Ask anyone, I love journals. I buy them and stack them in the corner, there are never too many.
I am quite particular about the style, but my tastes have changed over the years. I went through a no lines phase when I was in college. It was a moment. I hate to not have one with me. Every computer in my life (including my phone) has a file marked journal. Sometimes the feeling and thoughts get so filled up inside me, I have to find a way to let it out. To pour those thoughts and feelings on to the page so I can see them, and deal with them outside of my body is the only way I know. I think everyone does this. But when I give journals to my friends, they often smile nicely and tuck them away. One friend announced that no matter how many journals I gave her, she was not going to do it. Until she did.
I’ve been sorting out my inner world through journals since I first learned to write “Dear Diary.” My yellow diary with the pink flower from second grade sits alongside several decades of journals that fill bins in the basement. Someday, my children will have to deal with those… I’m okay with that. All the really difficult words, I’ve already burned and flushed. I keep a box in my office with the journals that still speak to my heart. These journals are from particularly difficult seasons, or from times of breakthrough, and I lean into them sometimes looking for a truth that I’ve misplaced.
I don’t really understand why everyone doesn’t do this. It has finally occurred to me, some people are different from me. Some people need to express emotion through physical exertion. Others pour out their feelings into artistic expression. Some sort things out by thinking inside their head. My husband is like this. He doesn’t really use words to figure things out. He has an entirely internal process … and I don’t understand it. I process the world through words, both written and spoken. I learn what I know, discover what I feel, and often connect with deep emotions through words. He does that all in his head. Sometimes I feel like the kid who has to read out loud while everyone else is reading silently to themselves. Even when I must be quiet, I still mouth the words.
When people ask about this practice in my life, I always recommend that newbies not pick a pretty one. Leather bound journals are too intimidating. For a decade I only wrote in a spiral bound three subject notebook because it felt like it was no big deal. There could be no rules for me. I am a recovering perfectionist, so write every day can be a death sentence. I used my notebook to handle my deepest thoughts, my grocery lists, and my scrabble scores. It took the edge off and allowed me to not take myself or journaling so seriously. It made it possible for me to write.
People sometimes ask what to write about. Personally, I just pour out the words that are rattling around in my head. I don’t use real grammar (which has been a poor practice as I’ve moved to blogging) and I don’t use real spelling. Sometimes when I re-read my journal, it’s a bit startling. I just write. Over the years I’ve found some writing prompts that have been helpful.
Questions can be a good place to start… What am I thinking about? What am I feeling? What do I want? What do I need?
Writing letters is another favorite way to organize my thoughts. I don’t recommend sending these letters however, until you’ve waited at least a week to re-read… or maybe that’s just me.
I think the process of writing prayer is helpful. To describe a problem, and identify potential solutions often allows me to learn more about what is happening in my heart. Getting to the point of actually identifying what I want or need is a gift in its self.
I once heard a calligrapher talk about scribes who protected and preserved the Bible over thousands of years. He described a process of meditation as he rewrote the words of truth. He took each phrase and focused on it with his whole heart/mind/body as he wrote out the words in his own hand. I love this.
Art journals completely fascinate me. I have tried and failed to make my journals more than words. There are stunning examples of mixed media, artistic expressions of color and shape and words.
But for me, I just pour it out on the page so I can step back and sort it out. The process adapts to fit my needs, but I keep at it. I’m not really sure what would have happened if I’d not found journaling. My soul needs a space to stretch out and unravel the parts that get all tangled up on the inside. So I keep writing…it’s good for my soul.
This is number 30 of a 31 day writing challenge. Please click here to follow the rest of the series. Thank you for joining me on this journey!