LifeJournal™ Newsletter – September 2012

 Why do you keep a journal? If you are like me, the reasons are many and change throughout my life. Here are a few common reasons to journal, along with insights about about how you might journal more effectively: 

  • To Better See the Shape of One’s Life Memoirs by singer songwriter Neil Young and writer Salman Rushdie have just been released. Most of us haven’t lived the large, amplified life that these two men have, but as memoirist Barbara Graham reminds us, “Quiet stories can have as much power and resonance as big-bang stories.”  Read the article below Writing Your Family Memoir: Start with One Story and then listen to Barbara offer some advice on beginning your memoir.
  • For Emotional Balance  I’d bet that at some point you ranted and raved in your journal to express some overwhelming emotions in a private, contained space.  Journaling can be soothing, and when you read psychologist’s Beth Jacobs’ article below, Writing, Brains and Emotions: Why They All Work Together you’ll find out why. Then listen to Beth offer an idea to balance your emotions even more effectively.
  • For Better Health In the 1980s social psychologist Dr. James Pennebaker forever changed the journal writing world. He discovered that writing about deeply meaningful topics generally improved writers’ health. During the last 30 years, many studies backed up and built upon this ground-breaking discovery.  John Evans has worked with Dr. Pennebaker to create workshops that help people write to heal. Learn more about John Evans’ online class described below and then listen to his thoughts about writing and wellness. 

Conversely, now consider the reasons why we stop keeping a journal, or feel reluctant to write. What’s the reason that people resist writing?  Surprisingly, the almost invisible yet startlingly obvious (once it’s labeled) 
reason is fear. Writer’s anxiety is disguised in a thousand outfits ranging from not having the time, to being distracted, to suffering from writer’s block, to not being in the right mood.  This anxiety can be incredibly powerful  in preventing us from writing to our fullest abilities. Author, editor, and writing coach Mark Matousek has some keen insights about the range of writing anxiety and what to do about it, which he’ll discuss in his 90 minute teleseminar and six week online class. 

Whatever your reasons to keep (or reluctantly keep) a journal,  learn how to make your journal writing even more powerful, more productive, and more meaningful. 


Ruth Folit–LifeJournal Software–The International Association for Journal Writing — click the LIKE button!
Have a question?  Email me at, or call toll free 877-456-8762


Write Your Family Memoir: Start with One Story
by Ruth Folit 

Writing your family memoir is like dusting for fingerprints. 

You leave behind almost invisible fingerprints when you touch anything—refrigerator door handles, light switches, drinking glasses. Detectives know how to carefully coat these unseen marks with a fine powder and then use a camel hair brush to gently remove the excess powder so the fingerprints appear. 


Families powerfully imprint each of us early in life in myriad of unique ways, leaving their marks forever.  But like fingerprints, they are often nearly impossible to see clearly—especially if we are the ones upon whom the marks have been made. 

So how to become detectives and discern in what ways our families have left their almost imperceptible imprints? What is the comparable fingerprint-revealing dusting powder that solves our own mysteries? During the process of writing even one story of your family memoir, subtle family dynamics suddenly appear.  One memoirist likens the process of writing one part of her family memoir to watching a photograph as it’s developing in a chemical bath. The picture becomes clearer and clearer as you work on it.  

Memoir often flows from journal writing, but the difference is that journal writers usually write about each day as it is happening. Memoir writers looks back at their journey with fresh eyes, with a perspective that develops by examining the past, by remembering family stories. Usually not written directly from journal entries themselves, memoir is a way to go back in time, to really examine, digest, sort out and make sense of your life. Memoir turns daily disparate police reports into the detective story with the mystery solved. While writing a memoir, new clues surface, the process shifts and sharpens your understanding and the picture becomes clearer and more detailed.

Barbara Graham is a detective—um…rather, memoirist who recently edited and wrote a piece in the New York Times bestseller book, Eye of My Heart.  She knows about memoir writing and about learning about herself in the process. Click here to listen to Barbara discuss writing your family memoir.

Writing, Brains, and Emotions: Why They All Work Together
by Psychologist Dr. Beth Jacobs

Expressive writing helps people emotionally.  As a journaler and a therapist, I’ve witnessed this reality in many contexts and thanks to the line of research started by James Pennebaker, this fact is now documented in the terms of empirical science.  The definitive statement about why this is true or exactly how it works will never be made because the ways writing about important experiences helps people emotionally are as varied as the people themselves.  But modern brain science does provide some information to structure and expand our awareness of writing’s benefits.  

If we understand some about how the brain processes emotion, we see a concrete and clear logic behind writing as a tool of emotion management. We know now that emotions are much more than conscious processes; that they are states of being composed of physiological reactions and deeply personal meaning. 

In a very simplified way, an emotion starts with an emotional stimulus being received by a sense organ.  This information is relayed to the limbic system, which is the brain’s very domineering emotional processing area.  It is located centrally in the brain, connects to most other brain areas and many body parts and regulates chemicals that affect how the entire brain operates.  The limbic system relays information between the deeper and evolutionarily older parts of the brain that regulate arousal, attention, and motivation, and the limbic system also relays information to the more relatively recent neocortex that synthesizes information, evaluates, judges, and makes decisions. 

Basically, when we count to ten to avoid losing our temper, we are engaging neocortex structures to try to override the limbic system.  This works really well for about ten seconds.

Real modification of the emotional system takes more integration, and this is what writing can provide. Writing unifies brain processes by focusing motor, memory, emotional and planful cognitive circuits in one act.  Writing can actually develop complex neuronal connections that override emotional reactivity and writing can boost positive emotional states.  Writing is not the only tool, but a particularly apt one for deeply weaving the powerful information of the limbic structures into the broader processing capabilities of the conscious brain.

While you’re writing, the fine points of brain anatomy might not feel terribly relevant.  But the engrossed, releasing and relieving qualities of your writing experience may be based on the ways that your brain processes collaborate to make that writing happen.

Listen to Beth Jacobs talk about how to use one journaling technique to better manage your emotions.


Journaling classes guide you to apply these and other ideas to your journal writing.  You’ll get one-on-one attention and benefit from others in your group. Note the different starting dates for classes, as we try to accommodate for different schedules. These classes are open to you and useful whether or not you use LifeJournal.  Click on the links below to learn about the different classes, the faculty, and discover links to more detailed information. 

Writing To Heal Transform Your Health: Write to Heal, with John Evans Starts September 25, six weeks, online flex schedule class.
Ready to become more healthy?  Join John in as he gently and compassionately guides you through writing exercises which are designed to transform your health.
Click here to listen to John discuss writing and health.
Barbara_Graham1 Writing your Family Memoir: Start with One Story, with author and memoirist Barbara Graham
Starts September 25,  six weeks, online flex schedule class.
Memoir writing is a way to make meaning of your life. Not sure where to begin? Start here.
Click here to listen to Barbara Graham talk about writing your family memoir.
MarkMatousek How to Handle Writing Anxiety: From Mere Reluctance to Ongoing Panic, with author Mark Matousek
Either Tuesday, October 2 OR Wednesday, October 3.
A 90-minute teleseminar you listen to live (with questions you can ask and Mark will answer) on either day. Mark is articulate, brilliant, and filled with practical knowledge about handling the (often unnamed) anxiety about writing.
BethJacobs_big (150 x 149) Writing for Emotional Balance: Build your Emotional Skills with psychologist Beth Jacobs
Starts October 2,  six weeks, online flex schedule class.  This class for is anyone who wants to learn through writing how to manage their emotions better–whether they are overwhelmed by their emotions, or if they aren’t in touch with them.  Based upon the work Beth has done with hundreds of her clients, your assignments will be exercises which teach you how to link up your emotional experiences to the rest of your brain function. 
Listen to Beth Jacobs talk about one journaling technique to better manage your emotions.
Mark_Matousek_smaller Writing Through Your Fear: Persistent Pursuit of Your Prose with author Mark Matousek
Starts October 16, six weeks, online flex schedule class.
This is a course for writers of all levels determined to free themselves of the fear of writing – and discover their authentic writer’s voice – using a method of self-inquiry that has helped thousands of students around the country to transcend their resistance to the blank page


 Here’s information about the monthly  IAJW telechat and the monthly free Introduction to LifeJournal webinar.

MarleneSchiwy IAJW TELECHAT: Marlene Schiwy , author of A Voice of Her Own, will discuss
Speech of My Soul: Journal Writing, Dreams, and Active Imagination
onThursday, October 17. 7 PM Eastern/4 PM Pacific.   

Open only to IAJW members, who attend the telechat at no cost. 
Our dreams are messages from our innermost being. They speak to us through images that carry the deepest meaning of our lives, and yet too often we ignore or discount them because we don’t know how to mine their treasures.Learn more and sign up! (Want to learn more about the International Association for Journal Writing?  Come visit!)

End Quotes:

“Writing a memoir allows you to focus on the shape of your life’s path and learn from its encoded wisdom… You may also have the experience of perceiving your own life as a writer would, of seeing your self as the hero for you own story and appreciating the inherent mystery, complexity, and coherence of your particular, once in all time, journey.”  –Tristine Rainer

The danger lies in refusing to face the fear, in not daring to come to grips with it. If you fail anywhere along the line, it will take away your confidence. You must make yourself succeed every time. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”–Eleanor Roosevelt


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