My mom will tell you that as soon as I began talking as a child, I never stopped.

(Singing too, apparently. Even when no one was around to listen.)

But that all changed when those angsty, confused, teenage years came. I became more socially uncomfortable; I became introverted. I preferred being quiet, feeling hidden, keeping to myself.

My voice went on lock-down.

And as those years unfolded, writing became more and more important for keeping my voice alive:

  • Where I felt anxious, writing was a chance to say without speaking.
  • Where I felt reclusive, writing was a way to be seen.
  • Where I felt boggled by my thoughts and emotions, in writing I cured them into coherence.

It wasn’t instant, or obvious.

These days, I understand what was happening. Something as simple as a personal journal became more like my own blank Bible: an opportunity to discover revelations, to stumble upon awareness of bigger truths.

As I wrote, I felt instant catharsis: the release of pent up emotion and ambling ideas within a young, untrained mind that couldn’t stop itself from thinking. The more I wrote, the more I felt that answers resided within. Writing gave me a hint that I could be a friend to myself; that whatever it meant to be “Whole” and “True” could, I suspected, be born from an inner yoking.

Fast-forward to today.

I love teaching people (from 5th graders to senior citizens) how to write more, and better, because I know firsthand how self-expression is a vessel for self-awareness, soulful experience, and spiritual growth.

You don’t need to be a “professional writer,” or dream of hitting the best-seller list to embrace a personal journal for your own wellness and reflection.

But how do you do it? Where do you begin?

I called upon a handful of friends to share how they journal, and why.

How Do You Journal? I Asked 5 Friends.

1. Sarah Kathleen Peck

Sarah is a friend and creative peer whom I’ve known since 2011. We’re writers who have collaborated on creative projects together, and we each spoke at the 2014 conference ALIVE in Berlin. Listen to an interview we did in 2015 here.

  • Who: “Currently writing the book, Startup Pregnant, and running half-year business + strategy masterminds.”
  • Are You “A Writer”? “Yes! And continue to deepen the practice.”
  • Journaling For… “I think it’s been almost 30 years. Since I could write. I’ve LOVED keeping journals.”

How Do You Journal?

“Right now, I’m a new mama. I spend my 8-to-5 hours focused on business, meditation, and exercise, so I haven’t kept up with the journaling habit as much! These days, my Moleskine journal, which is home to my endless doodles and obsessive note-taking about everything, is basically my journaling practice.”

“I keep it next to my laptop and almost always have it with me. I write in it daily — my big item for the day; and weekly — my top thing I want to get done that week. I also use it as a place to keep track of interesting people, conversations, and ideas. I take a lot of notes on the books I’m reading, too. It’s like a life journal.”

2. Willie Jackson

Willie is a friend and creative peer who, like Sarah, I connected to through blogging circles and the NYC entrepreneurship scene in 2012. He’s an inclusion strategist, CEO, has worked in book publishing and is currently a publisher. I love his perspectives on… everything. Listen to an interview we did in 2016 here.

  • Who: “Founder and publisher of Abernathy, the leading online magazine for black men.”
  • Are You “A Writer”? “Yes.”
  • Journaling For… “2 years.”

How Do You Journal?

“Every morning, I write 10 things I’m grateful for, followed by a dump of what’s on my mind to clear my head before meditating. I’ll talk through my projects and concerns and if I’m really on my game, I’ll do another check-in at the end of the day.”

3. Ben Austin

Ben is a prolific writer, speaker, and coach who I met in 2014 at ALIVE Berlin. He convinced me to switch from ballpoint pens to fountain. Listen to an interview we did together in 2016 here.

  • Who: “I’m an aligner and amplifier. I work with men and women to own their power, follow their alignment, and live tenaciously in their businesses, relationships, and life. My purpose? The complete and utter expansion of love, joy, and presence.”
  • Are You ‘A Writer’? “Yes.”
  • Journaling For… “Almost daily since 1996, so, 21 years? Wow. That’s the first time I realized it’s been TWO DECADES!”

How Do You Journal?

“At least every morning and every evening, and often throughout the day, too. I usually start with what’s awesome, what I can appreciate about anything, or what I love. Then follow ideas, brainstorming, outcomes, goals, intentions, learnings, memories, etc. Basically, it’s a free-flow after that — whatever I feel like, and whatever path is calling me, even if that’s writing about my day.”

4. Kate Marolt

Kate and I met at Camp Nerd Fitness 2015, and we liked teaching together so much that we co-hosted a retreat in Costa Rica together in 2016 and are hosting another in Peru in 2018, too. She’s a yogi, creative, and coach.

  • Who: “To remind people how magical and awesome they are by helping them understand their bodies, emotions, and energy.”
  • Are You ‘A Writer’? “Yes.”
  • Journaling For… “Since I was about 12… so… 16 years? On and off, but pretty consistently.”

How Do You Journal?

“I write at all times a day for many reasons. Sometimes my brain feels so full, and writing helps me release the pressure of so many thoughts swirling in my mind. Oftentimes, I use journaling to receive guidance and clarity: automatic writing. I take a few deep breaths, clear my energy, connect to the energy of my higher self / the universe / my business / my body (wherever I need to in that day), and ask a question to get the writing flowing.

“Often that question is a variation of What do I most need to know right now? or What message do I need to hear right now? From there, put my pen to paper, breathe deeply in my belly, and write until it feels complete.”

6. Jacob Sokol

Jacob and I jumped out of an airplane together in 2011, collaborated in NYC in 2012, then traveled together in Hawaii in 2013. He’s a streetwise philosopher and spiritualist who leads retreats and programs. We did an interview most recently in 2014 here.

  • Who: “Life Coach.”
  • Are You ‘A Writer’? “Nope.”
  • Journaling For… “7 years.”

How Do You Journal?

“I not a big journaler, but I do head to the coffee shop on Saturday mornings, and sit down with a notebook as I listen back to my weekly session with my coach.”

“Coming from a graffiti-writing background earlier in life, I love taking nuggets of wisdom that my coach drops on me and turning them into graffiti-esque notes. It slows my brain down, allows the insights to go deeper, and gives me time to reflect on how to implement the jewels. The drawing activates my right-brain creativity, and usually all types of insights pop up about how I can create more inspiration and fulfillment in my life and work.”

So, how do you journal?

Like these questions to my friends above, I’m not so interested in what “advice” you’d give to writers, or “strategies for productivity” or your “one best tip” to journal more.

I’m really curious to know how you use a journal in your own unique ways.

And, if you’re looking to begin a new journaling practice yourself, pull inspiration from my friends.

The whole point of using a journal is to use it for your own unique self-knowledge. A journal is just a tool; a space to create, explore, express, play, uncover, pull apart and piece together the stories, sensations, feelings, and intuitions of your life’s experiences.

So, try to see which styles, techniques or intentions seem to fit you, here and now.

My hope is that you’ll find more personal permission to use your journal in ways that support you, your ideas, your beliefs, and your voice as you navigate your everyday life.

Good luck, and happy writing!