many of these ideas come from Progoff’s At a Journal Workshop and Kathleen Adams’ Journal to the Self:

Dialog with a person—present or past relationships, living or deceased.

Dialog with work—a project, the body of work that you’ve done in your life, your career or professional life, your creative work (writing, gardening, playing music, painting, etc.) your role as mother, father, sister or brother.

Dialog with the body—whether it is with a particular body part that needs attention because it is injured or diseased, or with an illness in general.

Dialogs with events, situations, decisions, and circumstances—this could include a car accident, the World Trade Center attack, or a choice between moving to two different locations.

Dialog with society—this includes heritage, traditions, cultural backgrounds, art, religion, sexuality, institutions such as marriage, the church, or schools.

Dialog with dream—there may be an enigmatic dream or a symbol, person or situation in a dream that you want to know more about.

Dialog with emotions/feelings—if you find yourself often in feeling a particular emotion, you might want to have a conversation with it.

Dialog with resistance /block—you may want to converse with a conflict that appears and stays in your life for a period of time to find out why it’s there and what you can learn from it and do it move beyond it.

Dialog with intuition or inner wisdom—this may help you to tune into your own inner knowledge that too often is overlooked.

You can come back to a conversation at any time and add your two cents whenever you feel like it.  There are no rules about interruptions, of course.  And remember, you can weave a dialog into any journal entry if it seems to fit the occasion. The conversation doesn’t need to be its own entry.

Book reviews of five books related to journal writing: 

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life is a humorous, tell-it-like-it-is account about the daily life of a writer, along with plenty of specific instruction about how to write.  Author Anne Lamott’s writing is encouraging, chatty, compassionate, hilarious, and full of practical advice.

In one of her writing tips, Lamott uses the analogy of a Polaroid photograph for writing first drafts: “Writing a first draft is very much like watching a Polaroid develop. You can’t—and, in fact, you’re not suppose to—know exactly what the picture is going to look like until it has finished developing.”

Lamott offers concrete suggestions about character, plot, setting, and other topics of interest to writers. She also offers irreverent advice about how to navigate through the dark underbelly feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy, and jealousy that are inevitable parts of any writer’s experience. Lamott artfully debunks the many myths of aspiring writers. Lamott’s humorous advice is based on her own experience and honest self-analysis provides writers the necessary perspective to keep writing through the difficult times that all writers encounter.

Complete Idiot’s Guide to Journaling by Joan R. Neubauer is a straightforward, popularized overview of journal writing. Neubauer’s volume includes information about the history of journal writing, the basics of getting started, different kinds of journals, suggestions about what to write, elements of good writing, how to organize your journal, and how to learn from what you write.

Her style is encouraging: “No matter how old you are, no matter what your background is, and no matter how good of a writer you are, journaling allows you to keep a unique record of your life and to explore, reflect upon, and even improve that life.”

Line drawings, quotes, and journaling tips are sprinkled throughout the book. I’d recommend this book to those is just beginning to keep a journal.

Journal to the Self: Twenty-two Paths to Personal Growth by Kathleen Adams is quickly becoming a classic in journal writing circles. Ms. Adams, the director of the Center for Journal Therapy, wrote this book in 1990.  She shares her insights and long experience about keeping a journal and learning from it.  Her informal writing style belies the depth and breadth of the knowledge she imparts.

Adams offers a dozen reasons why people journal. Then she follows with general suggestions about journal writing. This book was written in 1990, before LifeJournal existed, so her discussion about choosing journal materials does not include LifeJournal. Today, however, Kay Adams endorses LifeJournal, and recommends it for those who keep their journal on their computer. You can find Kay Adams’ review of LifeJournal at

The backbone of Adams’ book is “The Journal Toolbox,” a description of a wide variety of journal writing techniques that includes excellent explanations and examples.  She discusses springboards, clustering, dialogue, dreams and imagery and others.

I highly recommend this book to any journal writer, from novice to the experienced.  I’d be surprised if even long term journal writers don’t find something new to apply to their own journal keeping.

The New Diary: How to Use a Journal for Self- Guidance and Expanded Creativity by Tristine Rainer is a must have book for the serious journal writer. Anaïs Nin, whose well-known published diaries span seven volumes and who collaborated with Rainer in teaching a journal writing course, wrote the preface to this book.

Rainer’s book, written in 1978, is a comprehensive discussion of journal writing spanning the gamut of topics from “diary devices” (a.k.a. journal techniques), to ways of transforming personal problems, discovering joy, doing dream work, to re-reading your journal, and expanding creativity.

The chapter “The Diary as Time Machine” examines the journal through the lens of time. Its perspective is unique among journal books and contains valuable insights.  Here’s a sample from that chapter: “The diary is the genre of the present moment.  And on the continuum of time between past and future, the present moment is the point of power from which you can influence the meaning and direction of your life.  The present moment contains all you have experienced, felt, and thought in your lifetime…. It also contains the seeds of all you are to become.  The present moment is the portal to past and future, and the diary is the vehicle that enables you to travel into both dimensions.”

The New Diary would be valuable to those looking for a thorough and scholarly review of journal writing.

A Voice of her Own: Women and the Journal-Writing Journey, by Marlene A. Schiwy is a readable, yet profound book about the journal writing process for women.  I can’t think of a better book targeted to the thinking woman who is looking for inspiration about her inner journey through the writing process. It’s a perfect book for those interested in serious journal writing—whether a novice or a veteran.

Schiwy describes the journal writing habit: “Journal writing is a process of vital reflection that plunges you below the surface of your life to its psychic roots.  When you are writing at deeper level, your life itself changes.  Then your life’s journey and the journal writing journey interweave, enriching and intensifying each other.”  And “The only thing that really counts on this journey is your willingness to cast a candid and probing eye on your own life, with the intent of going below the surface in order to contact the rich, mysterious, troubling, and always fertile subterranean layers.  That is where your life energy simmers.”

The first chapters explore the relationship between women’s lives and voices, and the journal writing process.  The next section focuses on several broad themes of journal writing: writing below the surface, journal writing as healing, reinventing oneself, dreams and other exceptional experiences, writing as part of the creative process, and more. The third section is about reading journals—those that have been published and those that people share in workshops. The appendix offers practical writing topics or questions associated with several chapters of the book, and an extensive bibliography includes hundreds of books about journal writing, creativity, feminism, published journals, and other related topics.

Write it Down, Make It Happen: Knowing What You Want –And Getting It!  by Henriette Anne Klauser, encourages you to write out your goals so that you will attain them.  Although this process at first sounds simplistic, Klauser supplies evidence that the act of writing your goals is a set-up for reaching them.  A key point, and one that is especially significant for those of us who write, is that writing down what you want helps you define your goals.

Klauser describes what happens after you write what you want—your brain begins to watch for critical signals, monitoring incoming information, and filtering it for awareness of finding what you are looking for.  She describes techniques to help boost the chances for synchronicity, that is, the convergence of events coinciding.  Klauser suggests ways to tap into your subconscious to help you know what you want.

Reading the book filled with anecdotes of people who successfully attained their goals after writing them down, is an uplifting experience.  I’d recommend this book, an enjoyable read for people who are at a crossroads, struggling to find their way in the world.

Holiday Gift Ideas and Specials for Journal Writers!

Chronicles Software Company is making the holiday season easier for you. We have several gift packages you might want to purchase for friends and family (or for you!) who enjoy writing:

  • LifeJournal Holiday Special—three CDs for $109.95 includes UPS ground shipping (See )
  • The AlphaSmart/LifeJournal bundle includes the AlphaSmart 3000 keyboard and a 1.4 LifeJournal CD for $259.00! The AlphaSmart is a rugged, lightweight full-sized keyboard, powered by 3 AA batteries, where you can comfortably write wherever and whenever the mood strikes. Then easily transfer the text to LifeJournal upon returning to your computer.  For more information go to
  • Choose from the excellent books reviewed above to find the perfect selections that would add to any journal writer’s library. The links will take you to for more information and to purchase the books.

End Quote: 

The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.”—Friedrich Nietzsche

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