Journaling For Dummies
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Many people assume that journaling is always done by hand. For me, the primary advantage of journaling by hand is that your journal and writing instruments are inexpensive and portable. However, there are disadvantages, including that your journal might not be safe from prying eyes, loss, or natural disasters.

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Consider the following advantages and disadvantages for both analog and digital journaling before you decide for yourself.

The pros of analog journaling

There are many reasons that journaling by hand is preferred by the majority of journal keepers. Some of the most compelling reasons include
  • Memory and comprehension: The sensory-motor coordination involved in handwriting activates more parts of the brain than typing does, while also slowing cognitive processing. The benefits of this increased brain activity include improved memory and deeper comprehension of concepts.When journaling by hand, these benefits may enhance your ability to gain insights while journaling reflectively.
  • Stress reduction: The very act of writing by hand can reduce stress. This stress reduction occurs, in part, because you have to slow down your thought processes while you write, giving it a meditative quality.
  • Simplicity: A paper journal is simple. It’s cheap, portable, and doesn’t depend on batteries.
  • Enjoyment: For those who prefer the tactile feeling, writing on paper can be a more enjoyable experience than journaling on an electronic device.

The cons of analog journaling

In spite of its popularity and benefits, there are also reasons that journaling by hand might not be your ultimate choice. Analog journaling is
  • Messy: For those who write slowly or whose hands tend to cramp or smear ink (I’m thinking of us lefties), writing by hand can be messy and sometimes painful.
  • Not versatile: You can’t include multimedia, such as audio or video recordings, and attaching pictures is complicated. Also, it’s time-consuming and challenging to search for specific content, create a backup, or convert the contents to another format.
  • Hard to edit: It’s difficult to make clean corrections, and copying and pasting requires additional tools.
  • Less private: From a privacy perspective, analog is less safe than digital. Even if you lock your notebook in a safe, your journal is subject to being found and read by someone else. So you need to rely on the integrity of those around you.
  • Not physically safe: An analog journal is also less safe from loss or disaster, such as fires and floods, while a digital journal can be easily backed up to the cloud or another device.

The advantages of digital journaling

Check out the following list of advantages to digital journaling:
  • Ease of use: A digital journal can be easier to organize and manage than a paper one.
  • Physical safety: Because it can be stored in multiple places (in the cloud, as well as on a hard drive), your digital journal can be safe from loss and natural disasters.
  • Privacy: Definitely a pro of the digital journal. You can password protect and double authenticate access to it.
  • Access: If you carry a smartphone, your digital journal is available to you everywhere you go, making it easy to add notes throughout the day, whereas, you might not always want to tote your paper journal around.
  • Versatility: You can include digital multimedia in your journal entries: audio, video, images, and so on.
  • Speed: If you type quickly, or use speech to text technology, it can be easier to pour out your thoughts and emotions onto the page because you don’t have to slow down as much.
  • Editing capabilities: You can freely correct errors, copy, paste, and rearrange your writing.
  • Therapeutic value: Exploring your thoughts and emotions through digital entry — including typing, speech to text, and using a digital pen — can provide the same therapeutic value as handwriting.

The disadvantages of digital journaling

The following list outlines reasons you might not prefer digital journaling:
  • Linear thought dominates: The primary disadvantage to digital journaling is that keyboarding tends to encourage linear, rather than associative/creative thinking. However, that disadvantage may be overcome by using a digital pen, combined with a handwriting or drawing application.
  • Expense: Digital journals require a device, such as computer, smartphone, or tablet, all of which cost more than a paper notebook.
  • Energy: A digital journal requires power from some source, such as batteries (and you need the ability to recharge those batteries).
  • Emotional distance: Because of the technical nature of typing and working within software limitations, digital journaling can distance you from your emotions when compared with writing by hand.
  • Risk of loss: If you don’t back up your journal to the cloud or a hard drive, you run the risk of losing all of your journal entries forever if something should happen to the device on which it’s stored.
  • Not tactile: Journaling on a computer or other digital device might not feel as pleasurable, from a tactile perspective.

Figuring out what works best for you

Read through the lists in the preceding sections. Do any pros or cons stand out for you?

Maybe there’s just one item that’s a deal clincher — the enhanced privacy of digital journaling, for example. Or the ability to copy and paste. Or perhaps you don’t like computers and love the tactile feeling of pen on paper. Whichever method you use, the choice is deeply personal.

If you’re still not sure which mode to use, I recommend starting out with the one that seems easiest. You can always switch — or even blend modes — later on.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Amber Lea Starfire is a writer and writing coach who has published two memoirs and several journaling how-to books. She has also developed a series of online classes and workshops that have helped hundreds of people journal and deepen their writing practice. Find out more at

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