Putting Your Journal to Use

Putting Your Journal to Use

My friend, Ann

I have a friend who is an author. She is presently writing a book which details a portion of her family history. She graciously allowed me to read one of her drafts. It is a fascinating look at how her ancestors migrated from Europe to America.

She did tons of research and spent untold time putting together this wonderful piece of her family history. She had boxes of old manuscripts and familial documents including journal entries to pour through. She spent long, hard hours in front of her computer capturing a journey which took months to complete. She searched (and is still searching) for appropriate photos. The truth is she worked her heart out to provide a spectacular book for her huge extended family to enjoy.

The importance of diaries and journals

You may be thinking I’m going to tell you that her work couldn’t have been completed without those original documents, including journal entries. And yeah, there is that.

But, that is not what prompted me to write this piece. Because, after all, we already know that historians, like my friend, use first hand information (letters, diaries, journals, logs, newspapers, film clips, and so forth) as often as they can.

Historians, authors and chefs

First rate historians and authors use first source documents to produce first rate historical accounts just like first rate chefs use fresh ingredients as a standard. I mean, what would you think of a chef who opened a box of macaroni and poured powdered cheese into his pot? So, yeah, like I said, there is that. But, that is not what this post is about.

What this post is about is this

My friend Ann, the author, sent me this message yesterday:

I got up early and began going over my manuscript again. I was working on the Appendix adding some bits of information about the place my ancestors lived and some of the places mentioned in the letters and diary that were made by the immigrating grandmother. They lived in Memel which today is known as Klapeda, Lithuania where they had a 12 acre estate called Eckitten. There isn’t much written about the Estate itself and my search on the internet hasn’t really added anything I didn’t already know.

So….I got out the trip journal I wrote in 2004 when 12 of us cousins made a trip to Europe and followed somewhat the route taken by our ancestral travelers. We went to Memel on the second day of our trip and as I began reading the entries I recorded in my trip journal about our bus trip about getting closer and closer to the land that once was the Estate tears began to flow as I read how we felt about arriving at that place and seeing and walking the land they once walked

The more I read the more I wept because of the emotion that surrounded me as I read those words. I knew then with no question in my mind that I had to add one more chapter–I probably will title it One Hundred And Fifty-Five Years Later and write from my journal what I read this morning.

So, now you know what I mean when I say, Putting Your Journal to Use.

And there is more

This is how Ann completed her message to me:

This is the only time I have ever been on this kind of trip. I was the only one in the group who had never been to Europe. The others had made a list of things to pack and one of the items on the list was a trip journal. How grateful I am that I not only wrote this journal but have kept it. I have two huge albums of photos of our trip, but the words I wrote that day fills my heart like no photo has done.

Just wanted to let you know what an impact keeping this journal has been.

When I responded to my friend, Ann, asking her permission to share her story here, I said:

Oh Ann,

Now, I’ve started crying too. What a marvelous story. And what a fantastic idea to add the last chapter. You know. It isn’t simply the icing on the cake, it is more. It will tie your history up with a giant red bow.

How have you put your journal to use?

Many journal keepers share testimonials about how their journal has been of use to them. Things like – it makes me feel better, I enjoy the time, I learn things about myself, my journal is a friend and so on.

Do you have an instance, like Ann, where you can tell about a concrete way in which your journal helped you?

  • Have you used it to help you write a fiction or nonfiction book like my friend Ann?
  • Have you found things about yourself you knew you needed to change and then done so?
  • Have you decided to pursue or end a relationship because of your journal writing?
  • Have you set a goal and marched on to achieve it because of your journal use?
  • Have you used your journal to overcome real or perceived obstacles?

How has your journal made a difference in your life?


As a lover of words, pens, paper and the dictionary I'm a natural for journal writing. But, I wasn't always faithful to the task and had to learn the hard way. Some trial and error as well as input from my journal writing friends helped move me along. I have a burning desire to help people who want to use and get the most out of their journals and diaries. I see journal writing as a self improvement tool and a way to avoid costly mistakes, bad relationships and my stinky-self. Finding my kindly self is part of the journey which keeps me writing. I Journalate and so can you.


  1. Thanks, Yvonne for liking my story well enough to use it in your blog. I hope that it will help someone along the way with something that is special to them.

  2. Ann, Your story is inspiring. Thank YOU for allowing us to tell your story here. We hope others will be willing to tell their stories too. We love to hear stories, like yours, about how a journal has been of use to its owner. :)


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