Reviewer Wally Wood: Wally is an editor and writer, has published three novels, Getting Oriented:A Novel about Japan, The Girl in the Photo an Death in a Family Business. He obtained his MA in creative writing in 2002 from the City University of New York and has worked with a number of authors as a ghostwriter and collaborator.
With an extensive background in a variety of business subjects, his credits include twenty-one nonfiction books. He spent twenty-five years as a trade magazine reporter and editor and has been a volunteer writing and business teacher in state and federal prisons for more than twenty years. He has finished his fourth novel and has translated a collection of Japanese short stories into English.
Author; Christopher Kalford
I asked to review Therapy Through Journaling: Be Your Own Savior by Christopher Kalford because I have kept a journal for many years and I was curious. How is keeping a journal therapy? Could I keep my journal more effectively? Are there aspects of journal-keeping that I've overlooked?
The book's cover states, "Escape from traditional therapy...organize your thoughts...analyze your past...live in the present...change your future." With such inducements, who could resist? I couldn't. But I think you should.
The book is unpaged, but I counted 68 pages containing double-spaced type. I doubt that it contains much more than 10,000 words, in short, about the length of two long magazine articles. You can read it in less than an hour. Length, of course, does not correspond to quality (think of the Lord's Prayer or the Gettysburg Address), but I'm afraid this booklet has neither length nor quality.
There is nothing wrong with Kalford's advice: "...writing journals allows you to gain an outside perspective on your own thoughts..." Maybe better to say "gain another perspective," but let it go. "The physical act of writing your thoughts down can sometimes be enough to help you determine that certain thoughts are being exaggerated or manipulated by factors they shouldn't be, which will allow you in turn to eliminate some stressors..." "Keeping a journal allows you to look back on your life not only for analyzation and reflection, but for an ever growing source of happiness you can constantly draw from."
The trouble I have with Kalford's advice is that he gives no sources to support any of his recommendations, nor does the book contain any indication of his background or qualifications to give advice at all. Does he keep a journal? He doesn't say. Has he benefited from writing a journal? He doesn't say. Does he have any professional qualifications to discuss the therapeutic benefits of keeping a journal? He doesn't say.
In addition, the booklet is more exhortation than instruction. "Do it" rather than "Here's how to do it—and why." And when he has an opportunity to flesh out his message, he turns away: "The benefits of having so much of your life at your fingertips are too numerous to name..." Maybe they are too numerous to name in their entirety, but how about some examples?
Indeed, on page after page the book cries out for examples, anecdotes, quotations to support and illustrate the advice and the claims. For example, I like the idea of starting a conversation with God by writing "what you would want to say to god if he were in front of you." But why not give the reader a couple or three examples of such a journal entry with, ideally, the writer's thoughts and conclusions about the experience?
Bottom line: Keep a journal. But if you don't know how to do so or what the benefits can be, find another book than this.