Journal writing is a voyage to the interior. Christina Baldwin
I’ve written about journalling, specifically about how I started with ‘morning pages’ as advocated by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, in a previous post on self-care; it is one of the most self-caring practices I do, and I don’t envisage myself ever stopping. I seldom start my morning pages in a low mood these days, but I used to, and, nine times out of ten, by the time I’d finished my three sides of uncensored longhand writing I felt much brighter.
I wish I’d started journalling years ago; so many forgotten memories I could have recorded. The journals I started thirteen years ago, however, have proved invaluable in writing my first memoir; I look forward to mining subsequent chronicles for parts two and three of my Transforming Trauma to Tranquillity trilogy (now there’s a bit of a tongue-twister!). I’ve documented my odyssey from quivering, traumatised wreck to resilient, spirited wise-woman.
In the years since I began this most fulfilling practice, I’ve moved from venting my frustrations at the injustices I endured, through trying to make sense of the bizarre circumstances of my life, to discovering who I am by going on an inner exploration. Ultimately, journalling has helped me to heal, to grow, and to integrate the ‘shadow’ parts of myself that waged war within my psyche and stopped me from not just living my best life, but from living, period.
What has made journalling such a transformative practice for me, I believe, has been a desire to transcend my limitations and achieve the growth potential, available to all human beings, as proposed by Abraham Maslow and, later, Carl Rogers. Without this desire, I suspect my practice may have crumpled into the kind of rumination that inhibits rather than liberates.
Using prompts enhances journalling practice, helping you to travel deeper into your psyche and ensure that what needs to be brought to light isn’t left behind. Anything can be used as a journal prompt; including:
- Questions; for example, what is it that I really, really want from my life? Write your question at the top of the page then answer it using stream-of-consciousness writing until you’ve said all you have to say.
- Divination; using Tarot, I-Ching or Runes, examining the interpretations in depth to glean what you can from them. I have also used bibliomancy in this way, opening a suitable book arbitrarily, analysing what is presented to me. I’ve even randomly opened a dictionary, stabbing with my finger, eyes closed, choosing a word to contemplate, usually with serendipitous results.
- Third-person journalling; this can be used to good effect to gain an alternative perspective on a given situation (as, no doubt, does writing in the second-person, which I haven’t tried but will now I’ve reminded myself of it).
Is it obvious that I get enormous pleasure from journalling? It can, by turns, be fun, revitalising, soothing, confidence-boosting and motivating – sometimes all at the same time. The potential gains available through keeping a journal are myriad; a Google search brings up hundreds of thousands of pages on the benefits. You can find 100 reasons to start journalling right here.
My favourite journalling website belongs to Amber Lea Starfire; it contains a wealth of information, including many prompts that I have used for clarification and enlightenment, confirming for myself Pat Conroy’s assertion that: writing is the only way I have to explain my own life to myself.
Journalling doesn’t have to be a written activity – you can sketch, doodle or collage if writing isn’t your thing. Or you can try creative journalling – using combinations of any or all of these methods.
As with all of my Essential Principles… you really don’t have to take my word for it. A good quality, A4 notepad can be cheaply purchased, as can a biro. Then all you need to do is set aside forty-five minutes and let rip (some people prefer to use technology to journal; if that appeals to you then go for it). If you get a sixteenth of the satisfaction I get from journalling you’ll be more than happy. You have nothing to lose but negativity and stress. What you have to gain can be summed up by Robin Sharma:
Writing in a journal reminds you of your goals and of your learning in life. It offers a place where you can hold a deliberate, thoughtful conversation with yourself… The starting point of discovering who you are, your gifts, your talents, your dreams, is being comfortable with yourself. Spend time alone. Write in a journal.