Why Keep a Journal on a Computer

What is your image of yourself associated with journal writing? Is it sitting in a big cozy chair with notebook and pen scribbling away? Does using a computer to keep your journal conflict or fit in with you sense of what journal writing is?

One of the most compelling benefits of keeping a journal on a computer that it’s secure and private; a handwritten journal can be easily read. Unless you put it under lock and key when not using it, a handwritten journal may be an invitation for snoops. It’s sometimes hard enough to write fully and honestly when you know you are the only one reading it. If you are also concerned that someone else may read it, then I think it’s almost impossible to write uncensored. Journal software provides password protection. And good journal software also has the entries encrypted, so that the database can’t be opened directly and read without the password.

Another major advantage to journal software is that all of your writing is one place. Handwritten entries are often scattered-on backs of envelopes, single pieces of papers, in multiple journals tucked away in different hiding spots. Then, the chances of just anybody reading your personal writing increases exponentially. And the chances of the writer keeping track of all of these paper scraps decreases exponentially! (And if you do travel to different places with your journal –to restaurants, parks, beaches-as I have, I’ve worried that I’ll leave my journal behind. In fact, I did leave a journal at a coffee shop once. I recovered it, but was freaked that someone had read it!)

Some people keep paper journals for different subjects: a spirituality journal, a journal for poetry, a journal for their kids, a journal about their relationships. (I never could fully grasp how that works: What happens if you write a poem about your kids-do you put that in the poetry journal or the journal for your kids? And I also feel limited, feeling that once writing in one kind of journal I have to stay on topic. I totally realize that this may be my own issue and that others love this format-so of course, if this works for you, I’m not trying to dissuade you! ) The good news is that keeping a journal on robust journal software allows you to categorize your journal entries, yet keeps them all integrated, organized, and searchable in one place.

Re-reading journals is a powerful exercise allowing you to see your life from a new perspective. You shift from writing subjectively (which you do at the time of writing) to observing more objectively (which you do at the time of re-reading days, months, or years later). When you aren’t wrapped up in the emotions of the moment, you can step back and see situations more clearly: Was he really being such a jerk, or hmmm… oh my! I played a key role in that ridiculous argument, too! Or, look how many times I was passive, rather than being assertive in this relationship! Or, I never noticed before that my default emotion seems to be … I wonder how I can change that?

Using a computer you can quickly find journal entries written about the same topic(s), or even entries that you’ve written when in a particular mood. You can see how you behave and what your attitudes are when you are in similar situations. Not only do you have the written entries, but the software also provides the tools to find patterns of your life! Reviewing your journals is at least half of the value of keeping a journal, yet many people overlook this piece of journaling.

The best journal software also offers you interactivity that a paper journal doesn’t. Prompts and quotes kickstart your writing when you’re not sure about what to write. Some journal software also has ways to track your behavior, attitudes and events, so that you can see your life patterns easily.

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