Blank books. Empty, clean, ready to soak in our words and keep them safe. Giving us reprieve from carrying some of those words around with us all of the time. A dumping ground for a priceless treasure that we call life experience.
Guided journals. Often themed. Including prompts that become a part of our page, whether we choose to respond directly to them or not. Serving as a space for us to explore a specific part of life, often with an intention.
If a guided journal has a theme and a hint of an intention to move the writer in a specific direction, the workbook has a purpose and clear goal. A workbook will include text, either on the back cover or one of the front pages, explaining the purpose of the book and the end result the writer can expect after she’s used it.
Workbooks exist for all sorts of topics. Planning your perfect year. Setting up a retirement savings plan. Organizing a wedding. Writing a college entrance essay. I’ve even seen one called “The Self-Esteem Workbook.”
The pages are usually designed with questions, space to answer them, and then another question. The biggest difference between a workbook and a journal or a guided journal is the limited space available for writing. At least if you’re following the workbook. With a workbook it’s not about free flow writing as much as it’s about answering a specific question.
Workbooks are awesome of you need a little guidance to explore a topic. Or if you’re trying to reach a goal that the workbook can help you to come to. I like them for exploring a specific topic with more depth and focused questions than a guided journal may have, but also to keep my writing short. There are instances when it makes sense to be clear and concise and move on. In this way, workbooks are good practice at making decisions and coming to conclusions relatively quickly, whereas an open-ended journal is a better space for pondering without limits.
What kind of format do you prefer for your personal writing? Leave a comment in the space below – I’d love to hear from you!
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.