Monday, March 22, 2010

From Rags to Revelations: Life Journal For Writers

I started journalling ‘seriously’ in 2000 as part of Julia Cameron’s artistic recovery programme The Artist’s Way. Not that I felt I needed ‘recovering’. I was just curious. I soon learnt that indeed I did need ‘recovering’ and on a daily basis! One of the 3 main tools in TAW is the Morning Pages. You write 3 longhand pages- on any topic - every morning before you do anything else).

Then I came across Life Journal– a computer program for journal writing. LJ’s initial attraction was that it is password protected which meant it was ‘safer’ than exploring my triple x-rated drives by scribbling them into an exercise book that somebody might lay their inquisitive hands on! That’s the point with writing Morning Pages: there are no taboo subjects or vocabulary!

There are now several specialised versions of Life Journal, including Life Journal For Christians and Life Journal For Staying Sober. These specialised ones include all the facilities of the first one, now called Life Journal For Everyone and I’ve been using Life Journal For Writers consistently since October 2004. As it’s the only software for writers I can say that about, I’m recommending it.

Over the years I’ve come to realise that my Morning Pages are where I make the transition from ‘rags to revelations’. I could also say, from ‘rage to riches’, because my journal is where I go each morning, in sorry state, to whinge, whine, weep – and rage at all the terrible injustices being heaped upon me (ahem) - where I can be the kid running home ranting to his parent after he’s taken an unjust beating in the school playground, full of indignation and self-righteousness! I turn up at my pages every day - the Proverbial Prodigal – and demand my fatted calf (a veggie one, of course, God).

Life Journal has a stop watch and a timer. I set the timer for 30 minutes and I’ve noticed, over the years, that my 'whinge' writing speed has increased considerably. Today I whinge at 2,000 words an hour on average. Am I the fastest whinger in the West, I wonder? Joking apart, I’ve certainly improved my writing fluency. More importantly, what my journalling practice does for me is like taking a broom to a dusty floor. It drives the dirt out, i.e.the accumulated negativity and it leaves a clean clear space into which creativity can flow. Invariably, there comes a point of calm, a point of change where something begins to blossom. My 'parent' has listened to my complaints, plastered my bloody knee, the (veggie) calf has turned into a heap of fleshless bones. I am replete. I’m inspired. I’ve ideas. I’ve listed what I have to do that day and I’m ready to go forth and multiply. I come home to my parent in rags and I go out into the world again with my arms full of revelations. Well, let's say some days it's just that I am less likely to strangle somebody that day! That's an achievement!

Life Journal For Writers has many functions and tools. I'll touch upon a few that I use on a regular basis: The rest you can get from the website at:

You can set it up so when you open a blank entry, a quote from a renowned writer pops up too. There are three buttons under a quote: Insert, Show Next, Find, which are self-explanatory. I often find that a quote that attracts my attention ends up as an article, a blog, a story, a character, etc.

There are 4 different types of journal entry you can choose to make: Daily, Drafts, Submissions, Life History.

I have perfected my whingeing abilities using the Daily entry type. I've written short stories, articles and blogs as Draft entries. (I completed a draft of a non-fiction book last October in just one hour a day over a period of 30 days (at least 40,000 words). There’s a Timeline under the Life History function along which you can plot the significant events in your life, or those of your characters. (I've found this is a great way of getting to know your characters more intimately).

One of the most useful tools of Life Journal is that you can highlight whole entries or parts of entries and assign them to ‘topics’. There are default topic headings and you can add your own. For instance, you can assign a section of an entry to a topic ‘Anger’. Later on, you can search for all entries that are in part or wholly assigned to 'Anger' and this might give you insight into the issue of anger in your life, or in the lives of your characters. On a personal level, this might help with anger management. As a writer, it’s an insight into human nature (through knowing one's own) that could be of use in characterisation.

Another favourite button is ‘Prompts’. This accesses a whole array of writing prompts, under a variety of headings, to do with the writing process. Here's an example:

Memoir Writing
List the places where you have lived. Make a note of significant events and or learning that happened in each place. Write an outline of chapters named for each event or learning. Should you write a memoir organized from these chapters, you do not have to work in chronological order--you can choose a geographical or alphabetical approach.

The Life Journal series is the brain-child of Ruth Follit and can be found at:



  1. I'll have to look into that, Ann. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Only for PCs. Well, it was a nice try!

  3. I've been journaling since I was in fourth grade. I have a two trunks full. Sounds like life journal will take up a lot less space and will be easier to index than my old system. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Fascinating! I'm sure you have learned a lot from your journaling. I like the idea of topics and the memoir prompts sound wonderful.

  5. Might save my dear hubby from an earful

  6. Ann, fascinating post! The Life Journal series sounds interesting - thanks for sharing this with us :-)

  7. Actually Valerie, apparently you CAN run LJ on a Mac. And a Mac version is on the production line - so I read - I don't want to give the impression I'm 'on commission' here! (Truth be known, I came up with the topic and wrote the blog off the top of my head in a couple of hours just before it was due online (I'm VERY busy right now!) Ann


  8. Ann,I've journalled sporadically for years, and I think I even had LifeJournal way way back. Thanks for the idea. I'm downloading LifeJournal for Writers demo right now, and I'll give it a try. I had to tell the company where I heard of it, so I've given the URL to this post. Hopefully someone will read our blog and like it. :-)