dancing in the still point on the spiral journey of life

Making the Shift from Dear Diary to Journaling for Transformation


My first diary entries began at age 8.  I was usually mad at my little sister or mad at my mother.  There were weeks or months between entries.


In high school I wrote about my crushes and recorded idiotic conversations in great detail.  I also wondered about the meaning of life.  I was quite fearful and had no language for feelings.


I went through a terrible and turbulent time in my 20’s.  There were numerous drunken ramblings in my diary.  Fortunately, a couple of books changed the way I approached writing in my diary and transformed my life.


I read all of Anaïs Nin’s diaries. I was fascinated by her life, her writing, her artistic explorations and deep search for meaning through subterranean realms.  She was creating  a synthesis between “intellect, emotion, and instinct.”  I had never read anything like her before but I did agree wholeheartedly when she said, “I write emotional algebra.”


Around the same time I also discovered Ira Progoff’s At a Journal Workshop.  Progoff’s method for journaling is quite complex and involves genuine dedication to the method.  I wrote using his format diligently until I had two small children and couldn’t keep up with it any longer.  His methods do help generate internal change but they also require a lot of dedication to the process.


My journaling practice changed over time as I learned new techniques.  Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages, (stream-of-consciousness writing, three pages daily) also generates transformative energy.  In writing beyond superficial details, there is a transition into deeper, more meaningful issues.


There are important differences between keeping a diary and maintaining a journal for personal growth and spiritual development.  If you want to create and adapt to changes in your life, writing can clarify and illuminate your path, help you discover your heart’s desire and lead you towards fulfillment.


You need to feel free to write whatever needs to be written.  If necessary, protect the safety of what you are writing.  You can write privately online at 750words.com


Your writing needs to move beyond recording details of the day, venting angry thoughts or just general complaining.  It may be necessary to record these things to clear the path of obstructive thoughts or energy, but you’ll need to dive deeper to make progress.


It’s important to identify feeling words and to be as specific as possible.  Click here to print out this list and use it for clarification.  We feel more than just happy, sad or mad.  We have complex inner lives and can begin to identify this extraordinary terrain with practice.


Your journal acts as a mirror.  Reviewing what you’ve written provides valuable information.   Nin also wrote, “I stopped loving my father a long time ago. What remained was the slavery to a pattern. “  Do you know what patterns are you a slave to?


There is no right or wrong in journaling.  It’s really about what works for you.


What more would you like to know about journaling for transformation?





  1. Gaelyn on May 7, 2012 at 9:37 am

    I started my diary writing similar to you. The practice grew to help me grow. Now I find myself mostly writing for the blog. But when things need to be worked out in my head and heart, it’s back to the journal I go.
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  2. Loran Hills on May 7, 2012 at 9:43 am

    There are definitely some things that are not “bloggable,” Gaelyn, but the journal is always a safe place.

  3. Dominee on May 7, 2012 at 11:08 am

    My relationship with journals is actually kind of odd. For the most part I really hate and resent them, strange I know! I write in them most often (and regularly) when I am going through tough times so in the end they always just seem to serve as a reminder of the pain, almost like they are old, bloody, bandages that I carry on with me.
    Although while I am in those phases they are a life saver! A great release, great therapy, and a great tool to help me dig my way out and get my thinking straight!

    • Loran Hills on May 7, 2012 at 11:29 am

      I don’t think it’s odd at all, Dominee. Sometimes old journals are like bloody bandages, but if we dig around in there, nuggets of wisdom can be found. They are a great release too.

  4. Gin on May 7, 2012 at 11:17 am

    I started keeping a diary when I was about 8 or 9 – it was one of those little ones with a lock on it. I might even still have it somewhere… I just realized it might still be around. In my teens I moved to journaling instead of “keeping a diary.” Over the years I’ll have periods of time where I journal (or do “morning pages”) every single day and then there’ll be other times when I’ll go weeks (and a few times even months) between writing. But I always have a journal going, ready nearby for me to pick up and get back to it whenever I want.

    It’s my old journals I’ve wondered about – I almost threw them all away last year, but I got cold feet about that and I ended up stashing them in the garage while I tried to decide whether to keep them or toss them.

    I’m impressed that you worked so much with At a Journal Workshop! Many, many years ago I looked at it (several times) in the bookstore but I never bought it because I wasn’t sure I’d actually do it.
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    • Loran Hills on May 7, 2012 at 11:31 am

      I”m kind of surprised how long I stuck with Progoff’s method, too, Gin! It was worth it in the end. I also am not sure what to do with the old journals. Ideally I’d like to edit them and then burn them because there is a lot I don’t want anyone to read but I never quite make the time to do it. It’s in the some day category of things to do.

  5. Dolly Garland on May 7, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    I’m curious how you found Progof’s method? I’ve looked at it, and did some research previously, but haven’t actually bought that book or anything.

    Is it more therapy based?
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    • Loran Hills on May 7, 2012 at 5:46 pm

      It could be considered therapeutic, especially in a group setting, but it’s designed to address many levels of life. What I’ve done is taken what I liked from it and left the rest, but I did find going through the entire process to be helpful and enlightening.

  6. Margaret Krubsack on May 7, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    I have also journaled since I was young. I began because the Mormon Church encouraged journaling. I was an obedient little journaler, but journaling bloomed into a life long, cathartic activity. I have shelves of all my past journals. Sometimes I reread about when I met my husband, when my daughters were born, or previous adventures in biking, hiking, or traveling. I often wondered why I was recording all my thoughts and feelings, who would be interested to read them–surprise I am the one who ventures into the past to read!

    • Loran Hills on May 7, 2012 at 5:47 pm

      Being an “obedient little journaler” isn’t quite the same as being a “deep sea diver,” Margaret. Even so, there is still value in all the shelves of past journals. It’s good that you have ventured in to the past to remember how you used to be and can compare it now to where you want to go.

  7. Sarah on May 7, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    Love this post. A parallel with my journaling life. Unfortunately I was much more consistent with keeping a journal back in the days when they were laborious blow-by-blow descriptions of conversations, an long angst-ridden discussions on lost crushes, etc. Once kids came along, I didn’t keep up as much – now to my regret. Too bad I never came across Progoff’s method. Now I journal more for self growth and exploration as well as to explore creative writing ideas. It’s interesting to note the differences in what comes out when I write by hand (morning pages) and when I write on computer. I can type much faster than longhand, but longhand brings out a whole different side of the brain.

    As to all those old journals – a year or so ago I found them all in a box. Saving them for a potential future memoir – but some of them I dread looking in!
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    • Loran Hills on May 7, 2012 at 10:03 pm

      I usually write longhand for important stuff, too. I recently read one old journal that was agonizing to go through so I understand the sense of dread, Sarah.

  8. Marla on May 7, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Hi Loran! Thanks for approaching this subject – I’ve been thinking about it for awhile now as I love to write but adding journaling to my list of ‘shoulds’ just makes me feel like crap when I don’t stick to it, which I know is not the point. =) I love how you call our inner selves ‘extraordinary terrain’!
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  9. Loran Hills on May 7, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    No, Marla, you cannot “should” on yourself! You just do what you can.

  10. Joyce Anne on May 7, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    Loran – Love this posting. My brother gave me a 5-year diary when I was 12 years old. We lived in Japan where our father was stationed during the Korean War. My entries were short and cryptic. For years during my “young mother” stage I wrote in daily calendar books that came in the mail – free. Then came full-page calendars where I recorded what my babies ate, when they first walked, etc. My daily diaries turned to reflective journals in my 40s, when I needed a place to spill my guts, heart, and raw feelings. I have a shelf of these journals in my “writing room” – then came the creative phase when art appeared in my journals. The last two years I’ve filled two journals for one year; but interesting to me is the fact that I have hardly journaled at all this year – as I have produced my first book. I wonder why. I resist writing in my journal these days? Tending to my book leaves me exhausted at night – when I used to journal. Hummmmm.
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    • Loran Hills on May 8, 2012 at 8:29 am

      Oh, Joyce, thanks for reminding me about the little notes I left on years and years of calendars. I’m not surprised that you aren’t journaling while you are writing a book. You are a busy woman and there’s only so much time in a day.

  11. Tanja @ Crystal Clarity on May 8, 2012 at 4:08 am

    I can’t remember when I first started keeping a diary, but I know I was quite young. I remember it being violated a couple of times… once when I was at a youth group camp and a couple of the bullies got hold of it and read a couple of my entries out loud, and once when my mother read it without my permission (in her defence, she was seriously worried about me, and didn’t have the communication skills to sit down and talk to me about it at the time). I ended up teaching myself the runic alphabet so that I could have some level of confidence in my privacy when I wrote stuff I didn’t want anyone else to know!

    In my adult life I’ve journalled on and off… I’ve been doing morning pages ALMOST every morning since last October, and I’m really enjoying the practice. I still have all my old journals from when I was in England, but none from my teenage years – unfortunately, I threw them all away in a fit of… something… at myself when I was having difficulty coping with some of the realities they contained, and it’s one of the decisions I regret most in my life.
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    • Loran Hills on May 8, 2012 at 8:26 am

      Oh, those teen years! I think morning pages would be helpful for you, Tanja, because it gives you time to write without all the editing!

  12. Pam Belding on May 8, 2012 at 4:44 am

    Great post. I love how you talk about what we CAN get out of journaling when we put in the time. I was journaling quite regularly up until I started working and then …….. I find myself still sitting down and writing in my journal, but it’s much more sporadic now. Your post has inspired me to try to dig out some time and get back into my regular practice because it really does help to “clarify and illuminate” my path. Thanks for writing this post! xoxo
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    • Loran Hills on May 8, 2012 at 8:27 am

      I hope your path lights up for you, Pam, as you get back into journaling.

  13. Kristin on March 27, 2013 at 9:24 am

    Thank you loran, I’ve written your advice on the beginning pages of my morning pages book for inspiration and better understanding of my goals. Thanks so much for sharing your ideas!!

    • Loran Hills on March 27, 2013 at 9:41 am

      I’m always happy to share but especially to know my ideas are useful to someone else!

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