JOURNAL WRITING sites, such as Writing Through Life, talk a lot about reflective journaling as a way to think about and gain insights from your personal experiences and emotional/spiritual journey. But reflective journaling also has broader applications. Char Paul’s articles on the use of reflective journaling in the study of literature points out that journal writing has become popular among teachers to help their students get the most from their studies.
Most writers love to read. In fact, the ability to analyze another writer’s work from the point of view of a writer is an important skill to nurture. It’s also a good practice if you want to write book reviews (or already do and want to become more methodical and organized about your process).
So how does it work? First, while reading make notes in the margins and underline or highlight passages that you want to remember or come back to. (Most electronic reading devices allow you to highlight, bookmark, and make notes — make of the most of your e-reading technology.)
After and/or during each reading session, take a few moments to think and write about what you’ve read, using all or some of the following ideas:
- Write a brief summary of the chapter, passage, or essay.
- Record your own thoughts and emotional responses/reactions to what you’ve read.
- Write down questions that might have come up while you read. What more would you like to know about the topic or the author?
- What about the author’s writing does or does not work for you? Give an example and your thoughts about why it does and/or doesn’t work. Is there anything in the author’s style that you would like to emulate? What?
- How does the author engage you as a reader and keep you interested?
- How does the author vary pace, exposition, summary and scene to move the story/essay forward?
- Would you recommend what you’re reading to others? Why or why not?
Reflective journaling helps you get more out of your reading, as well as help you to become a more thoughtful reader.