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Archive for December, 2014

A Journal Writers Dilemma

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014


Yesterday I received a great email from a reader who asked me the following two questions:

Question 1

How often do you recommend journaling? I have written in journals in the past but felt my writings were becoming mundane especially if I wrote daily when living a life that – well – wasn’t very eventful!

Question 2

I created a blog about two years ago and have had some fairly successful posts. Readers have encouraged me to write more. My dilemma is similar to my journaling one – What do I write about? I am always waiting for an inspirational event but I fear losing readers in the time lapse.

It was the kind of email I would get out of bed at 4am to answer. Luckily I clocked it at a decent hour to get up and immediately wrote a response. As I wrote my response I felt a bit like the poet Rainer Marie Rilke writing in the book Letters To A Young Poet who seeks his wise counsel. I had no idea of the age of my reader but the advice is applicable to all ages.

I was so inspired by these two questions that it felt right to turn this into a blog post and share with a wider audience. This is a common challenge for many people and with the new year only hours away I’ll shed some light on how to rise above this journaling challenge in the new year. So here goes.

How often to write in your journal is debatable and not fixed

There is no right or wrong way to keep a journal. Everyone will have their own journaling relationship and my journal writing habits have varied over the years. Overall I write in my journal at least five times a week. I have been doing so for over twenty-five years and it is now a fully ingrained habit. Trust your own rhythm and flow. If it’s weekly then allow that to become your rhythm.

Benefits of Journaling

I feel undone when I don’t write in my journal. It helps me to think better, clarify my thoughts and process ideas, work and writing projects. It’s a way I manage my stress and anxiety that I recently began suffering from. There’s so much research on the benefits of journal writing just check out my book 49 Ways To Write Yourself Well

It’s packed with journal writing prompts and exercises of things to write about.

What To Write About

My journal jottings are a combination of personal feelings and emotions, reflections on experiences and activities that happen during my day or the week, shopping and to do lists and is a place where I write drafts for projects, articles you name it. I also write down quotes and poems that inspire me as I come across them in my journal and I also stick down images and what I refer to as Visual writing prompts

I write and publish loads of articles and blog posts about journaling on the internet and I love it. It’s become my niche simply by following my passion and keen interest in journaling. I’m curious about what it is you love or have a deep interest in?

Keep writing and the writing will lead you. It’s like going on a walk. You never know what you will discover. Writing is both a mystery and an oracle of revelation.

Anyway I bet you don’t lead an uneventful life. Your writing will uncover much that is hidden deep inside you and if your life really does feel uneventful writing will help you discover what would give your life more sparkle. I write a lot about the ordinary moments in life and not just about the drama’s and the heart aches.

My journal is literally a workbook of my inner and outer life all in one place. It is so much more than who people think I am and how I present and share myself. It’s a documentation of the real me where I am the author.

Different Types Of Journals

In the past I’ve kept a separate journal for my business as a writer and a coach and that worked really well. Only problem was my bag got too heavy with carrying around too many books so I retreated back to one journal! I’m finally appreciating the vast possibilities and creative digital journaling apps that are available too. I find writing in different mediums stimulating.

One Word Journal Entries

Sometimes life is way too stressful and I can only manage one word or a few sentences in my journal. These to me are still valid and valuable journal entries that I often go back to and flesh out at a later date. So much can be captured and expressed in one word.

Writing Prompts

I use writing prompts a lot as a way of coaxing my inner writer onto the page. I often feel before I start writing that I don’t have anything to say but I am always surprised and amazed by what emerges once I get going with a writing prompt.

To help bypass this challenge of what to write about I created the Journal Journey Guidebook that contains over 100 journaling prompts and quotes. You’ll always have things to write about now.

Download your free copy here


The New Year is a great time to recharge and refresh your journal writing so I created a list of New Year writing prompts to kick start your journal writing in 2015. Here’s the link

You can also listen to this podcast interview where I am a featured guest on the panel discussion on Looking Back and Looking Forward and sign up for the Journal Kit to look back and look forward in your journal for the New Year


I think it is great that you’ve been receiving positive comments on your blog. I decided to turn off the comments on my blog and focus on producing content. Again I am amazed at how many people do read what I write as they email me at my website.

To have people comment and encourage you at this early stage is a great affirmation and sign to keep producing. I don’t think we ever know what blogs will move our readers. I believe ultimately our job, as the writer is to simply show up. But I have noticed how fulfilling I find it when I finish and upload a post how that builds my self -esteem and inner confidence as a writer and this is where the juice lies. Explore these questions in your journal:

  • How do you feel about the process of writing?
  • What inspires you to write?
  • What topics do people comment on most on your blog?
  • If you were given an exclusive book deal to write a book what would you write about?
  • Set a timer for 5 minutes and make a list of every and anything you’d love to write about.

Journal Everywhere

I do take my journal everywhere so I am never lost for things to write about. On social occasions I write on notes on my iphone. I write on public transport, parked up in my car, waiting in-between appointments. Nowhere is off limits for writing. I wrote my response to you parked up in my car as I was waiting for my favourite café to open this morning. When I write in café’s it doesn’t feel like I’m working and my inner critic goes to sleep with boredom.

  • Where do you like to write?
  • Where else could you be using as a writing space?
  • What inspires you?

Nearly finished…

Recommended Journal Writing Books

I have hundreds of writing books in my book collection that have become my writing mentors. Here are a few of my recommendations

I would recommend adding two or three from the list to your personal collection that you can turn to for writing inspiration and motivation when you feel stuck. I find the books on the list so helpful.

Sexy, Sacred Journal Writing

Finally why not join me for my six-week online journal writing class you will dive into the wonderful and rich world of journal writing and getting to know yourself intimately and creatively.

I send out three lessons each week, which you can complete at your own pace. There is no hurry with this class. Just move along at your own pace.

Every Friday I share a video interview with a journal expert. Feedback from this video series has been excellent. You are free to keep the experience on the course private or you can share as you go through the course with other on our course discussion forum.

Each lesson gives you a series of prompts and activities to explore in your journal. This course will also inspire and contribute to other things you want to write

We have a 2-4-1 offer at the moment so you can also gift a friend a place on the course. The course starts on January 5th so there’s still time to sign up.

Would be really lovely to have you join us.

Hope this all helps. You seem ripe for a year of unravelling on the pages of your journal.

Sending you seasons well writing wishes.



I hope my response also inspires you with your journaling and blogging in the new year.

We’d also love your company on Sexy, Sacred Journal Writing course.

Treat yourself and a friend to a surprise new year gift in our special 2-4-1 offer of £57


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Handmade New Year Journal Prompts

Sunday, December 28th, 2014


Photo credit: Jackee Holder 2014

How about some paper therapy to take you into the new year?

Make your own hand made journal writing prompts or inspirational writing quotes to get you started and to keep going so you won’t run out of things to write about in the new year.

You will need:

Photo credit Jackee Holder 2014

  • Pile of old magazines
  • Packet of brown or coloured luggage tags (12-24  individual tags)
  • Glue stuck and pair of scissors
  • Print off the list of writing prompts or inspirational writing quotes at the bottom of these instructions.
  • Pen if you are going to hand write the journal prompts or quotes

How it works:

  • Leaf through your magazines and tear out pages with images, pictures and words that catch your attention.
  • You might also like to tear out pages with colour as these make contrasting backdrops for some of your images.
  • Bear in mind that one side of the tag will include the words of the journal prompt or quote and the other side will focus more on the image.
  • If there are images you like photocopying the original and keeping the original as a master copy.
  • Collage your luggage tags using the images and words collected from your magazines.
  • Hand write or paste each of the writing prompts or quoted on one side of the luggage tag. Use a permanent pen or marker like a Sharpie if hand writing your prompts.
  • If you are gifting your journal prompts bundle them together with string or ribbon.
  • Alternatively place each journal prompt or quote in-between the pages of a blank journal. Keep them in an envelope or a special box.

Hope you’ve noticed these also make great personalized gift tags!

Journal Quotes

  • What I really, really want?
  • Things would have been much better had I …
  • The thing that stood out from today?
  • What I didn’t do that I could have done?
  • The feelings and emotions I am noticing …
  • If there was nothing holding me back the things I would be trying out, doing or saying would be …
  • When I was a child I dreamed of becoming a …
  • 10 things I’ve learned from my life to date?
  • The things I know I’m not writing about are …
  • What I know for sure …
  • A time in my life when I was really powerful? How could I transfer my way of being from that moment into now?
  • What advice would your inner mentor give you right now?
  • Describe your year twelve months on from today.
  • The holiest memory of your life so far? What contributed to this feeling?
  • The bravest thing you have ever done …
  • If you could go back and change one thing from your past what would it be?
  • Who made you feel good this week and why?
  • How do you feel about where you live?
  • What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
  • What’s your wildest dream of achieving in this lifetime?
  • How can I bring more joy into my life?
  • What do I want more of in my life?
  • What do I want less of in my life?
  • What is my secret ambition?
  • What do I want to be remembered for at the end of my life?
  • What are my top three strengths?
  • Where do I want to be a year from now? Five years from now? Ten years from now? Twenty years from now?
  • What does my ideal living environment look like?
  • What can I do right now that would make the greatest difference in my life?
  • What am I tolerating/putting up with?
  • What childhood dreams have I been neglecting?
  • Where have I been giving my power over to others? What do I need to do in order to regain my power?

Journal Writing Inspiration Quotes

Therapeutic journal writing implies the conscious intent and deliberate attempts to write in ways, which will produce change, healing and growth.

- Kate Thompson

Ink runs in our veins and tells the world what we are like.

- Phillip Hensher

Writing remains unchanged until revisited – Gillie Bolton

By writing and honouring the contents of your journals you become the guardians, historians and creators of the self on and off the page.

- Jackee Holder

Journal writing is my new paper therapy. It is one of the most inexpensive and accessible therapies around.

- Jackee Holder

Writing changes lives and lives, are changed by writing

- Jackee Holder

Journaling is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time.

- Mina Murray (Dracula)

Letters are marvelous vehicles whether they are sendable or not.

- Gillie Bolton

For nearly 30 years I’ve had the same therapist. I’ve called on my therapist at 3am, on my wedding day, on a cold and lonely Christmas, on a Bora Bora beach. I can tell the therapist absolutely anything.

- Kathleen Adams

I couldn’t trust a therapist the way I would a piece of paper. Paper’s always there to re-read or re-write. Once you’ve said something you can’t unsay it, but with a piece of writing you can. You don’t ever have to share it. You can burn it if you want.

- Kathleen Adams

“The small interior voice that keeps urging me “ Physician heal thyself” and (that) as a result (I’m) committed to this journal, this ongoing prescription for self regeneration.”

- Gillie Bolton, p39 Write Yourself (2007, p125)

A journal siphons private fears and dramas onto the page, allowing others to focus their emotional energies on the patient. Long term it provides an invaluable reminder of human resilience. – Alexandra Johnson

Trust that the bore bending your ear on the plane or the ranting taxi driver on the ride home never kept a journal. Their egotism leaks out publicly instead. You become their journal, a live blank page, held hostage in a seat. Think of journals as a safe, private way to have it siphoned of, rethought, vented

- Alexandra Johnson

Catch the censor off guard. Write at odd moments in even odder spots. This week I filled pages while waiting for gas – full tank and oil check – (cheap spiral notebook kept in my handbag); while stick on hold index cards near the phone); in a grocery line (back of bank deposit slips)

- Alexandra Johnson

Sometimes there are tears, sobbing even, but with this comes emptying. It is really all about emptying. And then renewal. This is what we miss when we don’t empty.

- Jill Longfield

The journal serves as a place to off load anxiety, a verbal repair shop when my internal writing machine breaks down.

- Sue Grafton

As I write I create myself again and again.

- Joy Harjo

Sometimes in the writing the pens leads, returning us back to the past, in order to retrieve the things we left behind often in the form of our power or to throw new light on the experience or the situation.

- Jackee Holder

In our journals we are in search of the real self – of what really moves us, what we really think, what we really feel.

- Elizabeth O’Connor

Writing by hand forces you to slow down, and slowing down acts as a kind of compass, aligning you to what’s good and real and right and true. Only when you write what’s important to you can you really get to the truest version, the best incarnation.”

- Heather Sellers

“Clearly the writing had information for me. It had something to say to me, rather than being something I had to say, which was the case for the poems I had been working on. “

- Elaine Trevitt

Had it not been for the non-judgmental, forgiving pages of the journals and notebooks that have been home to my thoughts and reflections over the last twenty or so years I doubt I would have made it this far in my life.

- Jackee Holder

As writer/artist your journal can be a daily diary of events, but it can also be your much, your seedbed, the womb of your art. It can be the safe place for writing first draft material for experimenting, for gathering and keeping impressions and information for future work.

- Pat Schneider

If you do not record your own story, your tiny bit of the history of the human race is lost.

- Pat Schneider

Writing heals the writer and when it is brave and true it may heal the reader.

- Pat Schneider

The deeper benefits of keeping a journal is that it offers a way to be consistently aware or mindful. As Katherine Mansfield noted, her journal became a way to lose all that is superficial and acquired in me and to become a conscious, direct human being.

- Alexandra Johnson

When I look back in those journals now, I see clearly that nothing is lost. I am using words and images from those journals in my current writings.

- Sark

Download the journal prompts and quotes here


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Gift Someone A Blank Journal & Book This Christmas

Friday, December 19th, 2014


The writer Flannery O’Connor famously said, “If you survived childhood then you have plenty to write about.” Whilst this may very well be true it’s easier said than done to conjure up enough material to keep up the habit of writing a journal. Most people abandon journals with seven days of starting. This may well have been the case with the mother of writer Terry Tempest Williams who gifted her daughter her journals and asked her to promise not to look into the journals until after her death. When her daughter leafed through the three shelves of cloth bound journals every single one of the journals was blank.

The new-year is an ideal time of the year to start a new journal. But most people hesitate because they’re not sure how or where to start, what to should write about and how to keep going.

Over 26 years of writing a journal what has kept me going and got me back on track when I have fallen off the wagon were the book mentors in my collections of books on journaling and creative writing. These are books steeped in the art of journaling or creative writing. I have never felt alone on the journey of journaling as one or more of these books have always been close to hand to dip into for inspiration, ideas and motivation to stay on the page.

With proven physical, psychological and emotional benefits of journal writing being evidenced significantly in recent research giving a gift of a blank journal makes holistic sense. Especially if you want to give someone a gift with personal meaning then a blank journal or notebook with one of my recommended journal writing books from the list below as a companion makes perfect sense.

Starting from left to right:

A Writers Book Of Days, Judy Reeves

Whoever receives this as a gift won’t ever be stuck for something to write about. Reeves, ploughs you with hundreds of writing prompts to keep you going for the year. I love all the quotes about the idiosyncrasies of writers and how they write. The layout is spacious with text that’s easy to read.

Saved By A Poem, Kim Rosen

If you want some fresh or new ideas for writing in your journal then you won’t be disappointed with Saved By A Poem. It’s all about the heart and soul of poetry and how to use a poem to learn about yourself and life. Reading this book inspired me to start learning poems again off by heart. It brings home how poems can connects us to those emotions and feelings we may have difficulty in expressing. This one is ideal for teenagers, someone facing adversity or when you’re feeling adrift in your life or career. There’s a CD that comes with the book of all the featured poems.

Poem Crazy, Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge

I never tire of reading Poem Crazy. Each essay is a deep dive into the wonderful mysterious force of nature that poetry bestows upon us. But it’s not airy-fairy text as each essay features real life situations from the authors work as a poetry teacher. In fact it’s very moving when you realise how deeply poetry can touch and move people and groups whom others have often given up on. This is a playful, fun book, which is also full of surprises. I think reading an essay a day from Poem Crazy will get you to the page and keep you there. The prompts are not what you would expect which keeps the whole process stimulating. I’ve read my copy several times over now and I’m never bored by the content. This one is great gift for a teenager who maybe finding it hard to vocalize experiences and feelings.

Fruitflesh, Gayle Brandeis

The succulent pomegranate on the front of this book was what originally drew me to buying it. But I was bowled away by the richness and juicy writing prompts that focus on writing prompts inspired to get women writing about their bodies. Brandeis writing prompts are refreshingly appetising, savoury and short but yet deep and reflective. Whether you write or not every woman should have a copy of Fruitflesh. Unfortunately someone in marketing made a startling choice and changed the book cover design which I am sure has had an impact on sales of the book.

A Walk Between Heaven and Earth, Burghild Nina Holzer

Don’t be fooled by the slimness of this book. It’s a years worth of journaling by creative writing teacher Burghild Holzer. This is a great companion for someone new to journaling. Holzer shares a year of writing in her journal around the time of her brother dying. It’s an ideal companion to a journal for someone who maybe experiencing grief or loss.

The Sound of Paper, Julia Cameron

I have read every non-fiction book by Julia Cameron and I like them all but the Sound of Paper is one of my favourites. I love the image on the cover and the chunky feel of the book. The essays are beautifully crafted using metaphors of the earth to illustrate the contours of the writing life. I found the essays in The Sound Of Paper meditative and they really inspired me to write more sensually and connect to the senses in my writing.

49 Ways To Write Yourself Well, Jackee Holder

It’s an easy to read illustrated guide to journaling and therapeutic writing. It helps you get started with journaling and offers loads of journal writing prompts. It includes writing exercises to deal with everyday life challenges as well as ideas for becoming a better writer.

Soul Between The Lines, Dorothy Randall Gray

This is one of my favourites. The book is well structured and crafted and the author comes up with some gems for writing a journal and for developing writing practice in your journals. I like the practices of finding “seeds” and the “food for thoughts” in early writing drafts. Come on publishers you need to bring this book back into print. You can still find second hand copies on line.

Writing As A Way Of Healing, Louise de Salvo

This book is a more serious take on the expressive and therapeutic benefits of journal writing and is best suited for those needing to work with emotional and psychological material. It is evidenced based so draws on research and case studies. I like this one a lot and have returned to it many times as research for articles and writing projects. This is a great writing book to gift to a friend or family member who works in the caring or helping professions or someone who is going through a difficult time.

One Continuous Mistake, Gail Sher

This is another slim volume but not to be underestimated. Sher an ordained Buddhist minister has pulled together a volume of Zen like essays on the writing habit. A strong message throughout the book is the reminder that we can learn a great deal from our mistakes. I have been sharing her four noble truths for years with writers on writing retreats and they really resonate with people. This book is both spiritual and sacred. I wrote loads of quotes from this one and kept stopping to follow up references.

Still Writing, Dani Shapiro

This is a new edition to my collection which I read earlier this year and spent most of the time either laughing out loud or nodding my head in agreement. If you know someone who is struggling with believing in themselves as a writer than Shapiro’s down to earth story telling about becoming a writer will kick you up the butt and hopefully onto the page. This book teaches you about writing and life. I loved it, tweeted it and she conversed with me on Twitter. Not bad for a best selling author who’s been featured on Super Soul Sundays with Oprah.

Page By Page, Heather Sellers

I couldn’t believe my luck when I stumbled across Page by Page. Newly in print in 2009 I felt like I had found a new friend. This is a hearty book. It won’t allow you to get off the page. It breaks down the writing process in an easy to follow, friendly way that you leaves you not feeling intimidated by the writing process, I promise you. It’s one of those guides that you know and feel it through the writing that the author has walked her talk. Heather is an experienced writing teacher to writers and it shows. Great book gift for someone who wants to write but hasn’t started.

Deep Writing, Eric Maisel

I really like Eric’s work and his books are always well researched and thought through. Deep writing should get a lot more attention than I think it does. It’s great for those who want to take their writing more seriously and beyond the pages of the journal or seasoned writers who might be feeling stuck. But equally it’s a great guide and companion for deepening into your own journal writing and writing well about the things that are meaningful in life.


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