Guest Featured Author
Appreciation,  Blogging,  Great information,  Guest Post,  Journaling,  THOUGHTS,  Writing Hacks,  Writing tips

Guest Author and Blogger Feature – Marsha Ingrao on Journaling

Guest Featured Author

I’m excited to have over here today, friend, author, retired teacher, and blogger extraordinaire Marsha Ingrao. Marsha offers excellent insights on her 2 blogs. offers blogging tips, author interviews, blogging challenges, as well as an excellent series on book reviews. Marsha also runs a blog where she shares her travel reviews and photos on some of the many places she’s traveled to, as well as sharing her pet projects raising funds for her Woodlake community.

I invited Marsha over today to talk about the different methods of journaling. We thought it was an appropriate post because I do much of my writing from journals where my thoughts and books begin. So without further ado, I’ll let Marsha take it away . . .


Ways to Journal

You can call it a journal or a diary. Either way, in the 21st century there are two ways keep track of your thoughts, online or offline. Both have their advantages. This post will discuss the time-honored handwritten journal. The next post will explore the differences in an online journal.

 Journaling by Marsha Ingrao


Handwritten Journals Show Specific Benefits

Research shows that the kinesthetic act of writing aids learning. Writing by hand slows a person’s raging thoughts and makes the writer focus on what is essential. Many journalists use a personal shorthand, which engages a different section of the brain. Others include drawings which activate additional cognitive processes.

A 2005 study shows that the act of writing a journal has mental health benefits as well. It does not lessen the seriousness of the situation a person goes through, but it does help to put their troubles into perspective.

UCLA researcher, Matthew D. Lieberman told the Guardian  that “”writing seems to help the brain regulate emotion unintentionally.” Even writing bad poetry or songs, writing by hand made the calming effects of journaling more effective. He also said that “men seemed to benefit from writing about their feelings more than women, and writing by hand had a bigger effect than typing,” Dr. Lieberman said,

A  2014 study found that individuals who journal a form of narrative focused on positive outcomes in adverse situations reduces stress. In a 2010 study, Briana Murnahan from Eastern Michigan University also conducted a study on the results of journaling and found that diaries and journals both helped people reduce stress, but men were more likely to keep a journal, which is less private.

Handwritten Journal Basics

  1. Bound journals don’t get lost as easily. They are available in all sizes and prices with and without clasps and a ribbon bookmark
  2. Include the date of each entry.
  3. Leave the first few pages blank to write in a table of contents or index of pages you want to revisit
  4. Leave the first few pages unmarked for frequently used information like sign in codes, birthdates, (coded, of course)
  5. Use the inside covers or back few pages for lists.  This might include books you’ve read, new people you meet, prayer requests, anything you might want to add to as you work through your journal.
  6. Write a page number on at least every other page.
  7. Don’t worry about form, grammar, or neatness.
  8. Review it.
  9. Keep it handy.

In the next post in this series discover how keeping a blog or an online journal differs from a handwritten one and how you can use both effectively.


Thank you so much Marsha for being my guest here today and for sharing your wonderful insights on the many reasons to keep a journal. I know I’m looking forward to your follow up post – on Online Journaling and would be thrilled to host it here too. 🙂



Marsha Ingrao


Before becoming a consultant in history and English language-arts, Marsha Ingrao taught grades K-5 for many years. Marsha journaled to work through the tragedy of her first marriage, which ended in the death of her husband at the age of forty-seven from a rare genetic disease. Encouraged by doctors not to have children, she whined to her journal as she also kept it crammed with lesson plans, poetry, news, prayer requests, drawings, Bible studies, and lists.


She retired in 2012, wrote Images of America, Woodlake, blogs, and volunteers in her community through several service organizations.  She and her second husband live in the foothills of California with their dog, Kalev and two cats.


Connect with Marsha on Social Media:

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Check out Marsha’s books:

Woodlake – Images of America

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D.G. Kaye is a nonfiction/memoir writer, who writes from her own life experiences and self-medicates with a daily dose of humor.


  • lisa thomson-The Great Escape...

    Very interesting facts about journaling. Thanks for sharing this Debby and introducing Marsha here. I’m a big fan of hand written journals. I always have one on the go. Writing down my dreams is also a journaling method I use. I totally believe in these benefits of hand writing vs. typing on the keyboard. Nice to know this is backed up with studies. My privacy was invaded years ago when a ‘friend’ read my journal. I knew she had read it because she made a spelling correction in one of my entries. I was sickened by the betrayal. Since then, I’m careful about where I keep my journal and who my friends are. I no longer have anything to do with this person and divorced her when I left my husband. Sorry, to go off on that anecdote but privacy can be a problem when it comes to our journals. Thanks again, Marsha for sharing your tips and Deb for hosting a wonderful writer.

    • dgkaye

      Hi Lis. Thanks for sharing. And why am I not surprised you write in a journal? 🙂 But someone invading your privacy and reading and writing in your journal behind your back? You did the right thing by divorcing her too. Often when people get divorced they find out who is the friend in relationships with other couples. Glad you found out and banished her. 🙂 xx

    • Marsha

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, Lisa. What a horrible invasion of privacy to have someone read your journal or diary! That is the danger with handwritten journals. I don’t put my most private thoughts in a handwritten journal for that reason. Being scatterbrained, I’m prone to leave things lying around and not being able to find them. Now I use a smaller journal that fits into my purse, and I keep it handy for meeting notes, important things I need to do, phone conversations, even passwords as I’m setting up a new account. Anything you’d use a scrap of paper for, a journal works better. 🙂

  • Jacqui Murray

    I have never had that joy of handwriting that some experience. It went from utilitarian to painful (thank you arthritis) and then digital. I can see how handwritten notes would be appealing to the right people.

  • balroop2013

    Interesting insights! Thanks for introducing Marsha…it really helps in connecting with like-minded authors.
    There was a time I tried to keep a journal but then I found papers more convenient as they were all around me and I could jot down my thoughts even while my students were writing an exam. 🙂 Smart phones sneaked in slowly to snatch the paper away from my hand and slowly I learnt to use it. Now it is my best pal besides the word on my Mac 🙂

    • dgkaye

      Interesting B. So you enjoy typing your journaling thoughts as opposed to writing them on paper? I wonder if I’ll ever feel that way. Sometimes I’ll just you the note recorder on my phone to leave myself notes on things I want to include in my writing if I’m out and about. But at home there’s a journal for various topics. 🙂

      • Marsha

        Hey Deb, great idea to use audio sensory input for the next post on digital journaling. Digital journals take memory recording to a whole new level. So you keep more than one journal. Do you color code them? That’s another level of journaling. Another topic is using binders. You’re always an inspiration to writers, my friend. 🙂 Thanks again for hosting me on your blog. 🙂

        • dgkaye

          Aw thanks so much Marsh. No, I don’t color code them, which sounds like a great idea. But I keep different journals for different book and blog ideas, clearly titled on each journal. I think everyone sort of develops their own system which work best for them.
          It was great having you over Marsh. And when your ready for part 2 – digital journaling, I’ll be thrilled to feature it here too. 🙂 xx

    • Marsha

      Hey B, thanks for sharing, You have a history or progression of journal writing. I love my computer, both Mac and PC because I use Google Docs for my most private thoughts – even if someone on the cloud reads them by invasion, I don’t know them. Smart phone photos work so well for note taking at meetings. Take a picture of the screen of someone’s powerpoint presentation, and bam, instant notes – all the while you’re enjoying the presentation. But that is for another post.

  • Jane Risdon

    Keeping a diary since I was a teen has helped me with my recent writing when I had to recall events from 49 years ago when writing a novel. So helpful and saved a lot of research. But gosh, did I need the Kleenex!

  • Carol

    I keep a diary and I journal by hand and at the moment I am in the process of transferring any recipes to two blank books I bought particularly for recipes. The reason is threefold..One I can find any recipes much easier and Two.. I thought they would be a lovely legacy to leave to my children as I tend to write little notes and tips on my recipes. It was the thought of them plowing through my many journals for a particular recipe which prompted this excercise…I was looking for a particular recipe myself and it took me a while…Three and most important I have a habit of writing a recipe down on a scrap of paper..I now do it in my books..No more scraps of paper..Well just a few …Great post Marsha 🙂

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for sharing that Carol. That sounds like I have kept recipes for years – on scrap pieces of paper, lol. A few years ago I managed to at least sort the scraps and put them in a file folder, still uncategorized and a job to sift through when I”m looking for something specific. I don’t have the time nor the inclination to to re-write them, so there they shall stay. Now, any other recipes I collect off the web in the last few years are properly stored in a recipe file folder on Evernote. 🙂 <3

      • Carol

        You are welcome I have note books everywhere and any one who knows me always brings me lovely little notebooks if they see them on their travels…I pity anyone who goes through them it would be a mamothe task…lol…I can see 7 without moving my head and thats just the top of the

      • Marsha

        Another great idea, Deb. I’m just as bad with web recipes as I am with the old fashioned card or scraps of paper. Your reminder to use Evernote reminds people they have choices. I’m going to try that. I’ve gotten away from using Evernote since I retired. In five years, I’m sure it is even more helpful than it was then.

        • dgkaye

          I’ve written a few posts in the past about how Evernote is a great filing system. I don’t know where I’d be without it. I set up folder names where I store articles instantly from a web page I’m visiting. When I’m looking for something on that topic I just click on my Evernote. It’s so much better than sifting through the many docs in my computer which, half the time I don’t remember what I labeled them under, lol. 🙂

    • Marsha

      Thanks so much for the tips, Carol. Everybody cooks, and how many have slips of paper or three by five cards lying around all over the house. My mother-in-law cut recipes out of the paper she intended to try. A hoarder, we through out a stack of newspapers probably piled six feet high next to her dining table. With no on in the house but herself for years, I doubt that she would have kept them if she had taken the time to write them in a journal as you do. You must be a committed cook. Awesome suggestion. 🙂

      • Carol

        Thank you Marsha…I do like to cook but I also like to find my recipes and that is what prompted the transfering from bits of paper and journals where they are mixed with everything else …I am trying to get some order and don’t want anyone to have to go through slips of paper or worse still throwing a recipe away so they will get a nicly written book or two or three with additional notes and tips ..something to remind them of me 🙂

        • Marsha

          Do you ever get together with friends and go on a cooking binge with everyone trying their favorite recipes? One of my friends does this with about four to six ladies, and they plan out the entire weekend of cooking, wine, etc. Another activity I love is a progressive dinner, especially when you are on vacation with friends and everyone has a room with a kitchen, so you walk from room to room.

  • Tina Frisco

    I really enjoyed this, Deb and Marsha. I now do most of my book and article writing at the computer, but songs, poems, and daily thoughts still get written by hand. It’s interesting that both typing and writing make use of the hands, but pressing pen to paper has a flow that typing at a keyboard does not. I find both useful, yet it’s much easier to carry a small journal when traveling. Thank you both for this terrific post ❤

    • dgkaye

      Thanks Tina. I’m with you. I always have a small one in my purse ready for instant thought jots. My creativity doesn’t flow in front of the screen, only with pen in hand. Last of the dinosaurs!! LOL <3

    • Marsha

      Thanks, Tina. Of course, you use both. Your deep thinking and creative nature is not confined to one media or another. The other day a friend and I went to an artist’s showing. She turned 90 and her art was not for sale. She used so many mediums, different paints, pencil, charcoal, photography, fabric, jewelry, and clay to name some of them. Yet all displayed enormous talent. Mediums did not limit her ability to express herself or her talent. You have discovered the secret to written creativity. 🙂

  • Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC

    Loved this – thanks to BOTH of you for sharing it. I especially loved the list of benefits for hand-written journals. With today’s hacker-trolls, the “privacy” argument is no longer a good one for avoiding journaling on paper, and it really is MUCH better for anyone who can possibly manage it (brain-based).
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

  • L. T. Garvin, Author

    Thanks for introducing Marsha who is such a talented blogger with advice on the outstanding topic of journaling. I also handwrite most of my work in basic spiral notebooks. This is mainly because I have to do my writing in between classes, at appointments, while hanging upside down in the closet (just kidding about the closet, LOL). I must write on the go pretty much if I write at all. I do plenty of journaling with bad poetry, and sometimes I just pray for some raging thoughts, ha ha. I even have a few of the pretty books that I would like to copy some of my handwritten things in someday, sigh. Great post, Debby!

    • dgkaye

      HI Lana. Lol, you mean you don’t write upside down in the closet? Seriously, so nice to learn someone else likes writing freehand. That’s how all my books start – rough drafts in journals before they’re revised in the computer into 2nd draft. And it seems your raging thoughts produce some pretty darn good poems and stories. 🙂 xx

    • Marsha

      Thanks, Lana! I’d like to have a video to post with this of you hanging upside down in the closet writing in your journal. That’s committment! LOL! Spiral notebooks are the best, aren’t they. I used to buy them for my students when they went on sale for $.19, and then there were plenty to spare for me, too. A couple of my best students donated their journals to me when they left fourth grade. I still have them. Journals as portfolios would be another topic of discussion, and as a teacher, I highly recommend them. In all my years of school, so many loose papers got lost. My students picked some of their best, and glued them into their journals. Bulky, old, and totally beautiful at the end of the year. 🙂 Thanks again for sharing your raging thoughts. 🙂

      • L. T. Garvin, Author

        Very welcome, Marsha. I enjoyed reading your article. I have been a long-time fan of journaling. What a neat thing to have the journals of 4th graders as a keepsake! I have had a long-term career as a substitute teacher, and one of my most prized possessions is a group of handmade cards from a 3rd grade bilingual class where I worked as a long-time sub. I love taking them out from time to time and reading them again. I often wonder where the kids are now, as they would all be young adults now. Well, here is to a brand new week of journaling. Wishing you a productive and creative week ahead, Marsha. So very nice connecting with you on WordPress!

  • Brigid Gallagher

    I would not be without my handwritten journal. It has helped me heal so much. I love your idea of keeping blank pages at the beginning and end – I will be using this idea from now onwards.

  • robbiesinspiration

    I kept a hand written diary for years during my late teens and early twenties. Now I write my poetry and blog. I also keep all my favourite cake and biscuit recipes written out by hand in an A – Z book. Nice post Debby and Marsha.

    • Marsha

      Thanks, Robbie. So in your A to Z book, do you label the pages ahead of time? Do you stop the journal with pages unfilled. Probably your z page is somewhat harder to fill. 🙂 Please send me your Z cake recipe! 🙂 Thanks again for sharing! M

  • Marianne

    I’ve been writing a gratitude and affirmation journal for a few years now, and it is wonderful to go back and read things I’ve written a year ago. I find lovely journals from dollar stores and some really lovely ones from Tuesday Morning. Something pretty encourages me to write pretty things. Thank you for sharing this post,Deb – I haven’t written in my journal for about a week, so this has inspired me to do so. Have a lovely weekend, my friend.

    Marianne xo

    • dgkaye

      Why am I not surprised Marianne? Lol. You are a beautiful writer who often posts beautiful photos of all things writing. Even a pretty journal is something that could inspire some beautiful words worth writing about. I’m glad Marsha’s post here has inspired you once again. Happy Sunday to you too my friend. 🙂 xo

    • Marsha

      A gratitude journal has to be at the top of the list for feeling better. I need to do that right now. That is one thing I often forget. I’m so intent on learning something to share, that I forget to smell the bacon frying in my own pan. What’s up with that anyway? Thanks for inspiring me Marianne. BTW, my journal came from the dollar store, and I love it. It’s bright and easy to find. It has a magnetic flap to keep it closed, and a ribbon to mark my place. I bought one of the more expensive ones $7.00. 🙂

  • Ali Isaac

    Well that’s interesting! I’ve never journalled or kept a diary, but I ALWAYS start a project, whether it’s a post for my blog, notes for my books, or an essay for uni by writing notes and plans by hand. Now I know why. ?

  • Norah

    Thanks, Marsha and Debby. I have read similar studies about the benefits of handwriting, and would agree with them too, though I rarely hand-write now – mainly just lists of things to do. They’re not always effective though, because I can’t always read them! 🙂

    • dgkaye

      Lol Norah, I know all about horrendous handwriting – that’s me. Just imagine what it’s like for me after I’ve written a first draft of a book in a journal. It’s a nightmare until I get it into the computer for next revisions LOL 🙂 I should have been a doctor with my scribble and scratch. <3

      • Norah

        A doctor! You’re a great writer, Debby, no need to look for other occupations. 🙂 I’m amazed you still write freehand. I remember in the “old days” when I did that too. When I got my first computer, I used it pretty much like a typewriter, typing up what I’d written by hand, then printing it out to edit by hand, then changing on the computer according to my notes. Gradually, over time, I learned to edit on the computer, and then compose on the computer. It took a long time to transition from handwriting to typing, but now I don’t feel as if I can compose unless my fingers are tapping the keyboard. I feel it’s a waste of time to hand-write first. Sometimes I start to write by hand, then stop and go straight to the computer – or iPad or phone if I’m not near my computer. One day, may be, I should try handwriting again. We’ll see. 🙂

        • dgkaye

          Lol, thanks Norah for the lovely compliment. And congrats to you for learning and growing with your computer. What you explained about how you first handwrote, typed into the computer, and back to printed out for edits – is how I write my books! Six books in and the cycle is the same, lol. I’m just not feeling the creativity in front of the keyboard. Yes, it’s more work, but I’m a visual and tactile person. I need all my writing laid out in front of me so I can go back to parts with everything in front of me, not just once screen at a time. It’s a good thing I have a huge, long dining room table because that’s where my WIP lives for months at a time while I’m writing a new book, lol. When someone walks into my home and sees my place, it’s not hard to figure out that I’m a writer, with notebooks, journals, papers and books everywhere. 🙂

          • Norah

            I think one advantage of the way you work is that you have all of your drafts to look back on. I have read books that show early drafts of now famous books, and it’s interesting to see all the edits and revisions marked on them. We tend to lose that when we draft on a computer, and I find track changes cumbersome to use. It doesn’t give the same effect at all. Good on you for sticking to the method that suits your creativity best. 🙂

          • dgkaye

            Thanks Norah. Yes, so true, it’s a different feel when everything is done through the computer. I have a bad habit of not wanting to delete earlier drafts. The final product is never anything like the rough drafts, but it’s interesting to look at the creating along the way. But, so many files! LOL
            My editor always send me a track version back with comments and explanations what she’s done, as well as a ‘clean’ copy with all changes done. What I do then is print out the clean version and go back to the track version to read simultaneously to see if I accept all the changes and how I like the flow. I end up marking up the clean paper version with comments and questions back to the editor and accepting or rejecting some of the changes and then I start my proofreading before I send it back to the editor for final proofing. Sheesh, what a job! LOL. That’s exactly the stage I’m at right now with my newest book. 🙂 x

          • Norah

            It is a job, but the effort is worth it in the end. You get a polished book that readers appreciate and enjoy. I think the reader’s experience (mine anyway) is enhanced when the text flows smoothly without the jarring of typos and faulty grammar that a little bit more editing and effort would have removed. I find no such distractions in your work that I have read. 🙂

          • dgkaye

            I am truly humbled by your most lovely compliment Norah. I feel the same way about reading any book. The editing is a long process because I’m so anal about errors. First my own many rounds, then off to the editor. Then I catch some oversights from her I fix. More re-reads, and finally back to editor for proofreading. And don’t think I don’t go through it a few more times again, lol. And still, there have been a few times I found the odd typo when publishing and rereading again in the KIndle previewer. It’s almost impossible to not miss one, even in traditionally published books. 🙂 x

          • Norah

            It is, but I as reader appreciate your efforts, Debby. It shows you have respect for your craft, your message and your readers. I know how many times I re-read my posts and resources before I publish them. I am horrified when I see errors that have slipped through, but they are hard to pick in your own work. At least they are not so difficult to fix in blog posts! 🙂

  • Terri Webster Schrandt

    So nice to see another California gal pal blogger here, Deb! Marsha lives about 6 hours south of me! I kept a journal as a young adult in some bound books. It was a nice experience and I still have them. Thanks for sharing Marsha’s story!

  • Liesbet

    I wrote my hand-written journal for 26 years (since I was 14), every single day. Sometimes in hard cover “agendas”, with a page a day, other years in notebooks, about 3-4 a year. Imagine how many boxes of them are now stored at my parents!? Two years ago, I went digital and at the same time, changed the writing from Dutch to English, since that is my more familiar language now and I felt more comfortable with it. I sometimes feel that that change was more sad than trading the books for my iPad. No more needs to store diaries anymore, though, which is awesome!

  • Annika Perry

    As a huge fan of journals this was a post I couldn’t wait to read!! Thank you so much, Marsha! I wish I knew some of these tips when I was young…those diaries are a mishmash if events, feelings, lists. Nowadays I try to be a bit more organised and only recently started leaving the back pages for book and present lists. A great idea to leave the first few pages blank…look forward to your next post and insights! ?

    • dgkaye

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this Annika. Marsha put together an effective list. And as a long-time journaler, I always leave pages blank in between what I write, room for changes and additions to each chapter or article I’m writing. For my books, I use a 3-ring spiral journal so I can then rip out the pages, because there will certainly be more pages to add as I go into re-writes and revisions. 🙂 x

  • macjam47

    Thanks for hosting Marsha, Debby. This is a great post detailing reasons to journal and tips to make journaling easier. Love and hugs to you and to Marsha.

  • Hugh's Views and News

    My handwriting is so awful that, sometimes, I can’t even read my own writing. I tend to dictate my ideas into a free app on my phone (which I take everywhere) and go back to it from time to time. I know I can’t do much of what Marsha says about keeping a journal, but at least using the dictation apps means I don’t loose ideas though the doors of lost ideas.
    Great to see Marsha here, Debby. I look forward to reading what she says about keeping a blog.
    Hugs to you both. ?

    • dgkaye

      Thanks so much for sharing your own ideas Hugh. And I think that dictating into our phone notes is a great way to save ideas, I’ve done it myself while out and about and coming up with an idea while no time to write. Hugs my friend. 🙂 <3

  • Christy B

    I remember my therapist encouraged me to journal and that was my first step back into writing after many years away from it. So I have a soft spot for journaling! Wonderful to learn more about its benefits from Marsha here at your site, Debby ♥

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