2 Powerful Ways to Deepen Your Journal Writing

by Amber Lea Starfire on December 10, 2014

Light at the end of the road

Last week I wrote about ways to get out of a writing rut. Shallow writing is a similar problem, but not as much about being stuck as wanting (needing) to get more out of your writing. Whether you’re journaling for personal growth or to improve your writing craft, the methods for structuring and deepening your journaling in this post can help you fulfill your intentions.

Journaling without structure can become a repetitive exercise in which you continuously find yourself circling the same issues over and over, skimming over emotions, and sticking with the superficial. It can become stale, unsatisfying, unproductive. By unproductive, I mean that we’re not getting as much out of it as we could.

In my case, I notice that when I only freewrite for days or weeks at a time, my journal pages tend to become full of concerns, complaints, and fears. I call these my “moaning pages.” Though whining into my journal has a positive function — it takes the worries from my mind and moves them onto the page — those pages don’t accurately represent what is really going on in my life.

Reading back through those journal entries, I always wish I had provided more context for all that moaning, and that I had examined more closely the reasons for my fears or feelings of helplessness. My journaling provided an emotional catharsis, but it did not help me understand the underlying message to myself about why I needed to write that stuff.

When (not if, because it happens to everyone at one point or another), you find yourself wanting to get more out of your journal, try the following techniques. The first method can be done in any amount of time available, though 20-30 minutes is ideal. Done in one sitting, the second technique can take about 30-60 minutes; however, you can also break it down into 10-minute “chunks” and complete it over a period of days.

  • Proprioceptive Writing. This method taps into your emotions and intuition while you are writing, allowing you to connect more deeply with Self. “Proprioceptive Writing,” a method popularized by Linda Trichter Metcalfe and Tobin Simon in the early 2000’s, is similar to freewriting, with one important difference: you tune into your inner voice and reflect upon the meaning of your thoughts as they are written.
    Begin by writing your thoughts exactly as you hear them, as if they were spoken aloud. When your thoughts wander, go with them. (This is the part that is similar to freewriting.) As you write, “listen” to the thoughts, and whenever a word or phrase catches your attention, ask the question: What do I mean by [word or phrase]? Then write what you hear in response.
    For example, I used this method in the second paragraph of this post, when I wrote, “By unproductive, I mean …” Proprioceptive writing explores and clarifies your thinking, brings you in touch with yourself, and helps you to reveal underlying emotions.
  • Cluster, freewrite, reflect. The first step of this technique involves creating a cluster of associated words and phrases that spring from a central word or phrase. When you’re done clustering, freewrite using the words, images, and concepts from your cluster. (For complete directions, read my post on Creative Clustering).
    Now, go deeper by asking questions about what you’ve written. For example: in what ways are the images metaphors for your life, and how do they bring a deeper understanding to the lens through which you perceive life? What emotional thread runs through the center of the phrases and the writing? What does this emotional thread reveal? Continue asking questions and writing the answers as they come to you.

These two methods, when practiced on a regular basis, will help you get more out of your journal writing.


If you would like to learn more about ways to deepen your journal writing within a structured and supportive environment, join my 30 Days to Deeper Journaling class, beginning January 2, 2015.

And if you enroll before midnight, December 15th, you’ll receive 3 special bonuses. Read more about it here.


Photo Credit: Vainsang via Compfight cc


How to Get Out of Your Writing Rut

December 1, 2014
Thumbnail image for How to Get Out of Your Writing Rut

It happens to even the most committed, creative, and inspired writers — journal writers and creative writers alike. I’m talking about The Plateau, The Slump, where everything you write seems dry and hackneyed. Blah, boring. At least you’re sitting down to write, you’re getting words on the page, and that’s something. You think that if you […]

Read the full article →

A Little Gratitude Goes a Long Way

November 24, 2014
Thumbnail image for A Little Gratitude Goes a Long Way

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. ~G.K. Chesterton This Thursday we celebrate Thanksgiving here in the U.S. It’s a time for families to get together, eat too much food, and tell stories. It’s also a time when our minds and hearts turn […]

Read the full article →

7 Journaling Prompts for Exploring Spirituality

November 17, 2014
Thumbnail image for 7 Journaling Prompts for Exploring Spirituality

There are as many approaches to journaling as there are aspects of life to focus on; one of these aspects is spirituality. Journaling about spirituality can help bring clarity to your thoughts as well as help define priorities for the competing demands of the other parts of your life: health, work, family, love relationships, and recreation, to name a […]

Read the full article →

From Memories to Memoirs, Part 10 — Structuring Your Memoir

November 10, 2014
Thumbnail image for From Memories to Memoirs, Part 10 — Structuring Your Memoir

“Memoir isn’t the summary of a life; it’s a window into a life, very much like a photograph in its selective composition. It may look like a casual and even random calling up of bygone events. It’s not; it’s a deliberate construction.” ~ William Zinsser, On Writing Well (30th Anniversary Edition) I am often asked, “How should I […]

Read the full article →