Take a journey of self-exploration through the process of journalling.

We are living through increasingly turbulent times, in an age awash in digital content that is often edifying and conducive to creativity but equally it can be disruptive to concentration and to maintaining a calmer and more contemplative mode of living.

A journalling workshop with experienced tutor and journaller Deborah Shepard offers a quiet sanctuary where you can reconnect with your inner life and find out what you are thinking through writing exercises, and discussion and analysis of the form with reference to some of the great journallers. This  workshop will appeal to people wanting to use the journal for self-exploration, or to develop formal writing skills for other projects, or to chronicle and preserve your daily observations of the world, from the humble and small, to the splendid and sublime.

Course outline

Day One — A brief history and introduction to the journal form covering the great proponents of the genre including Henry David Thoreau, Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, Lord Byron, Thomas Merton, Etty Hillesum, John Keats, Samuel Pepys, Sylvia Plath, May Sarton, Joan Didion, Anais Nin and Kate Llewellyn.

Writing exercise: Tuning in and writing rapidly in the moment with reference to the work of May Sarton.

Why journalling is good for emotional wellbeing:the value of using the journal as a tool for self-exploration to find out what we really think and what matters with reference to the journals of some of the great thinkers; Henry David Thoreau and Thomas Merton.

Writing exercise: what is on my mind, what concerns me deeply?

Day Two — The value of keeping a journal to develop writing skills, to record notes and ideas for work in progress in other forms and to hone your powers of description with reference to the work of Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath and Joan Didion.

Writing exercise: writing in relation to my specific interests/studies, using the journal to clarify and define the direction of the project/s

Writing a diary and/or journalling as an art form? Looking at examples from Samuel Pepys, Anne Frank, Etty Hillesum, Margaret Forster..

Writing exercise: a day in my life.

Day Three — Journalling in nature — an exercise in the outdoors with reference to the work of Lord Byron, Roger Deakin and Kate Llewellyn.

Writing exercise: In nature: what can I see, hear, feel, now.

Discerning my own themes — an indepth examination of my emerging themes and preoccupations with samples from a range of journal writing to stimulate discussion followed by an editing workshop.

A mentoring session with Deborah

Day Four — Ethics: What to include? Self revelation and how deep do we go? How to keep yourself and your journal safe. Considering the journals of Anais Nin.

Writing exercise: writing out the deeply personal.

Publication: the possibilities and hazards. Weighing up the value of writing a journal for private contemplation and enjoyment versus writing for publication. Writing and posting a journal online.

Writing exercise: Summarising what I have learned and where I am heading now

Learning outcomes

On completion of this course participants will be able to:

  • Identify key writing strengths and continue developing those skills through continued journalling
  • Continue the reading programme established on this course to enhance the ongoing writing process
  • Have an ethical grasp of the implications of the writing and a method for exploring the impact of the writing on significant others
  • Craft the journal for publication
  • Identify an audience and write a blog

Who should attend?

New writers wanting to discover their writing strengths

  • Students seeking a creative outlet and medium for self-expression that will complement the academic writing
  • Students and writers seeking to strengthen and improve their writing skills
  • Journallers seeking further inspiration and focus
  • Life writers engaged on a memoir project and wanting to broaden and deepen their content
  • Fiction writers wanting to use the journal to record observations, notes and ideas for fiction projects.
  • Writers wanting to improve their powers of description and observation.
  • Pregnant mothers wanting to tune in to the new life developing within and to chart the transition.
  • Mothers and Fathers engaged in recording and preserving their children’s development.
  • Grandparents wishing to record their observations of family and new life for posterity.
  • Writers wanting to chronicle the everyday and create a record for posterity.
  • People seeking a writing medium that is contemplative, calming and good for personal wellbeing.
  • People who want to make sense of the things that happen to them and events in the wider world.

About the Presenter

Deborah Shepard is a biographer, oral historian and life writing mentor for the New Zealand Society of Authors with years of experience teaching life writing, memoir courses and master classes through the Centre for Continuing Education at The University of Auckland and at the Michael King Writers’ Centre. Her books include: Reframing Women: A History of New Zealand Film (2000), Between the Lives: Partners in Art (2005), Her Life’s Work (2009) and a journal, Giving Yourself to Life: A Journal of Pain, Hope and Renewal (2015). In 2015 Deborah conducted a series of interviews with senior New Zealand authors for the New Zealand Society of Authors and is now at work on a book The Writing Life: Twelve New Zealand Authors based on those interviews..

Recommended reading

Seen as supplementing the course but not compulsory

AuthorTitleDatePlace / Publisher
Tristine RainerThe New Diary: How to Use a Journal for Self-Guidance and Expanded Creativity1978,2004New York: Penguin
May SartonHouse by the Sea1977New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
Kate LlewellynThe Waterlily: A Blue Mountains Journal1987Sydney: Hudson
Ira ProgromAt a Journal Workshop:Writing to Access the Power of the Unconscious and Creative Ability1975,1992New York: Penguin
Stephanie DowrickCreative Journal Writing: the art and heart of reflection2007Sydney: Allen & Unwin