Roaman Journals Summit

On 15 September 2020, RoamStack sponsored a panel discussion on journaling in Roam with Tracy Winchell, Matt Brockwell, Brandon Toner and Ramses Oudt. Each discussed the systems they use to journal in Roam.

Below you can see the video of the discussion, download the full transcript and read notes of the discussion.


You can download the full transcript here.

Resources discussed

Storyworthy by Matthew Dicks
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
Byron Katie’s The Work technique
InfraNodus notes visualization tool


You can see the notes in Roam format here.

Tracy Winchell

  • Tracy has been journaling for 7 years.
  • She started using Roam in January 2020, and started journaling in Roam when the pandemic started.
  • Started journaling as a birthday gift to a friend who thought she could use gratitude practice.
  • She uses journaling to go through the 12 steps program, which is also useful if you don’t struggle with substances but have challenges like grief or anger to work through.
  • Note to next day self is an important practice for Tracy.
  • She noticed that her gratitude practice was having an effect when a receptionist at her job mentioned she was no longer complaining first thing in the morning.

Matt Brockwell

  • Matt is a practicing psychiatrist and psychotherapist.
  • He’s been journaling in Roam since January 2020.
  • Matt mentions Matthew Dicks’s book Storyworthy and the exercise it contains called “Homework for life”.
    • In the exercise, you ask every day: “What has happened on this day that happened on no previous day?”
      • This question lets us look at the subtle changes, instead of the big surprising things.
  • Another way Matt uses Roam is for Emotion Tracking.
    • He wants to create his own emotional language and not rely on existing frameworks.

    • By tracking his emotions, he can “time travel” to moments he felt a certain way.
    • Matt’s system is very much in the spirit of Roam; it starts with simple tagging and you can build a more complex system on top of that to gain insight.

Ramses Oudt

  • Ramses started with sitting meditation before journaling because some of his friends (who are into spirituality) urged him to try it.
  • Until then, he wasn’t living consciously. Instead, he was eating and drinking whatever he wanted, not paying any attention to his mental or physical health.
  • Meditation helped him become aware of his thoughts and bodily sensations, but the thoughts came too fast for him.
  • Through Stoic philosophy, and Marcus Aurelius in particular, he discovered journaling.
  • A important difference in Stoic journaling is that you make an effort to give yourself council, instead of only reflecting on what happened.
  • Stoics try to improve their future selfs by using the page to explore how they can act better (more in harmony with the whole).
  • At the end of the day, he reflects and asks himself three questions:
    • 1. What went well?
    • 2. What didn’t go well?
    • 3. How can I act differently next time?
      • During this third question it’s important to visualize my desired course of action next time.
  • Ramses, like Matt, tags his emotions in his morning pages and interstitial journal:

Brandon Toner

  • “Brandon Toner is the prompts treasurer.” —Brian Toh
  • Brandon has a journaling practice to:
    • Connect the dots.
    • Be his own therapist and coach.
    • Decide how to think in advance.
    • Get inspired.
    • Cultivate awareness and then make decisions with intention.
  • Roam is a great journaling tool because:
    • Everything is an inbox.
    • It has the interconnected parts of your life.
    • It has your personal CRM.
    • It has the people, places, and experiences you had.
    • It helps to cultivate awareness through the use of writing prompts.
  • Atomic Journaling is a framework that helps you answer how to journal, including:
    • Structure
    • Templates
    • Workflows
  • Brandon came up with Atomic Journaling because his journaling practice started to feel:
    • Uninspired
    • Scattered
    • Disconnected
    • Below the potential I knew was possible”
  • Brandon hopes that Atomic Journaling will be a catalyst for Algorithms of Thought.
    • You can help yourself work through emotions with the help of a series of prompts.
    • Ramses shares a Stoic exercise called “Questioning Impressions”:
      • First, you describe a situation as it has appeared to you.
      • Second, you try to spot the labels you’ve attached to the situation.
      • Then, you reason with yourself to see if the labels are true or nothing more than constructs of your mind.
  • The Stoic exercise reminds Brandon of Byron Katie’s The Work, which could also serve as an algorithm of thought in Roam.


  • Tracy Winchell asks Matt Brockwell how we could be our own therapist through journaling.
    • According to Matt, an outside perspective can be useful and some problems cannot be worked through only by journaling.
    • Matt wants to explore if we could also have Algorithms of Emotion and program interventions for ourselves.
    • Wisdom can be found if we work through painful experiences, and writing is a tool for that.


  • “How do the panelists think about privacy as Roam works in the cloud?”
    • Ramses’ standard: “If someone could blackmail me with it, it’s not in Roam.”
      • Use Roam for metadata, and pour your heart out using pen and paper.
    • Matt Brockwell uses aliases if he writes about other people and sensitive topics, and keeps a physical list of that decipher the aliases if he forgets.
  • Question for Brandon Toner: “Doesn’t having freedom in Atomic Journaling lead you to avoiding difficult prompts?”
    • One way to avoid this is by using prompts collections.
    • Another way is to become aware of how you make choices and get a better relationship with that part of yourself.
  • “Is there a way to combine qualitative data and quantitative data in Roam?”
    • There currently aren’t many functions in Roam to work with numbers.
    • There’s an external tool called [InfraNodus]( that lets you visualize your Roam database, gather more (automated) metadata from it, and see more connections.
    • It’s Ramses’ dream to be able to see what days of the month he feels a certain way so he can better plan his activities.
  • “When will Tracy Winchell launch her journaling course?”
  • On Monday September 28th, 2020 the course will go live for her subscribers.
    • On October 5th, 2020 the course will be promoted elsewhere.
      • From that date, the course will also start.


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