The Journal Newsletter – April 2006

The Journal Newsletter

April 2006


The Big News this month is the release of The Journal 4.1! You can read about what’s new (and what’s fixed) in the News section.

Sande Chen discusses gratitude journals in her article this month, and Susan offers up a new set of writing exercises.

Thank you for choosing DavidRM Software’s The Journal!

Tips & Tricks

The Big New Feature of The Journal 4.1 is: Reminders! I expect to be posting a number reminder-related tips & tricks over the coming months. For this month, we’ll just cover the basics.

TIP: Getting the new Reminders toolbar

The Journal 4.1 adds a new toolbar: Reminders, for use with the new reminder features.

Unfortunately, users upgrading from The Journal 4 do not see this toolbar automatically. If you do not have this toolbar, do this:

1. Right-click on The Journal’s main menu bar and check “Reminders”.

2. Move the toolbar where you want it by clicking on the “grab bar” at the extreme left of the toolbar and dragging. (The default location for the Reminders toolbar is on the same line as the Topics and Table toolbar, to the right of the Table toolbar, but you can put it anywhere you want it.)

TIP: A Brief Overview of Reminders

There are four types of reminder: appointments, events, tasks and special days.

Appointments – Modern life can sometimes seem to be one appointment after the other. Appointments have both a date and a time, and you can choose to have The Journal popup a visual and auditory prompt when its time for the appointment, or up to 6 hours before hand so you can get an early start.

Events – Similar to both special days and appointments, events can be daily, weekly, or monthly, and can even occur at a particular time. The biggest difference between events and appointments is that events are assumed to repeat on a regular basis (like the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of each month).

Tasks – Tasks are a special kind of reminder. Like events, tasks usually repeat, either every day, every week, etc. Tasks have a status: active, done, skipped, canceled, or missed.

Special Days – Special days are birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays that we all want to remember–but sometimes those days sneak up on us, and even sneak past us.

There are also a number of advanced features and properties that can be applied to all reminders, whatever type they may be. Look in the online help (hot-key: F1) in the “Index”, under “Advanced Reminder Options” for the details. Or just create a new reminder and click on the “Advanced” tab and experiment.

Writing Prompts

by Susan Michael

Free Writing Exercise – 1. Write for 20 minutes using the phrase, “Cut Your Losses”.

2. Write for 20 minutes using the phrase, “Within Reach”.

Poetry Exercise – Write a poem that is based on a painting. (You can find many classic paintings here:

Example: Pieter Brueghel, The Fall of Icarus

Prose Exercise – Write a short story using the title, “The Apology”.

Journaling Exercise – Write 4 or more non-fiction character sketches.

Character Sketches: Putting People on the Page

Memoir Prompt – 1. Write about your current family relationships.

2. Write about a career negotiation that you have experienced.

Opinion Prompt – Do you believe that the city you live in is supportive of racial diversity?

About the author: Susan Michael facilitates the Tulsa Writers Cafe for the Arts & Humanities Council in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Ms. Michael has also led writing & creativity workshops for children, teenagers, and adults.


Gratitude Journals

By Sande Chen

About a month ago, spurred by a friend who posts her daily gratitude list online, I decided to give gratitude journals a try.

I had heard about gratitude journals before. Besides being recommended by Oprah, long-term use of daily gratitude journals has been shown in research to lead to greater happiness, optimism, and vitality. A study at Carnegie Mellon University even found an increase in immunity to colds and flu. I wondered: Can such a simple thing really have an impact?

When I asked my friend about her online gratitude posts, she said that it made her feel better because it reminded her that good things happen every day. It had flipped her perspective. In the past, she would mull over the bad things and never appreciate the good things in her life. Now she believes that good things happen just as much as bad things. Each day, she posts a simple list of five items, entitled “Good Things That Happened Today.”

I have such an uneventful life that I believed I would have nothing to write about in a gratitude journal. Surprisingly, I learned that even acknowledging the smallest moments of gratitude in everyday life led to a sense of contentment and stability. I still had my up and downs, but I knew the downs were transient. I felt buoyed by the knowledge that friends and family cared about me, that I was not alone in a hostile world.

Another friend had a negative experience with gratitude journals. She found that most days she couldn’t think of anything to write, so she would fall back on the old stand-by: “I am so grateful that nothing horrible or terrible happened to me today!” She soon felt gratitude journals were a waste of time. In her opinion, they were silly and monotonous.

While I understand her point of view, I find that the power of gratitude journals is not in the writing, but in the acknowledgement of gratitude in the moment it happens. After a week of journaling, I found myself trying to collect moments in anticipation of the night’s gratitude list. When a moment happened, I would notice it. However, sometimes I too would find myself at a loss for words even though I knew I had felt gratitude more than five times that day. Still, I struggled to review the day’s events and post my five items.

To work, I do think that gratitude journals have to be taken seriously. For instance, the friend who had a negative experience would list entries like “I am grateful that I like cheese because I am eating a cheese sandwich.” True gratitude isn’t flippant. In this way, I am more stringent in my requirements than my friend who merely posts good happenings. There are many things to be happy about that are good, but it isn’t always the same as gratitude.

Even during the days that feel hard, it’s still possible to write a gratitude journal. Sure, I might’ve had a bad week: the laptop crashed, the car got crushed, and my nerves were frayed to the max. After it all, though, I still took the time to wind down and write a gratitude list for each day. When I don’t have time to write them down, I still try to go through the list mentally before I fall asleep.

Some may find it hard to feel gratitude. There are many forms of gratitude. Gratitude can express thankfulness for others’ concern or actions. Gratitude can be directed to the world at large or to the universe. A pretty flower and the aesthetic experience of enjoying the flower’s beauty can engender gratitude.

Many of us are on a search for happiness. Gratitude journals are one answer to the eternal quest. Daily tokens of gratitude acknowledge kindness and beauty in people and in the world. Rather than focusing on the bad, gratitude journals celebrate the good things. They are a daily reminder why life is worth living.

Sande Chen is co-author, with David Michael, of the book, Serious Games: Games That Educate, Train, and Inform (Thomson/Course; 2005). She has won awards in writing, music, and video. She currently works as a free-lance writer and game designer.

Submission Information

If you would like to contribute to the “How I Use The Journal”, “Writing Exercises”, or “Tips & Tricks” sections, or would like to submit an article about journaling, writing, or another The Journal-related topic, we would love to hear from you.

Submissions for the newsletter should be sent to:

If you are submitting for a particular section, please indicate which one. Try to limit your submissions to 500-1000 words. Submissions may be edited for length and content.

If you prefer to remain anonymous, please state this in the email. Otherwise your name (but not your email) will be used in the article heading.

As always, if you have any suggestions for, or bug reports about, The Journal, please feel free to email them. Both are always welcome.


Editor: David Michael (
The Journal Newsletter Copyright © 2015 by David Michael.
Updated: June 19, 2015 — 9:25 pm