Writing: The Magic Of Writing Things Down

Journaling: The Magic Of Writing Things Down

In many of our posts, we refer to a Life Coaching Journal or Diary. Having and using a journal really makes a difference.
I beg you (yes I do!) to get into the habit of writing things down more… without falling into its trap (yes, there is one)…

Writing Things Down To Gain Clarity

One of the first things you need to do when you start on a Life Coaching or Transformation journey is simple yet extremely important: get yourself a notebook and get into the habit of using it to record your goals, write down your thoughts, your progress, the results of your exercises.


Because the simple act of writing down our thoughts forces us to give words to our ideas and feelings. Having to choose the right words to convey our thoughts is going to help focus on what’s important, what’s relevant, what conveys not just the ideas but the feelings we have.

The other extraordinary consequence is that, once our thoughts are committed to paper, they’re no longer just thoughts, no longer just ideas in our head. They’re now there, in black and white, for us to see. We cannot ignore them any longer.

A Life Coaching Journal is the perfect companion on a transformation and personal growth journey.

Writing Things Down To Help You Reflect

If you’ve read some of my Life Coaching articles, you know that I’m a fan of diaries (stress diary, food diary, time diary,…). Because a diary is a true reflection of what we do, it helps pinpoint the source of our issues (unless we lie when we record what we do, that is,… but that wouldn’t be much help now, would it?).

But a notebook can be used for so much more than just a week’s diary.

In a notebook, we can record our failures and reflect on our mistakes and on what we’ve learned from them. It might help us prevent them in the future.

We can record our successes and reflect on the skills we’ve gained, on things we’ve done right. It helps boost our self-confidence.

We can also simply record what’s good about our life. It’s easy to get bogged down in the annoying little problems we’re faced with daily but remembering and writing down what’s great about our life helps us gain perspective on our life. It’s a good way to keep stress at bay.

There are many other ways we can use a journal. We can record our ideas, our discoveries, our dreams, what we read, what we learn, what makes us think, the quotes we like. We can give way to our creative side with an art journal. We can record important moments of our life (a travel, a new experience).

When we said goodbye to the corporate world and moved to the countryside, for us it was a 1 year experiment to try a more modest life. We wanted to capture the experience so we wrote a kind of diary, recording our thoughts, feelings and discoveries every week. The end result is a book that we look back on very fondly. What the end result doesn’t tell you is how much our experience was enriched in the process by taking note of our experience through writing.

On top of being the perfect companion on our journey, a journal can help us improve our writing, develop our creative side (scrapbook, art journal), develop our ideas. It helps us learn who we are.

“One of the greatest moments in anybody’s developing experience is
when he no longer tries to hide from himself but determines to get acquainted with himself as he really is”
Norman Vincent Peale

Reflect. Don’t Ruminate!

Now we come to the pitfall of journaling: Journaling can have a terrible effect on people prone to brooding on their failures.

I’ll give you an interesting example I’ve just read about. A professor of psychology at the University of Arizona decided to conduct some research to find out just how much recording their feelings can help people going through a divorce. To test it properly, she had another group of people also holding a diary but they were specifically asked not to talk about their feelings.

Can you guess who actually felt better in the end?

Yep, the ones who did not record their feelings and emotions. Although it wasn’t what the professor had set out to prove, it does seem quite logical. If you constantly ruminate past negative experience, you do not learn from your mistakes, you do not forgive and forget, you do not move on.

A top tip if you’re a keen ruminator:

Write down your negative thoughts and emotions on a piece of paper (not your journal), scrunch it up and throw it in the bin. The act of getting rid of that paper will help you get rid of those negative thoughts. Instant mood lifter!

Note: If this describes you in any way, you may also want to check out our article on Limiting Beliefs which shows you how to turn negative self-talk into positive self-belief.

Final Thoughts

So, there’s plenty to gain from writing things down as long as we don’t ruminate.

Some people like to write every day but you don’t need to. The key thing is to remember to write things down when it really matters to you.

This can either turn into a life long habit or can have a natural lifespan which will be the time of your journey – be it a travel or an emotional, transformation and growth journey.

When you write things down, in whatever form, from time to time, take a moment to read what you’ve written back. Notice how it’s evolved, what makes you smile when you re-read it. Notice how sometimes you might not have been completely truthful or you might have omitted some things. These little ‘mistakes’ will actually give you some clues about yourself.

In many ways though, you will notice just how much writing those things down has helped you.

“What an odd thing a diary is:
the things you omit are more important than those you put in”

Simone de Beauvoir


Writing: The Magic Of Writing Things Down — 12 Comments

  1. Love the reminder about Ruminating thanks. I keep a type of journal while online as that’s when Ideas strike for me. To help a bit with my short term memory I write it down it doesn’t become just a memory.

  2. Great points. Writing something down is just different from anything else. In fact, I have an interesting story about this. I was cleaning up the house recently and I found a notepad. In it was a list of things I wanted to accomplish with the wife after we got married. We had forgotten it, but now that it’s been almost two years we thought we’d check out what we had written down. It was great to see that most of the items were completed. It was a great feeling to have. And we wouldn’t have had that without writing them down – we wouldn’t have found it later otherwise.

    • Hi Steve,
      Love your story. Must have been a really satisfying feeling to see you’d almost done it all. I wonder if you’ve found in your list some items that do not seem so important 2 years later and if you’ve added new ones. That’s the beauty of these things… we grow and change and they’re a snapshot of who we were at a certain time.
      Makes me want to write a bucket list too!
      Take care

  3. Yes, Isabelle!

    You’ve struck at the cords of my heart with this post. There truly is magic in writing things down. Pen to paper alerts the brain to assist in what’s important in one’s life.

    And what you’ve said about ruminating is spot on. We recommend that journal writers who want to learn something new (for instance, learning to play an instrument) or build on a skill (perhaps improving performance in golf) use their journals each time they practice or participate with the explicit instruction of:

    1)Write about what you did well.
    2)Write about what you can do to improve.

    Notice that both 1 and 2 are framed from a positive view point. Dwelling on what you did wrong is a surefire way to sabotage your efforts.

    • Hi Yvonne,
      I knew you’d like this article 😉
      I really like the idea of learning journals too. I used one when I took my pottery class recently. It’s full of tips and ideas of things to do next. I also record what I do, the techniques and glazes I use, the results I get (what works well or not so well, what to try next). A gold mine!
      Like you say, it’s positive and can work for many other activities.
      Take care

  4. I started a blog recently about creativity, specifically to bring it to the forefront of my mind as I never make time for the stuff I love to do. It’s worked a treat. The act of having to write about it makes me make time.
    I also decided to start a diary this year again after a long absence (a decade) but because I’d been finding it difficult to keep up journaling in the recent past I called the journal ‘Therapy’. I use it to write down when I feel emotions strongly. It helps put things in perspective and, I am certain, saves my family from a lot of grumpiness on my behalf. 🙂

    • Hi Fiona,
      That’s a great example of making journaling work for you. Some people don’t like the word ‘journaling’ and I love the fact you’ve called it ‘Therapy’. Straight away, it becomes a very useful tool to you. Thanks for sharing.
      Best wishes

  5. For me, journaling doesn’t stick. Maybe it is mental hang up on the term. I find writing things out to be very helpful, especially brainstorming or lists. But when I try for a narrative, if not in a blog post or a letter, nothing comes. If I force it, and I can’t seem to make myself do that for long. Maybe it is saving me from ruminating!

    I must admit, though, that I use my sent emails in much the same way that others use journaling. Periodically I go back and reread what I sent to friends years ago. It is amazing to see how I have matured over the years. Some times I don’t even recognize the writer at all.

    I suppose it is a rose by another name.

    • Hi Tammy,
      I do that too… emails to friends as a snapshot of moments, feelings and events in the past. That’s a good point, we should not force ourselves but just write things down in the format, context and purpose that is useful to us and comes naturally.
      Best wishes

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