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The Joy of Journaling

Linda Joy Myers
journalsThink about the delicious feeling of holding a brand new journal and a new pen to go with it as you sit down to write. As you hold it, you imagine what you are going to write, you feel the invitation of the paper and the pen. Some people are journaling online now too, which has a certain appeal to, a safe place complete with locked password. But for many of us, there is something seductive and wonderful about cracking up that new journal. Whatever your method, in your journal you’re inviting the words lead you to new places within yourself as you explore your thoughts, feelings, and your life story.  What you see in the photo is my journals from 40 years ago!

Most of the writers I work with come to memoir writing from having journaled for many years. I remember how some women in my workshops talk about the boxes of journals they’ve hidden in their closets. One woman says, “What will I do if my children find them. Should I shred them now?”
Another one answers, “I want to save my journals so I can draw upon them as I write my memoir.”
Yes, therein lies the dilemma that both journalers and memoir writers have in common: “How do I feel about other people reading my private thoughts and feelings?”

But there is an important difference—we write our journal in an atmosphere of privacy, not for other people to read. In a journal, we write freely, exploring our psyches, digging deep to try to understand ourselves more, seeking peace, transformation, resolution. Sometimes we need to rant, we need to make lists of what we love or hate, we need to write letters that we don’t send, we need to express anger, fear, joy, sorrow, ecstasy, hope. We write to find out what we think, inviting the flow of words to emerge from us in whatever way they wish.

To write a memoir, we need to invite that same kind of free writing at times, to get the juices flowing, but a memoir is written ultimately to be shared with readers. We need to shape our stories, thoughts, and narration so readers can see, hear and feel the world we create on the page. We draw upon fictional tools of description, scenes, character development and sensual details to bring the reader close to our experiences. As memoir writers, we need to learn these tools for creating that world and keep the reader in it. John Gardner calls it “the fictive dream” in his book The Art of Fiction—and the same idea applies to memoir, which reads like a novel—only everything is true!

I advise all my students of memoir writing to dig back into journal writing to keep the flow going, to explore their memories without being self-conscious of the structure and style. In the early stages, your memoir is being assembled, dreamed, quilted together and you need to allow that process to unfold.

This week at the National Association of Memoir Writers member teleseminar, we’re so pleased to speak with a journaling expert Dr. Jackie Swensen. She is going to talk about self-discovery through memoir writing, and bring her considerable skills as a therapist and avid journaler to all of us. Welcome Jackie!

August Member Teleseminar

“What Does Self-discovery Have to do With Memoir Writing?” Member Teleseminar with Jackie Swensen

Friday – August 22, 2014 11 AM PDT/2 PM EDT


Many memoir writers come to their stories from having journaled much of their lives, so we are pleased to offer an expert on journaling and healing to present this August member teleseminar, Jackie Swensen.

Memoir writing requires a host of narrative skills to transform a person’s memories into something that appeals to a wide audience. For example, a sharp eye for detail, a sensitivity to nuances and subtleties of expression, and the kind of empathy that can make even flawed characters sympathetic. Memoir writers also need tenacity to keep digging for truth, especially when faced with a tangled web of conflicting stories. To accomplish that feat requires a high level of self-knowledge.

Society doesn’t really encourage self-reflection and most Americans think of themselves as doers, people of action. So action often trumps reflection. But memoir writers must reflect on a subject purposefully to understand the mysteries of human behavior. In over 20 years as a psychoanalyst, I’ve found journaling to be an effective tool for reflection and self-discovery, and for gaining insights into others. Journaling has proven to be a valuable resource for many of my clients, and so I created Journal to Health™ in order to introduce it to a wider audience. Continue reading…


To learn more about member benefits at the National Association of Memoir Writers or to become a member so you can join the discussion, please click here.

Contest Announcement 

Serendipity Literary Agency and She Writes Press have just teamed up to host their first Memoir Discovery Competition. The Grand Prize Winner will receive a publishing deal with She Writes Press, which will include the full services of the She Writes Press Publishing Package (a $3900 value); the Top Five Entrants (including the Grand Prize winner) will receive a 15-minute, one-on-one consultation session with Regina Brooks, one of New York’s premier literary agents.


Click here to learn more.

There are a Few Spaces left at our Retreat!


There is still time, Sign up now for your bonuses and to reserve your place in the first annual National Association of Memoir Writers Retreat—Write Your Memoir Now!

In an intimate setting on the coast of Connecticut during the fall season, join Linda Joy Myers, Judy Mandel, and Jerry Waxler for this special in-depth weekend on memoir writing.
Learn how to begin, create a structure, wrestle with truth and family, and find your themes, among other topics that will be covered that weekend.

Learn more here!


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