When to use guided journals

Last week we took a closer look at blank books. This week let’s talk about guided journals. What exactly is a guided journal?

In my experience, guided journals are typically themed. They include front matter text and in the following pages give the writer space to write, doodle, and explore his or her thoughts.

The sky is the limit with themes. Recently I have seen a journal for beer drinkers, a break-up journal, and an assortment of food and fitness journals. There’s also my own published work, The Vision Journal, which is designed to take the journalist on a road of self-discovery.

The text at the front end of a guided journal typically includes two things: the purpose of the journal and suggested, topic-related prompts. Other details the author may decide to add are why he or she put the journal together and what benefits the journal writer can stand to gain from using a particular journal.

After that, there is space to write. A guided journal may be organized with all of the text up-front, or with the majority of the text up front and remaining prompts pop up throughout the pages of the journal.

When do you need one of these guided journals?

When you are exploring one topic in detail. And it would be nice to keep your thoughts in one, easily identifiable space. Where a blank book makes it easy to jump around and free flow write, a guided journal on your relationship with your spouse may be a place you want to write only about that topic. Having this singled out space can help you to organize your thoughts around a topic and create a strong sense of clarity.

To inspire action. The clarity a journal writer stands to gain from a guided journal can be followed up with a sense of excitement that often leads to action. If you want to build your business, lose weight, track your progress as a model car builder, etc. journal about it in your guided journal for your topic of choice, and over time, your next steps will become clear and present themselves to you.

When you have a lingering problem or challenge that you would like to change. The perfect example of this is the break-up journal. I belong to a Facebook group of authors who write journals and one of the members recently published a journal on healing after a break-up. This journal would be perfect for people who are struggling to move forward after a break-up and they just need a little extra help or inspiration.

When you’re doing something brand new. There are plenty of guided journals out there that are topic related to fun and new experiences. Travel. Weddings. Tasting new foods. Even sex. Keeping a journal on your interaction with that experience can result in the experience itself becoming even more meaningful to you.

Does your guided journal have to be one that you purchase? Absolutely not. You can use a blank book for exploring one topic. Prompts can be found on any topic using the Internet, or you can free write in your journal on your topic without prompts. In this way, you can let your own experiences create the guide for your journal.

Like this article? Please feel free to use it on your own blog or newsletter. I simply ask that you please include this blurb:
Sara Marchessault is a writer, publisher, teacher, and mom who is on a mission to increase joy on the planet. Through the practice of self-reflection, we become aware of what brings us joy and what does not, and we make choices to move forward or stand still. Journal writing is a powerful reflection tool that can help any of us move forward, even in the darkest of times. To learn more about Sara and her work in the world, please visit saramarchessault.com.


  1. Sue LeBreton | 27th Sep 16

    I have purchased the odd guide journal but haven’t had great success. Perhaps I am a contrarian but I never wanted to write about that days’ prompt. However, I adore your idea of having one that is all the same theme- ones I tried in the past were all over the map topic wise.

    • Sara Marchessault | 3rd Oct 16

      Thanks, Sue! I’ve noticed the same thing with journals that have prompts laced throughout, or assigned to a specific page, particularly if they are sort of open-ended and not necessarily focused on a specific topic. Journals that run with a theme have made it helpful for me to organize my thoughts and much easier to go back and find something I’ve written down. I also will share the journals that run a theme such as family travel, letters to my kids, or even the journal I keep for my business. But there’s always one that I keep just for me.

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