#JournalingInJuly Over 50s Lifestyle

Write Your Life – a Personal Journey

July 18, 2019
Write your life

I’m delighted to introduce Suzanne Vosbikian from Picture Retirement as my next guest for #JournalinginJuly. Suzanne has been a guest before during the Over 50 & Thriving Series and you can read her thoughts on How Photogrpahy Helps her to Thrive.

I identify photography with Suzanne, so I was pleasantly surprised when she left a comment to say she had actually taught a course in Journaling. Of course, I had to have her write for #JournalinginJuly and share her thoughts on journaling and ways to get started!

You can find Suzanne’s links to her website and social media at the end, so don’t forget to pop over and connect with her.

Write Your Life – a Personal Journey

As a lifelong journal writer, Sue’s July Challenge resonates with me on many levels. Journal writing has many benefits and it is a process that I have used to create order from chaos, examine difficult decisions and chronicle my history for decades.

When I was working, I used a journal for organization, goal setting, and motivation. Planning projects, tracking progress and managing career advancement goals was the purpose of that journal. Fear of prying eyes kept me from writing anything personal on those pages, but the practice of daily writing propelled me toward a life time of journal writing discoveries.

After I gave birth to my daughter, I used a journal to sort through insecurities and frustrations associated with caring for a new baby. Along with the trials of motherhood, I struggled with losing my former identity and becoming a ‘stay at home mom.’ During this period, I discovered the importance of reflective solitude and its restorative powers. This journal was intensely personal and was kept under lock and key.

Eventually, my journal became a place to preserve our family history, and plan for the future.

Disbursed throughout the daily pages (which were often boring and mundane) were countless passages devoted to conflict resolution, self healing, discipline, motivation and creative exploits. When my writing took a turn toward the inner self, it did not take long to realize that I had wandered down an incredible pathway to personal discovery and acceptance. It was during this period that I became comfortable sharing some of my journal entries with my husband. Limited sharing of your journal is a personal decision, but I have found that it is less threatening to a partner who is curious. 

After many years of enjoying the benefits of journal writing, I decided to include others in the process. That is when I developed a course that included classroom exercises, daily prompts, and challenges specifically designed to guide participants toward self knowledge. There were exercises for aligning every day actions against core values, understanding preconceptions, time management, examining the past, and weighing pros and cons of a difficult decision. Each assignment was designed to help participants examine themselves from the outside – IN. 

 I used one of my favorite exercises as an as an ice breaker on the first day of class. I called this exercise a ‘character sketch’.

The assignment was to write about you for five minutes. Most participants limited their writing to a simple introduction, which included a physical description and a few words about work and family.  We repeated the exercise on the last day of class (after six weeks and many hours of directed writing) and compared the two descriptions. Those descriptions revealed not only a broader physical description, but an emotional one as well.

This simple exercise provides an excellent example of the difference between casual writing and focused writing. When we sit down to write, our first thoughts are generally scattered and mostly superficial in nature. It takes time to get past the noise and focus your inner voice. Prompts, like the ones Sue is proposing for the month of July are exactly what directed writing is about. You can simply answer the question, or you can examine the thoughts that surface after you answer the question. That is where the journey truly begins.  

Statistics show that doing something for thirty days will make it a habit.

Sue’s July challenge will set you on a path of self discovery, but, it’s up to you to make it a habit. The benefits are undeniable and include improved health, reduced stress levels, greater self knowledge, improved processing skills and more confidence. It is a journey worth taking.

If you decide to continue your journal journey at the end of July, I suggest that you begin with a ‘character sketch’; one that is thorough and revealing. Examine skills, talents, values, needs, shortcomings & limitations, things people misunderstand about you, fears, what makes you happy/sad, concerns, fantasies, relationships; both good and bad, insecurities, the types of things you do during alone time, how you feel in social situations, your true self vs. your on-line persona, what lights you up, good decisions you have made, bad decisions you have made, successes and failures, upbringing, values, morals, your hobbies and how you spend leisure time.

All of these things are a part of who you are. But, is it who you want to be?

Meet Suzanne

Write your life

In 2006 my husband and I sold the family business that we had run for twenty-two years and relocated two hours away to Palm City, Florida. As a native Floridian, I cannot imagine a more perfect place to spend our retirement years. I enjoy an active lifestyle which includes volunteer work, outdoor sports, photography, travel, cooking and social time with friends and family.

I started our lifestyle blog Picture Retirement, for two reasons – (1) chronicle our adventures and (2) inspire and serve as a resource to other retirees. It is rewarding on many levels, but mostly because of the connections I am making with people all over the world.

Just like me, it is a work in progress.

My philosophy for living a contented life is to maintain balance within the day to day, (health, fitness, leisure time, hobbies, family, volunteer work, etc.) always have something to look forward to and begin each day with gratitude.

Connect with Suzanne



Women Living Well After 50

Living Life Your Way


  • Reply Joanne Tracey July 18, 2019 at 08:23

    Hi Suzanne, it’s great to meet you. I’m a daily journaller – most days just bullet points, other days it will be morning pages. I’ve found that before I start a new novel a few weeks of morning pages gets me into the creative headspace, but while I’m physically writing a novel, bullet points are fine – it keeps the 2 voices separate in my head. It’s why whenever I’m actively writing I read outside of that genre – again so the voices don’t get muddled.

    • Reply Suzanne July 19, 2019 at 04:38

      Joanne, congratulations to you, a published author! I have used bullet points and morning pages, especially when there was little time and lots of random thoughts to capture. Lately my blog and Shutterfly books have filled the need to chronicle our lives and daily writing is becoming a thing of the past. But, I still love putting a pen to paper.

  • Reply Debbie Harris July 18, 2019 at 10:35

    Thanks Sue and Suzanne for sharing these thoughts on journaling. Like Suzanne I kept a diary when my babies were born mainly to keep track of feeds, milestones and my thoughts. It really helped me at the time and then later I compiled these notes into stories for my daughters. They loved reading about themselves at a young age. I think blogging has taken over in this role for me and I use it to focus my thoughts. Responding to prompts or photo challenges helps keep my creativity flowing and I really enjoy it. A great guest post, just perfect for this month’s theme!

    • Reply Suzanne July 19, 2019 at 04:43

      Hi Debbie, I love the idea of compiling my entries and sharing stories with my daughter from her childhood. She recently gifted me with a beautiful leather journal that she picked up in Italy. I think it would be perfect for that purpose. Thanks for your comment.

  • Reply Min @ Write of the Middle July 18, 2019 at 12:03

    Lovely to meet you Suzanne and I enjoyed reading about your pursuits with journaling. I don’t journal but I write my blog and I think that has a similar outcome – i.e. sorting through my thoughts and learning to understand myself better. I also learn a lot through the research I do. I have a cousin who has journaled every day for the bulk of her life. She writes every night before she goes to sleep. I admire her dedication! #TeamLovinLife

    • Reply Suzanne July 19, 2019 at 05:00

      Hi Min, I agree that blogging is very similar and it fills a need to write. There is also lots of room there for self discovery for those who wish to go that route. I wonder if your cousin writes for self discovery or from habit. Have you ever discussed her purpose? Just curious. Thank you for commenting. I enjoyed being a small part of this series.

  • Reply Donna Connolly July 18, 2019 at 14:48

    Hi, Suzanne – It is a pleasure to learn more about you here. It’s also very cool that you taught a course in journaling. Thank you for sharing your tips here.

  • Reply Suzanne July 19, 2019 at 05:13

    Hi Donna, When I read Sue’s first post of the month I pulled out my old notes and started to re-live that time in my life. I wrote that course and facilitated it almost twenty-five years ago. I have often thought of revising it, but today people use their blogs for a similar purpose. I think that is a good thing and in someways better because of the connections we make with others on the same path. Thanks for also leaving a comment on Picture Retirement.

  • Reply Denyse Whelan July 19, 2019 at 10:01

    Lovely to meet you Suzanne. I am a journaller in a few different forms. I enjoy adding notes to my day in an on-line journal that is password protected, I also have a mini art journal where I may sketch, make some comments about my day and I enjoy decorating it. In its own way my blog is a journal too. Stories there about my life, my head and neck cancer and my creativity.
    Thanks for sharing Suzanne’s tips and ideas Sue.

    Denyse x

  • Reply Suzanne July 19, 2019 at 11:50

    Denise, I have always been a bit envious of those who keep an art journal. I think it is one of the most pure forms of self expression. I have visited your blog and I sincerely applaud your courage and your spirit. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts.

  • Reply Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au July 19, 2019 at 22:36

    That was so interesting Suzanne. I’ve been a “superficial” journaller all my adult life and I hadn’t really considered what it would be like to go deeper. I’ve copied that last paragraph of yours into a Word document and I plan on going through each of the suggested points to look a bit deeper into myself (especially at this time of change in my life). Thanks for the great ideas and it was lovely seeing you here on Sue’s blog x

    • Reply suzanne vosbikian July 20, 2019 at 08:16

      Leanne, you write like an individual with a deep understanding of who you are. But, it is always good to dig deeper. I could spend hours just on the ‘things people misunderstand about me.’ It was very kind of Sue to include my thoughts on this subject.

  • Reply Gilda Baxter July 20, 2019 at 02:34

    Suzanne, this post is very interesting and inspiring. I enjoy writing my travel blog and I tend to keep short hand notes about our travels. I have kept diaries on and off, but has not been consistent. You have inspired me to give it another go, thank you.

    • Reply suzanne vosbikian July 20, 2019 at 08:20

      Gilda, as bloggers, we all have a bit of a ‘journal writer’ inside of us. Happy to have inspired you to give it a go!

  • Reply Joanne Sisco July 21, 2019 at 20:24

    This was a very thought-provoking post, Suzanne.

    I’ve journaled for years and yet compared to your suggestions about writing a character sketch, I appreciate that my journal has been superficial and doesn’t begin to tackle responses to the deep questions where true insight lies. How can a life lived fully not include true insight into one’s self?

    I predict a personal project coming on. Thanks for the nudge.

    • Reply Suzanne July 22, 2019 at 20:42

      Joanne, it will be a worthwhile project, for sure.

  • Reply Deborah July 22, 2019 at 10:39

    I’ve journalled in the past Suzanne, but not recently. I keep saying I’ll start but yet to do so. I’m very conscious of the 30 day habit forming timeframe and I really would like to get into the habit of journalling either first thing in the morning or before bed (to rid myself of pesky thoughts!).

    • Reply Suzanne July 22, 2019 at 20:45

      Deborah, experiment with both times and see which feels right. Thanks for reading my thoughts about journal writing. Sue is a doll to have me here.

    I love hearing from you and your comments are important to me

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