How boring would it be if all you did for your journal was write the date and what you did for that day? The following are a few writing styles that you may choose (on different occasions) to help express your thoughts:
Free writing (stream of consciousness writing). Write anything and everything that comes to mind. You do not need to follow any logi¬cal formation of thoughts. You do not need to worry if grammar, spelling, or even the ideas are acceptable. Do not do anything that would interrupt the flow of thoughts from your mind to the paper.
Do not censor any thoughts. Do not concern yourself with any associations you would make. Some days, free writing will seem like an exercise in insanity, since nothing makes sense. Other days, the thoughts and ideas revealed by free writing can be astonishing.
Free writing works best if you set a time limit of ten to thirty minutes. When you reread these pages, do not edit your work, just read them and enjoy the interesting way your mind works and how thoughts can flow from your creative center.
This is a wonderful technique to remove random thoughts from your mind and focus yourself on other tasks.
Focused free writing: Focused free writing is when you start with a topic. Write down the topic at the beginning of the page. Then write down any and every association or thought that comes to mind. Soon you can take a topic without any ideas associated with it and make myriad lists, comments, and ideas. As with free writing, set a time limit and do not censor your thoughts or ideas—keep the pen moving across the page.
Brainstorming: This is a two-step process. First, write a topic at the top of the page. Make lists of all the random ideas associated with the topic. The ideas can be words, phrases, or sentences. When you have a large quantity of ideas, stop. The second step is to orga¬nize those ideas into groups. This technique helps you to see how various ideas fit together under one topic. If you group your ideas and have a list with only one or two ideas in it, brainstorm that list. This is a good way to make associations and find smaller topics under a larger heading.
Journalist questions: Who? What? When? Why? Where? How? These questions force you to approach a topic from multiple perspectives. This is a good way to approach ideas you do not under-stand or to sort out problems in emotional perspective entries. Write down your topic or problem at the top of the page. Then ask each question in turn about your topic. Write down your response. Soon, you will have a logical organization of thoughts about your topic.
Mapping (Webbing, Clustering): This is a visual way of brain-storming. Write down your topic in the middle of the paper and circle it. Then draw lines from the main topic to other circles and write in each major sub-topic of the original topic. With each thought, connect it to the original topic, a sub-topic, or a sub-sub- topic. Continue branching off your thoughts until you run out of ideas. This is a great way to visualize and organize thoughts similar to a flow chart and lets you see how things are connected.
Lists: This is a quick and easy way to organize thoughts. Like a shopping list, make lists of what you are happy or upset about, things you need to do, and so forth. In a short amount of time, you can have several lists of basic ideas. This is a quick way of catching up your journal writing if you have fallen behind, or an easy way to organize many thoughts before you start detail writing each one.
Prompts: These are words, quotes, or ideas that help to jump-start the imagination. If you have several favorite quotes, questions that are important to you, or ideas that you want to mull over at a later date, keep them together in a notebook or a computer file—what¬ever organization method you enjoy. When you cannot think of anything to write, look over your prompts and see what sparks your imagination. Another technique is to open the dictionary, encyclopedia, or thesaurus to a random page and write about the first thing you see on that page.
Perceived world: This is the most common journal-writing technique. Written from your point of view, it is how you perceive the world and events around you. Often called descriptive writing, it is putting your descriptions of events, people, and places into your journal.
Reflective writing: When you analyze the past, whether it is your journal, past events, or past thoughts, and then commit them to paper, this is reflective writing. The distance between the past and the present lends additional insight into the issue and gives clarity of sight to an event not easily interpreted.
Altered point of view: This is writing from the point of view of another person. This can often give insight into another person’s emotions or decision-making. Each of us takes our own path through life, and when we walk in the shoes of another person, we can gain clarity of why a person took a different path through life.
Dialogue writing: This form of writing is an imaginary conversation between you and another person. This is a difficult method of writing. Not only must you understand your own words and why you said them, but you must also be true to the person you are speaking with, and put the proper words into their mouths (not what you want them to say). Often, you can gain insight into the actions of others as you see how your words prompt their response, or vice versa.
Dialogue is a way of interacting with others, and this is a safe method for having a private conversation or telling someone what you really think, wished, or did, without the pain or the knowledge of the other person knowing that the conversation ever took place on paper.
Unsent letter writing: Write an honest letter telling someone what you think, why an event occurred, an apology, or an explanation, but never send it. The recipient of the letter is your journal. The emotions of the letter are between you and the one who will never read your thoughts and feelings. Writing a letter adds credence to an event. This is a way of communicating with a lost friend, deceased person, or a person you never met.