Do You Keep a Journal?

I have rediscovered my love for journaling again and it’s all thanks to Alexandra Johnson’s book Leaving a Trace: The Art of Transforming a Life into Stories! I love this book because it covers a number of journal writing ideas such as how to start a journal, what to do when you experience writer’s block, and the art of personal storytelling.

It’s an older book that I checked out from the library a few weeks ago. I was walking through the nonfiction section browsing the classic literature books when a display case featuring books on various writing topics caught my eye. It was perfect timing because I had been wanting to read more literature on how to improve my writing skills. 

journal writing ideas

As I skimmed through the book titles, Johnson’s journaling book stood out to me the most. “The art of transforming a life into stories,” I quietly read aloud to myself. “I think this might be the very thing I need to help me overcome my writer’s anxiety!”

I immediately opened the book and started reading the introduction. After reading the first page, I was immediately hooked on the book!

Since reading Leaving a Trace, I have written consistently in my journal for a month now. Johnson’s book has given me a new outlook on journal writing. I have discovered new, creative ways to document my personal life and how to be a storyteller. I have also learned how to work through my writer’s block, or as Johnson calls it: the Internal Censor

journal writing ideas


“The Censor. It’s that tight muscle of perfectionism. That dark, icy whisper. That confidence thief. I’ve never met a person who didn’t believe theirs was the most demanding on the planet.”

Alexandra Johnson, Leaving a Trace: The Art of Transforming a Life into Stories

When it comes to writing, my Censor is a strong presence. I absolutely hate it! My Censor has caused me to neglect my journal writing for long periods of time. I have felt a great deal of self-doubt about my writing (including blog writing) because of my Censor, but after reading Leaving a Trace, I have learned a few ways to face my Censor. 

Here are a few tips Johnson suggests: 

  • At least twice a week, write in a different place. 
  • Write the Censor a letter.
  • Write at odd moments to catch the Censor off guard.
  • Do whatever promotes speed so the hand works faster than the carping voices.
journal writing ideas

“Journals allow one to reflect, to step outside oneself. They create a third space, an invaluable pause between the conscious and unconscious self.” Alexandra Johnson, Leaving a Trace.

Alexandra Johnson, Leaving a Trace: The Art of Transforming a Life into Stories

I remember keeping a journal as early as the age of 16, detailing my teenage experiences in high school, bad break-ups, and my struggles with overcoming shyness (I was painfully shy when I was a teenager).

Throughout my adult life, I have kept journals on life in college, more disastrous relationships, getting through depression, and my search for faith. 

I even kept journals documenting all six of my pregnancies. Some of the experiences I chronicled were terribly painful: life as a young single mother (years before I met my husband) and experiencing my first miscarriage at age 36. 

journal writing ideas
I also keep a prayer journal to keep track of prayer requests and answered prayers.

I’m amazed that I found the courage to write about my miscarriage because it was a very painful and traumatic experience for me. I revisited these entries a few days ago. In one of the journal entries, I had drawn a sketch of a pregnant body from the stomach down. I had written in all caps “EMPTY” and used a black pen to color around the words and fill the spaces. 

At the time, I was just sketching how I was feeling. Three years later, when I look at the image I made, I can see the pain I was feeling at that moment. I never thought a simple sketch I created would have such a profound meaning to me.

journal writing ideas


Another reason I enjoy journaling is because it is a form of therapy for me. It helps me find clarity and release negative feelings. My journal is my safe space and I feel free when I write in it. I can share any and everything that is on my mind. I can document whatever I want: hopes, dreams, fears, worries, anger, sadness, and joy. 

Sometimes I write for 10 minutes. Sometimes I get lost in my journal and the next thing I know, I’ve been writing for a good hour. Sometimes I jot down my to-do lists, financial budgets, gift lists, home decor ideas, and future goals. 

Now that I’m almost 40, I think one of the big reasons why I keep a journal is for my children. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can pass on my journals to my children? It be wonderful if the kids had my journals to read about my life, thoughts, feelings, and other personal stories?

journal writing ideas
journal writing ideas
I bought this adorable Frida journal at Eastern Market’s Sunday Market over the summer.

Maybe I could even start a separate journal leaving them “Mom’s Wise Words” on advice for getting through particular life situations, like what to do when you’re trying to console your crying baby or how to handle a disagreement with a loved one. I want my kids to know my story and I think journaling is a perfect way to share my life experiences with them. 

“The deeper benefit of keeping a journal is that it offers a way to be consistently aware or mindful.”

Alexandra Johnson, Leaving a Trace: The Art of Transforming a Life into Stories
journal writing ideas
My journal is my safe space and I feel free when I write in it.


  1. Write about your favorite childhood memory.
  2. Someone who has had a positive influence on your life.
  3. What are you grateful for today?
  4. How do you think you should love yourself in this moment?
  5. What are your goals for this week?
  6. Look back on a photo from on this day last year. Write about what was happening in the photograph.
  7. How do you want your children to remember you?
  8. Write a list of five important life lessons you want your children to know.
  9. Write about a dream you had that you still vividly remember.
  10. Document 3 top current events in a brief summary.
  11. Write a letter to your spouse/partner. (Another option: write a letter to your ex.)
  12. What is something you are struggling with right now?
  13. What is your proudest moment as a parent so far?
  14. Write about a special memory you have of your parent(s) or a loved one who raised you.
  15. Write about the last time you had a good laugh.
  16. Make a list of a few TV shows you are currently watching and explain why you like them so much.
  17. What is the kindest thing someone has done for you?
  18. When did you feel scared and why?
  19. What is something you do for your children that they don’t know about yet? (Example: put money in a savings account for them; check on them when they are sleeping.)
  20. What’s on your agenda for the week?
  21. What is one thing you would change about yourself?
  22. List 5 things you love about yourself and explain why.
  23. Write a letter to your teenage self.
  24. Write about a person you admire and explain why.
  25. What would you do if you won the lottery?
  26. What is something from your past that you feel is time to let go?
  27. I wish my spouse/partner _________.
  28. What does faith mean to you?
  29. Write about an answered prayer from your life.
  30. What do you feel is your purpose in life?


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All photographs are courtesy of Good Life Detroit.


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