Very often journaling is contrasted with keeping a diary. The usual comparison is that a diary is a “record of events, facts and occasions with little, if any, commentary.” A journal “records subjective responses to events in thoughts, feelings and hopes.” And then a “spiritual journal focuses on how thoughts and feelings relate to our faith experience. It moves to honest reflection on self and God.” (from Marjorie J. Thompson, Exploring the Way: An Introduction to the Spiritual Journey, p 16)
It really is the “honest reflection” that forms the essence of journaling. It is like a long conversation with a trusted friend when the more and more you talk you move past talking to “hear yourself talk” to letting words flow that beg for release, to hearing something of who you are, who you want to be, and who you are becoming.
Maybe that is why Anne Boyles (in Journaling: A Spiritual Journey pp 14-15) can write, “Something in the physical act of writing releases creativity and self-understanding … journaling unlocks the imagination.”