Journaling with Words and Images: personal growth and gardens

Download/print the one page pdf of this handout.

Think about this metaphor: We plant our lives like our gardens. We make plans, imagine possibilities in seed catalogs, get supplies, ready the ground, check the calendar, reflect on history and experience, plant, water, wait for germination, observe, let nature take its course, help with weeding and pest control, harvest the produce, clear the old growth, prepare the soil for the next planting.


Think of a situation in your life that might fit this metaphor of growth and gardening. Do you consciously use your journal for personal growth? How do you accomplish that focus?


Writing your thoughts in a journal helps you to become more aware of what you’re thinking and what’s important to you. Writing each day helps you track small goals and setback and to clarify where you are and where you want to be in the future. We learn about ourselves as we write. The act of writing engages us to learn about ourselves and to make conscious decisions about who we want to be.

Your journal is a safe place to express your thoughts, feelings, anxieties, ideas and questions about life. Getting the words out of your head and onto paper gives them shape and meaning. Whether journaling helps you make sense of your life, by giving immediate clarity, or because patterns emerge to show the bigger picture, honest life writing can bring personal growth.

Writing exercise

If you are hesitant to get started focusing on your thoughts and feelings for personal growth, try beginning with:

  • How do I feel?
  • What do I want?
  • What’s happening in my life right now?
  • What can I learn from this?
  • How did I make a difference today?
  • What would I do if I could do anything?

Reflection writing exercise

To increase the effectiveness of your journaling for personal growth, practice summarizing your journal entries to prompt yourself to read, reflect, look for emotional or behavioral patterns, see opportunities for improvement, notice what is and isn’t working. Try writing a summary of a recent entry. Try writing a summary of a section of previous entries. Then write about the experience—was it straightforward or difficult? What did you learn about yourself through this reflection?

Recommended books

The monthly workshop “journaling with words and images” meets on the 2nd Tuesday of each month at 10 am at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library.

Photo credit:Some rights reserved by cmkalina

Lissa Staley

Lissa Staley helps people use the library. She is a Book Evangelist, Health Information Librarian, Trivia Emcee, Classics Made Modern book group leader, NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison, Community Novel Project leader, HUSH podcaster, and frequent library customer. She reads a new book every few days, but recently enjoyed Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley.