Why I Use Journal Writing Software Instead of a Pen 65

ONE OF THE HOTTEST TOPICS among those of us who journal is whether to use a pen and paper or a computer. And, though most of us are willing to let everyone else do whatever they do, we journal writers hold strong opinions about which way is best and why we adhere to it. In fact, I once wanted to register for a journal writing workshop and was told that only pen and paper were allowed and my laptop would not be welcome. I figured that if the method was more important to the presenters than the results, I wasn’t interested after all.

Advocates of the pen and paper claim that the pen has a direct connection to the heart (yes, I read that on someone else’s blog), that typing feels like work and distracts them. For others, the pen slows them down, allows them to marinate in their thoughts. There are authors who insist on writing entire novels longhand and later entering what they’ve written onto the computer, because they feel their creative juices flow more freely when they use pen and paper.

wpid-PaperOrPencil.jpgI, on the other hand, have been journaling on my computer since December of 2006 and feel—strongly, of course—that the benefits of keeping my journal on the computer far outweigh any disadvantages. Something I read this afternoon keyed this topic, and I thought it might be helpful for those of you who wonder which way is best to read about some of the advantages of a computer-based journal.

  • It’s fast and I don’t have to think. Writing by hand is hard. I’m left-handed, and writing with a pen or pencil has always been a tedious, hand-cramping, ink-smearing affair. I taught myself to type when I was eight years’ old, and have never looked back. I maintain a fairly accurate 85-90 words per minute, which means that my fingers can nearly keep up with my thoughts. This gives a whole new meaning to stream-of-consciousness writing.
  • I can write straight from the heart. Because my fingers know where they’re going, I don’t have to keep my eyes open. I can—and often do—close my eyes and write as images, memories, and thoughts come to me. I don’t worry about spelling or grammar, because I know that word processing technology makes them easy to fix. Being able to close my eyes allows me to move deeply into a character or emotion and write from within that emotional space—something I have difficulty doing if I have to track my hand across a lined page.
  • I can organize my writing after the fact. I keep several different journals: a writing journal, where I record the ins and outs of my writing life; a daily journal where I whine about my teenage son and talk about not getting enough sleep; a gratitude journal, as an antidote to my daily journal, to help me keep everything in perspective; and a photo/art journal, where I keep drawings and photos that have touched me in some way, are expressions of a particular event or emotion, or have been inspirations for journal writing sessions. Sometimes, these journals tend to overlap. I can cut and paste or move things around as needed after the fact.
  • I can easily find key events and patterns in my life. This has got to be the coolest reason for keeping a journal on the computer. Let’s say I’m writing a memoir and want to find all the entries I’ve made about my youngest son, or a particular event in my life. I can perform a simple search, just as I would in a Word document or on web page, and there it is! I did this once and discovered that I wrote about a lack of sleep no fewer than 50 times one year. This discovery motivated me to conduct a personal sleep experiment, write an article that got published, and change my sleep habits (a change that lasted nearly six months).
  • It’s way easier to read. I don’t know about you, but my handwriting is no picnic to read. I love the fact that I can print out my journal entries and put them in a binder for later reading. And you know what? I actually do.
  • It’s password protected. I password protect my computer-based journal, locking it away from prying eyes. This gives me a level of security and privacy that I can’t get from hiding my journal under my pillow or buying a lock for it. You’re probably wondering why this would even matter, since I print my journal entries and put them in binders. The truth is, it doesn’t—not to me, anyway. I really don’t care if other people read my journals. I figure if they don’t like what they read or feel offended by what I wrote about them, that’s their fault for reading it in the first place. But the point is, I can password protect my journal. For those of you who feel that journal writing is an intensely private affair, password protection is a very real benefit.
  • I can back it up. Everything on my computer gets backed up daily to an external hard drive and, once a week, I back everything up to a different external hard drive and put that one in my detached garage (just in case there were ever a fire in my office). This ability to back up my writing and photography gives me a wonderful feeling of security. A hand-written journal can be destroyed easily and can’t be backed up without a great deal of trouble.
  • I can upload entries directly to my blog. I change my mind; this is the coolest reason to keep my journal on computer. This article, which started out to be a journal entry and grew into a blog post, was uploaded directly from my journal. I didn’t have to do any additional cutting or pasting or formatting.
  • I can still use pen and paper (or my new iPad!) when needed. For the occasional times when I can’t carry or use my laptop, I can still use a pen and paper. I’m a writer, after all, and always have a small notebook in my purse. Of course, now that I have my new iPad, who knows where portable writing technology will take me?

Chime in. This is such a lovely debate and a great journal topic. Which do you prefer—pen and paper, or computer—and why?

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65 thoughts on “Why I Use Journal Writing Software Instead of a Pen

  • Mary

    Took a break after your spot on organization! No wonder you use a computer. What a busy woman Amber is!
    In recent years I use my laptop because it’s faster and I can read what I’ve written (never been very good at foreign languages). And I back up daily and weekly but no like you.
    This post is definitely one I will bookmark.
    Giggles and Guns

  • Susan Woodring

    I use both. I like to ruminate on paper, then, when I have a few thoughts coming together, I sit down with my laptop. It’s just so much faster. And easier.

  • Linda Hoye

    Until recently I did all of my writing on the computer. Then I tried pen and paper and found that somehow I was able to write in more detail and with more emotion. I take those handwritten notes and transcribe them on to the computer and usually make more changes at that time. For me it’s a happy combination of both.

  • Amber Lea Starfire

    Linda, I love how we all find what works best for us as individuals. I wonder why you can write in more detail and emotion with pen and paper? Do you think it’s because the computer is associated with unfeeling machinery? I’m curious and fascinated about how our writing minds work.

  • Lauren

    I use pen and paper for journaling and can barely imagine giving up my beloved fountain pen and hand-stitched books tucked between a soft leather cover reinforced with balsa wood for stiffness. But I have boxes and boxes of writing going back to at least 1967. A computer would hold all of that in less space!

  • Renee Cassese

    I love this rumination about pen versus computer. I am an old time pen and paper writer; one of those who used to write whole novels in longhand. Over the past couple of years I have moved to the keyboard for first drafts. Once I got used to it I found the thoughts came quickly and smoothly and revision was a piece of cake–well as much as revision can be. I’m still an advocate of journaling in long hand–but after reading your article I might give the computer journaling journey a try. All of your reasons for preferring the computer make a lot of sense. I’ll have to try it out.
    I too write a lot about lack of sleep, lack of time for writing, and the frustrations of life. I did find gratitude journaling a way to feel better about the day.
    Thanks for sharing all that.
    BTW–I love this website.

  • Amber Lea Starfire

    Thank you, Renee and Lauren for your comments. There is certainly something to be said for the texture (and smell!) of paper and ink. After a while though, for me, the disadvantages of “by hand” outweigh the advantages of new technology. Remember, at one time, paper was a new technology.

  • Bettyann Schmidt

    I’d never really thought about these aspects of keyboard journaling. You’re right. I’m interested what software, if any, you use for your journaling. Glad to see you’re going to be on Women’s Memoirs. I do a guest blog there twice a month. I’m anxious to read your posts.

  • Amber Lea Starfire

    Bettyann, thanks for commenting. I use MacJournal. If you don’t use a Macintosh there are several excellent options. My advice is to Google “journaling software” or “journal writing software” and see what pops up. Then read the reviews. Most have free trial software you can download so you can try the product for yourself. Make sure it fits your needs before you buy. See you at Women’s Memoirs! 🙂

  • Jannette Delgado

    Thanks for providing this space for those who love to write. I am writing my masters thesis about using a journal to reflect while developing and acquiring a second language and lowering the stress this brings to students in a foreign country or are living in an English speaking country. I have read your blog related to pen and paper or computer and I agree that you should write in what ever makes you comfortable. Sorry to say not always students have computers in the classrooms to have the advantages you state. Nonetheless I wish to provide them with a writing experience, through pencil, pen, crayon, paint and paper. My experience in doing this has clearly provided a method to aid students in successfully meeting standards and goals. What is more important, they have found a new motivation and love writing.
    Your comments are very appealing and I agree with your statements, yet they can also be intepreted as disadvantages to those that write on paper. Example: You state,”I’m left-handed, and writing with a pen or pencil has always been a tedious, hand-cramping, ink-smearing affair. ” So this would mean that for some left handed students writing is a physical problem and the type of tool (pen) used might conrtibute to frustrating the student in the attempt to write a journal entry. If this is your view, I wish to state your comments in my thesis as this will give many educators a view of how to address students differences and facilitate a better way to approach writing styles.

    Thank you again, and I will await your prompt answer to my request of citing your work.

  • Amber Lea Starfire

    Jannette, thank you for your comment and for your careful reading of my post. Being left-handed can, indeed, make writing a more tedious affair. But not necessarily for all left-handed students. In a country that writes from left to right, it is difficult for the writer not to smear the ink or pencil with her hand. Also, since a left-handed person must also push the pencil or pen across the page, rather than pulling it as a right-handed person does, there are some pens that do not allow the ink to flow as fluidly for a left-handed person as for a right-handed one.

    I do think it’s important for educators (whether teaching adults or children) to take into account the physical differences that might affect how their students are able to perform their work. That said, the tactile comfort of a pen in the hand and a solid journal book on the lap may overcome these obstacles for many people.

    Journaling is such a beneficial activity in many ways, including lowering stress, how it is accomplished is not as important as doing it in the first place. Crayons, photos, pencils, computers, brushes, and pastels, canvases and paper are all fair game as journal writing tools.

    And yes, you may cite me, as long as the quotations are made in context.

  • Jill

    Hi, I’ve just read this topic and it just mirrors what I am thinking at this time. I have always kept a paper journal. Anything else I would type on the computer but journals had to be handwritten. It has always felt more personal and been more reflective of my feelings.

    However, a few years ago I did get worried about privacy (even though I live alone now) and I threw out ten years worth of journals which I still deeply regret. I left journaling alone for a while and then started it again when my dear Mum became ill with dementia and I need an outlet. I have continued to journal ever since, always in notebooks.

    But now I find I write less and less because my hand soon aches and I still fear my current journal being seen. My old ones are safely locked away but the current one is different, I could have that on me, in my bag, at the side of my bed where anyone could stumble across it. I find it is a bind locking it away every time I write. So in theory my journal writing was becoming less and less.

    So I have now started experimenting with computer journaling. I have just bought a small lap top that I can easily carry about with me. The purpose of this initially was to persue my family history hobby when I am out and about but then the idea of using it to write my journal also sprang to my mind and seemed like a good idea. I do tend to write more now, I can go into more detail without my hand aching and my writing is more private and I have password protected it and I save it to a memory disc so I feel I can write whatever I want and no one will see it, unlike with the handwritten journals when I was always censoring my writing for the fear of it being seen.

    However, I do still have some issues. Writing on the computer is easier and more secure but doesn’t feel as personal somehow. I do miss flipping open a book to write and choosing nice journals in the shops. Sometimes I need to write and my laptop is not with me. Privacy is not an issue with the current journal now but I still have a few years worth of written ones which I don’t want to get rid of. For now they are locked up, I just hope no one picks the lock or tries to get into them. It would be far too time consuming to type them all up onto the computer. I also worry about new technology as in when it changes will the memory sticks and discs that we have our work on be compatible with computer software in years to come. At least a handwritten journal is always there.

    So far though I am feeling that the advantages of computer journaling weigh the disadvantages but other comments and thoughts would be welcome as I still have issues around it.

  • Amber Lea Starfire

    Jill, thank you for your comment and personal experience on this subject. I once threw away several years’ worth of journals and, like you, I have always regretted it. Now that I am writing memoirs, I wish I had those journals to refer to.

    There are certainly pros and cons to both sides of the computer vs. pen issue. I have an iPad that I carry with me to write on when I don’t have my computer available. But I find it not as enjoyable (the keyboard is not the same as a regular computer and therefore awkward).

    And I know what you mean about writing in nice journals and having that ready availability. When I’m away from home, I usually carry a small notebook so that I can write when the urge hits. Sometimes I transcribe that entry into my computer journal and sometimes not.

    As far as future software issues go, once a month I print my journal entries and put them in a binder. I put these binders in my locked storage area. But I don’t really worry about people reading my journals (who would want to anyway?). Still, I can understand your feelings, and when you are very concerned about privacy, it does present a conundrum.

    The bottom line is that you must weigh the advantages of journaling with the likelihood that someone might read your journals. If it’s not really that likely, then perhaps you can relax a little — go ahead and carry that beautiful journal with you. Write a note on the first page that lets anyone who might absentmindedly open it know that it’s private and not to be read. My experience is that most people will honor your privacy. You can store your completed journals in a secure area.

    Bottom line: I recommend just going with what makes you the most comfortable and happy.

  • Jill

    Hi Amber

    Many thanks for your reply. Privacy does tend to be an issue for me, even though I do live alone now, but my boyfriend has a key to my flat, he can call in at any time and he is quite nosey. I also worry about what if my family or anyone find the journals after I am gone as someone will have to clear my stuff out and they are bound to wonder what is in the locked tin. I know it’s a gloomy thought but one you sometimes have to think of.

    If I continue journaling via the computer I won’t print out my entries because of privacy issues so then I would wonder if they will be accessible in the future. I do find typing much quicker than writing these days but I do still miss writing in my journal. Maybe longer entries that go into more detail and therefore maybe more private I can type and other entries handwrite in my journal.

    I have heard that Ipads have a touch screen keyboard, I wouldn’t find this as good as using as a normal keyboard. However, I am finding it more difficult to type on my small laptop as the keyboard isn’t as spacious as the normal sized one. I may find that better just for Internet surfing on the go and replying to short emails rather than doing any extensive typing on it.

    I must admit I am still swaying towards the notebook. Sometimes I may just write one line and it doesn’t seem feasible somehow to do that on a computer. However, I do love the security of the password on the computer and feel more confident that my writing will not be seen on there. Whereas carrying a journal around who knows who might snoop, it did once happen to me years ago when I was eighteen and some girls at work took my diary out of my handbag while I was out of the office, made photocopies and passed them round to everyone. There is also the thought of what if you have an accident and someone has to take hold of your bag. It is all ‘what ifs’ I know and maybe I do worry too much. I am a born worrier I must admit.

  • Amber Lea Starfire

    Jill, no wonder you are so concerned about privacy, having a nosy ex and having had photocopies made of an earlier diary. I’d suggest that you do your most personal writing on the computer, as you’ve mentioned might work well for you. If you stay abreast of software versions and make sure that the software you are using — whether it’s a word processing program or journal-dedicated software — is up to date, and is able to be exported, you should be okay.

  • Jill

    Hi Amber, thanks for this, I do still yearn for the notebooks though and still have the old ones which I want to keep, I will just keep these locked up and hope they are safe.

  • Lisa Trigg

    What journaling software do you use? I am trying to return to journaling after a 15 year break. I love my old pen and paper journals but now see the same advantages that you articulate about using the computer. In fact I used to wish for a computer for journaling. But I have been looking and looking and haven’t found software that I like very much. Thanks for your post.

    • Amber Lea Starfire

      Lisa, I use MacJournal. If you use a Macintosh, this is the program I would recommend. If you use a Windows PC, Mariner Software also offers WinJournal (http://www.marinersoftware.com/products/winjournal/). I have not evaluated the program, so I can’t give it a personal recommendation, but I believe they offer a free trial version that you can download and test. Also, if you Google “journal writing software” you should find a number of products to explore. Good luck with your search, and if you find something you like, please feel free to add your recommendation to the discussion.

  • dave terry


    I also use a MacJournal for my daily journaling. I write about 750-1000 words a day. I post these words at 750words.com so I have a “back up” of my MacJournal without the need to physically backup hard drives. (I compute “in the cloud” which is to say I keep writing software on my machine but the content goes on the Internet, either in a private place or a public one. If the computer crashes, I reinstall the software and fetch the content from the cloud.)

    But I also keep a leather blank journal (no lines) and use a fountain pen. I use the blank journal for a brief synopsis of the day and often will draw a bit too. I call it my illustrated journal. This solves my problem of privacy and the love of pen and paper. I realize that not everyone can do this but it works for me. I love the smell of the ink (Noodlers Whaler’s Bulletproof Brown) and the soft leather cover with egg shell white pages. I love to spend a part of my day drawing something at hand (my lunch, a person at the next table, a coffee cup, etc.) and then add in some text around the sketch at the end of the day. I also scan the images and so have a “back up” of even my illustrated journal. I post these to flickr.com. The ones I want the public to see are public, the others are marked private.

    Anyway, this all helps me keep writing, which is what it’s all about.

    Thanks for the post. Looks like you got a lot of comments and feedback. All good stuff.

    My online illustrated journal:

  • dave terry

    Amber: One other thing I thought of was that I also use a Alphasmart NEO. It’s just a keyboard with six lines of text. I bring it with me almost everywhere. I keep it in the car. I lasts 700 hours on four double AAs. It is instant ON and has password protection. Also I can keep several journals going at one time. At the top row there are function keys that allow me to instantly swap between eight different documents. When I get home I just plug it into the USB and hit send and it goes directly into my MacJournal entry. Love the thing.
    PS: I don’t work for not do I obtain any benefits from any of the devices or websites I mention. These are simply tools that work for me.

  • Amber Lea Starfire

    Dave, thanks for your comments. I love your illustrations, by the way. If I could draw that well, I’d probably advocate more often for pen and paper! Actually, I DO advocate to mix it up, keep all the parts of the brain open. I also love the smell of paper, and like to journal by hand when I’m writing in natural situations, parks and so on. Or when I’m traveling and don’t want the inconvenience of lugging my laptop along. (Although, now that I have an iPad, I always have technology with me). But I usually feel that I can write better and with less distraction on the computer (just part of who I am, I guess).

  • Sarah Young Dudek

    This is a fantastic article. I’ve been meaning to keep a journal for years and have been procrastinating over the rumination of “paper vs. digital”…everything you’ve written is an impetus for me to be using the computer which I’m way more comfortable with.

    Thank you.

  • Marcus

    Hello Amber, What a great topic!

    I found your blog yesterday and I really enjoy reading it. I started journalling a few years ago in a notebook and have never used a computer for it. Today though I will change. I have ordered my first MacBook Pro and will collect it later today. As I love writing on a computer, mainly because it’s faster, I will try MacJournal for a start.
    I am sure though that I will never give up on my notebook as it’s simply speaking very easy to have it with me all the time, especially when traveling.
    I am sure I will miss handwriting my thoughts; but I noticed the last few months that I wrote less and less, simply because it takes me much more time to take out a pen and paper compared to using the keyboard. I also handwrite letters and I started to send off more of them recently.
    I believe I will change my habits of using the 2 different mediums. I like the idea of having several journals running at the same time. It gave me the idea to use the notebook as a journal when I am on the go and use the computer when I am home.
    Interesting time ahead.

    I would love to mention your blog in one of my next posts. I hope you like it.
    Have a good day.

  • Pingback: Notebooktivity » Digital Journalling

  • Sam

    Thanks for this post, it translates one of my dilemmas now. I have done both, but I find that writing on paper feels more personal as others have said. The problem is I travel a lot and move around a lot by choice so I always have to dispose of old journals which I regret profoundly. But I was reading sone other forums about thus subject and I came across this post from a woman that scan the journals into the computer and saves them there ( once the pages ended). This sounds very sensible to me seeing how typing it all again would be mental to me.

  • Sam

    Another thing I forgot, I am actually bilingual, so I always my journals in another language so I feel a little less worried that other people will read it. It might happen, but I m always very careful and I always keep it in a safe place. Journaling in a computer is definitely better in that aspect, but then you have to carry it with you everywhere and that’s just so unpractical…I am curious as to what others think about this.

  • J-MO

    I use the Alphasmart Neo.

    I too hate to write longhand. It’s tedious to me, unless I’m making quick notes or something like that. I now take a paper notebook, and my Neo where ever I go. I absolutely enjoy this thing! I can literally write anywhere! Of course I mean type. I type faster than I write longhand. I’m almost able to keep up with my thoughts without having to slow them down. I can’t sing the praises of the Neo enough. It’s just perfect. It runs on 3 “AA” batteries that last 750 hours. It’s EXTREMELY portable. I can just dump it to whatever word processing software of application on the computer, or web that I want to. It really is a dream come true, and I only happened upon it by accident. It was a woman’s blog on journaling, and she mentioned it. I went on Ebay and ordered a new one, and then ordered another one a few months later. I’m so happy with it. Truly what I’ve been needing and wanting for a long time , but technology had to catch up to what I had in my mind, and the way I’d like to write on the go. I’ve tried the paper, the palm pilot, and the keyboards that go with the palm pilots., They were close but this is the best way to write on the go for now, for me. Of course the internet has made writing great as well. You can log into any computer and write on sites, like Live Journal, Penzu, Google, Microsoft’s Windows Skydrive has Word, so there are many places to save my journal entries for safe keeping. I do regular backups to a cloud storage so that my writings are backed up.
    A program I use on the computer is called Scrivener. I’ve included a link for you to check out: http://goo.gl/BpQ4x It’s great for organizing your writing whether it’s a journal, novel, short story , or whatever. Lots of great features to aid your writing.

  • Bakari

    Hi Amber, first time to your site. I too prefer online/software journals to paper ones. I have over 12 paper journals that I kept during the college years, but now that I’m getting back to journaling, I prefer to do it on Penzu, and most recently 280Daily. The short form 280Daily is really ideal for just getting 280 characters posted everyday. I can include photos and links, and now they have a way to turn your entries into book, which I find awesome. I use Twitter the same way.

    Btw: anyone considering signing up on 280Daily, please use this link so I can get more character points: http://280d.co/u3abu. Sorry for the shameful plug, but just thought I’d take the opportunity while I have it.

    I’ll be keeping your site on my feed.

  • Diana Raab

    Great site! As someone who has been journaling for over 45 years, I can say that I prefer the pen because I also believe it is connected to the heart. However, there are times when we have so much we want to say that the pen simply does not move quickly enough and the computer comes in quite handy. That’s when I turn to technology, but my first preference is always pen and journal.

    Some people don’t like their handwriting and their brain works faster than their hand, so computers work best for them.

    It is highly individualized and the most important thing is that you journal. If you are versatile at both methods, I suggest, pen and paper over technology.

    • Amber Lea Starfire

      Thanks, Diana, for your comments. Many writers feel as you do—pen and paper for the heart, computer keyboard for the brain (well, that’s paraphrasing, but that’s about it). And the latest research suggests there’s some truth to it. 🙂

  • JH

    Hi there, this is an interesting topic. I have paper journals spanning the past ten years or so which I keep locked away. I keep toying with the idea of computer journalling as I am fast typist and it would be easier but I find paper journals more personal somehow.

    However if I do turn to computer journalling then I would like to digitalise my old journals too and save space, it would be tedious to type them all up so I have come up with the idea of scanning them but doing this page by page will be a very tedious and time consuming job. Any other ideas?

    • Amber Lea Starfire

      JH, scanning the journals into the computer is a great idea for storage, but unless you can also have it converted to text (from handwriting), I’m not sure how valuable it will be for you. The benefits of computer journaling—searchability, etc.—will still be missing. Also, since digital storage techniques change, we run the risk of losing some of our work to old technology. Remember those old 8″x8″ Xerox word processing diskettes?

      I actually print out all my journals and put them in a binder labeled by year and store them. I love the convenience of computers, and now we have cloud storage as well. But … well, paper does last a long time :-).

      • JH

        Hi Amber

        Many thanks for your reply. I know what you mean about technology. If I do go down the computer journalling route it would be to save storage and also for privacy to an extent. I do have an external hard drive that I back things up on. I have recently sold all my CDs and put them on the hard drive as I just don’t play them anymore and mainly listen to them on my phone/Itunes. I do wonder about if I lost them but then again they are stored on my phone aswell so its double back up. I also now have a Kindle and have gone electronic with books but then again every book you buy via Amazon is automatically stored there so you can download it again without cost if you should lose it. Journalling though is another matter, I really feel deep down that I will always want a hard copy of my journals, I think you can go completely digital with some things but not with others, do you agree?

  • david

    I almost have to use the computer. I have always disliked putting pen to paper. I can’t understand my own writting, not to mention it changes from print to cursive and back to print all in one word. When I have had to write reports by hand for work then ok..thats what I am getting paid to do, but when it is me and my time, I don’t feel like correcting every single word that I put down, or wonder if it is legible for later review. just type away, and walk away.

  • Ujjwal

    I am totally new about writing journals. I thought may be the start of a new year would be a good time to start a new habit. But I got really confused on the same issue- paper or computer?
    After reading your article I am thinking, lets try from the computer thing and lets see if this is a good idea.
    Thanks for this post Amber!

  • Ken

    Hi Amber, just got your “Journal 101 – Lesson 1”. Thank you. The post especially pushed my thinking beyond my present envelope of journaling thoughts. I love the idea of closing your eyes while typing. I’m going to give that a try using some of the prompts you suggested in J101- L 01 above.

    Just a few things I’d like to share and enquire about.

    I love computer journalling like yourself. When I travel, I love the pen and paper. Fits in the pocket, keeps me company when I in some remote bar or canteena, or just sitting by a remote waterfall and want to “Have a think” (Robert Frost).

    Have you ever thought about trying to learn Dvorak keyboard typing? I love it. I type using Dvorak on my Mac QWERTY keyboard and it’s helped me break the habit of looking at the keys. I just want to mention this to folks who have a distate for typing simply because they feel they are poor typers. Of course, there are a few caveats. When I want to type using Japanese input I’m humbled back to using the QWERTY keyboard. Also, I notice on my iTouch, and I’m assuming, maybe this goes for the iPad too, need someone to confirm this, that Dvorak keyboard layout is not available.

    Moving on. I too have MacJournal. Amber, would you consider maybe a short post on how you use it? How you like to set up your journals. How you use tags. To give you an idea, I’ve set up different journals for different activities: Violin Practice, Japanese, Food & Health, Exercise, and Thoughts. I also have tags for each of these journals, in the event I have an entry that may fall into more than one journal. For example: Fiddling for my Japanese class 🙂

    • Amber Lea Starfire

      Ken, I’m glad that Journaling 101 is expanding your thinking around journaling … makes my day :-).

      Even though I usually have my iPhone and/or my iPad with me, I also always carry a notebook and pen. Lately, it’s been my Echo Smartpen (electronic pen) and notebook, which allows me to download my handwritten journal and/or notes onto the computer (not to mention record interviews and meetings). This gives me the best of both worlds.

      I’ve never tried the Dvorak keyboard … and I have a feeling that this old dog is too used to QWERTY to stray. That said, anyone who isn’t as facile with QWERTY should definitely look at all options and find what works best for him or her.

      And yes, I plan on putting together a series of posts on Journaling Tools, to include both electronic (software, smartpen, etc.) and the more “analog” variety. Stay tuned …

  • Elise Duren

    I love this article. I am actually about to start back writing a journal. I use to write journal entries when I was 16 but my mom praying eyes. She is to nosy. Now that I think about it. I don’t really care if she reads it because I want her to read so she can know the real me. Most parents think they know their kids until they read their diaries and journals lol. I don’t really care about privacy yes their my inner most thoughts but I want want ppl to know who I really especially ppl who close to me. I feel that I’m just tired of hidden dairies and I want ppl to know the real me and I fret can’t handle it oh well… You live lol…. I’m starting like 7 journals one about my childhood, my daily life,finding my purpose in life, my diet e going vegan, about my exercise and my success of starting my own business and Relationships. I should think about writing my own blog too. Having success in all are areas I mention and write a book when I am 30 I’m 21 now….

  • Elise Duren

    Lol I just look at my grammar. Oh my… That’s one of the reason I write journals. Nobody will see it and I could care less. Also I use my android phone to write my journals. I currently use ever note. I can use it on my phone and pc. It uses a password to log on to. I can easily organize my journals and make more. I have the galaxy s3 and it has a big screen like a mini tablet and phone and not too big to put in my pants. I use a keyboard called swift key that’s left me swipe across the letters I want to type and it predicts what I want going to write. Its just like typing on the pc and keep up with my thoughts. I usually keep two phone batteries with me. One for anything and another for journeying if my batteries run out and emergencies. Its definitely last me til I get home on the pc.

  • xc

    i use pen, paper and diary software both, to be fact, i like use pen and paper much. just as you said, connection to the heart. i use software in case that i lose my journal book, few days before, i thought i have lost all my letters, i felt so sad, even cannot help crying. they have accompanied me since i entered in middle school. luckily i found them finally, god know how happy i was when i found them. so i choose software to avoid this kind things happen.

    • Amber Lea Starfire Post author

      Elvira, thanks for asking. I have all my digital documents stored in the cloud (dropbox in my case), as well as on my computer and a backup drive (which, is good procedure in general). In addition, I have given my master password to unlock all my passwords, to the executor of my will, AND I print out my journal entries each year, put them in a binder, and put it in my storage unit. So…with my luck, either no one will want to read my writing, or — more likely — they’ll find it so boring and self-centered that they’ll toss it. Of course, at that point, I won’t care much. I have to keep a sense of humor about these things.

  • Marilyn Bunte

    I am looking for electronic journaling. For years I used pen and paper. When I got the computer I then entered past years hand written journals into the computer. Honestly I want to find an electronic tool with out all the apps etc n the traditional computer only a place to write my journal. Is there a notebook I can use?

    • Amber Lea Starfire Post author

      Marilyn, I use Evernote. It’s a note-taking program. You can create folders for different types of journals or you can just have one folder. Each entry is a new note. It’s super easy to use, and it’s free. You can download the program and use it offline. It’s also password protected and online (if you want), so if you’re away from your computer, if you can access the Internet you can access your journals.

  • Sarah

    I love typing. My handwriting was already awful, but then I started taking a medication that makes my hands shaky and cramp easily. Typing allows me to keep going. I’m not much of a journaler, but that’s because I always tried doing it by hand. My OCD (actual diagnosed, not just a saying) gives me this weird thing where if I’m writing by hand it has to be PERFECT. Obviously, this makes me focus on the writing and not the thoughts and feelings. Typing takes that stress away. And as an extra, typing on a phone works as well. It’s not my preferred method, but it will do in a pinch.

  • Brandyn

    I’ve been keeping a journal for a few years now. Up until recently, with the purchase of a brand new laptop, I converted to composing journal entries electronically. I am quite heavy handed when I write, so I didn’t think much of the switch. The only nag I have is that I won’t be able to pass along to my future children electronic entries as easily as I would be able to with a physical journal. However, I alleviate that tension by remembering that I could simply print out the entries. Duh!

    • Amber Lea Starfire Post author

      Welcome to WritingThroughLife, Brandyn, and thank you for joining the conversation. Yes, printing out your entries, putting them in a binder, and storing them will allow you to pass them on to your family. I usually do this (printing) at the end of each year.

    • Amber Lea Starfire Post author

      Hi George. I’ve been using Evernote for some time now. It’s very flexible – works on desktop, mobile, and web and can contain video, images, and voice memos as well as text. It’s what I generally recommend and, frankly, I haven’t kept up much with apps that are journaling-specific. Evernote is free, too.

  • Nathaniel

    I started making Journals out of curiosity a week after my classes have been suspended (Somewhere within March 2020). I am sticking with typing my journals since it is more simpler… I shall try a pen someday, since I am curious about the difference and effectiveness of either side ( Typing and Hand Writing).

  • Sam

    I admire the way you describe how journaling can be done on laptop perfectly. I thought about myself to start journaling on my laptop. But i am not tec person. Can you guide a bit. Which software do you use for journaling ?

    • Amber Lea Starfire Post author

      Sam, I use Evernote, which is a note-taking program available online and on your computer or phone. There are so many journaling programs out there – you can do a simple search to find what you want. Or, if you are not a tech person, you might find writing on a computer frustrating and continue to write in a paper journal. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s about each person finding what works for them.

  • Alyson Hafen

    Thank you for your article. My father had dysgraphia, and whether I also have it or just feel like I do, I don’t enjoy hand writing much, especially for journaling. I have used a laptop for journaling for many years, starting back when laptops where so expensive, but buying one and then subsequent ones to journal along with other work, helped me through some difficult years of my younger sister’s cancer and her death, (she had the beautiful handwriting), my kids’ leaving: for college and then their marriages, going through a divorce, and becoming caregiver for my mom until her death. Really, my little laptops helped me through the real life we all go through. So in my opinion, journaling however it works for a person, works. My sister kept a journal from the time she was in high school until her death at 35. Beautifully handwritten accounts of her life. Her husband kept them and cherished them. I loved her for how she journaled. And I have also loved my little laptops over the years for how I journal.

  • Thomas

    I’m so happy to hear I’m not the only one that chooses to type instead of handwrite. I feel so self-conscious about it sometimes. Particularly, because I’m incredibly anal about my handwriting. I’m right handed, but suffered a sports injury in high school that leaves me unable to extend my pinky very well (nerve damage), so it creates extra issue with the cramping. This contributes to how high I prefer the writing surface to be and no, no not directly on the table, I need at least an inch of paper underneath; what kind of pen is this? A few of these are mental preferences, I’m sure, but still!

    It’s exhausting.

    On one side, I see these pictures of people’s journals and think, “Goodness, that’s a work of art!” (Then I think about how I’d seriously entertain murder for any amount of time it clearly took for that person’s journal entry to be completed.)

    On the other side, I question the ‘science’ of it. Am I really getting the benefit of sorting through my issues? Does my brain really know that I’m trying to help myself here?!

    Overall, how could it not be beneficial. I write better than I speak (in my opinion), which means being able to type promises that my words keep up with my brain. I even have time to type in a little spare sarcasm or anecdote, if I like. Plus, does handwriting my journal guarantee that I’ll somehow feel *more* unburdened?

    I appreciate that there is someone else out there (or several someone’s in this case!) that prefers the keyboard to the pen.