Write With Me by Vanita Oleschalger

Thank you to Netgalley, Vanita Oleschalger, and Newburn Drive for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Journaling offers myriad mental health benefits. It can reduce depression and anxiety, improve decision-making, promote gratitude, enhance creativity, promote goal achievement, improve writing skills, and perhaps even benefit the immune system. Journaling also assists those who have faced a traumatic event. Dr. Shilagh Mirgain explains that it can be difficult to process the event which can be associated with difficult emotions and traumatic thoughts. Journaling can create a personal narrative that provides distance from the trauma and helps explain it (https://www.uwhealth.org/news/the-benefits-of-journaling/4822).

Yet, not all journaling is effective. The Center for Journal Therapy, for example, advocates the W.R.I.T.E. method: What topic, Review/Reflect, Investigate, Time yourself, and Exit smart (https://journaltherapy.com/lets-journal/a-short-course-in-journal-writing/). I find it can be challenging to focus on journaling and even more so to structure effective journaling sessions. For that reason, I was excited to discover Write With Me to Keep What Matters in Mind.

The author provides an invitation to write at the beginning of the book. Thereafter, each double-page spread features a full-page image paired with a quotation on the left page and a blank, lined page for writing on the right. Some of the quotations are from notable figures such as Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln, and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Some of the prompts are thought-provoking and I would expect generate a great deal of insight. Standing out to me was the quote by Friedrich Nietzsche, “ He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

Others seemed very specific and applicable only to a narrow range of readers, for example, “I was raised and measured by a God of someone else’s understanding” or “The voices in your head may not be God.”

A third category of prompts seem so broad or tautological that they aren’t useful, e.g., “Nothing happens until something happens.”

“Whenever I am afraid, there is something wrong with ME” and “Forgiveness = giving up all chance to change the past” seem like they could actually be harmful to those utilizing the book.

In two cases, the author uses her own words when it seems it would be more appropriate to attribute the original quotation: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we always had” instead of “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them” by Albert Einstein and “The way out of fear is to go through it” instead of “If you’re going through hell, keep going” by Winston Churchill.

I thought the book would have been much more useful if it included a brief introduction outlining ways to approach journaling effectively. Additionally, the quotations appeared seemingly randomly. I thought it would be more helpful if they were grouped by theme or if they were designed in such a way that the journal-writer would be completing a goal-directed narrative journey.

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