Here's How! An Important Benefit of Journaling

My previous comments about choosing the right book or tablet to write in may have seemed of little importance. My reasoning was quite simple. The journal you write will become something special to you over time, and getting started with the book or tablet that is right for you is essential to this process. We take care of the things we value and treat them in a special way.  Entries you make might be scattered over several different notebooks and the benefit of continuity will be lost to you. Putting them in the same place each time from the very beginning will ensure that what you write today will be there for you tomorrow and next week, next month, next year.

In so many ways, our lives seem fragmented and erratic. Yet, at the same time, many of the problems and issues that we face today are frequently the same ones we have already dealt with in the past.  Having all in one place information about these issues and how we handled them – or didn’t handle them – provides us with insight and wisdom directly out of our own experience. Yes, new problems are always arising, and there are often similarities with what has happened to us in the past that we can find supportive and useful. We know a great deal more about solving the issues that confront us than we give ourselves credit for. The journal entries we write can help us to tap into this. They can reveal what worked and what didn’t work in the past.

The journal can become a treasure house filled with the help and expertise we have amassed over time. This is an important reason for preserving the books and tablets we write instead of disposing of them – which many people, after the fact, regret. There is definitely an aspect of continuity in our lives whether we have appreciated it in the past or not. The journal helps us to see and understand this.  

“Writing has become fun for me. I never realized I could enjoy myself so much writing down the adventures I’ve had in my life. Living them over again has given my day lots of sparkle,” said a participant in one of my journal writing groups. And the only way you can discover this for yourself is to see what happens when you write.

An Additional Suggestion

An additional suggestion: Enter the date, the time and the place where you wrote the entry. And don’t read what you’ve written that day! Turn the page, or close the tablet. The tendency to begin immediately editing whatever you’ve written is overwhelming. You will see spelling errors or grammar mistakes or a repetition of the same word and on and on. Instead of dumping your stress, you are simply adding to it!  Making corrections in your journal does not heal you; letting go of whatever is causing you stress – that is part of the healing process you initiate with your journal entry today.  

© 2014 All Rights Reserved  

Here's How! Beginning to Journal

I always suggest that instead of an expensive, carefully-bound book with so many blank pages in it that you choose a simple legal pad with lines and a margin, or a spiral bound copy book. How can I possibly fill it up? It is much less daunting and will encourage you to put everything you want to include in it without thinking, “Oh, that book is too beautiful, special, etc. I couldn’t put something as unseemly, ugly, distasteful like that in it!” Your journal is waiting for you to show up and write whatever it is you need to. And I encourage you to leave the first sheet empty with only the date you begin to write in it and – if you like – using the Native American idea of “medicine”: THIS IS MY MEDICINE – DO NOT READ !

Consider the page that appears before you as an invitation to write or doodle or draw or insert a photo. And to use a pen with different colors of ink or a mechanical pencil that you enjoy writing with that might have a fine or a broad point. Deciding on a special writing tool that you will use only for journal writing may have its downside. What happens if you cannot find it tomorrow? Will that prevent you from writing? In any case, you are the boss. It is your journal and your needs take precedence over the pad, the pen or pencil or the content. 

Several people have told me how unhappy they were with their handwriting, and, as well, that they can write so much more quickly at the computer. Objecting to your own handwriting is but another way of putting an obstacle in your path to writing a journal. And while computers may facilitate writing and can be used in the case of physical impairment, it doesn’t develop the important connection that writing with a pen in your hand does. The body/mind/ spirit connection is forged in the act of setting down the words of your entry. It is, in fact, an entry into a different world that is waiting to be explored through the writing process.

The other reason for writing in longhand is that there is no key to press, as there is on the computer to spell-check what you’ve written. The moment you begin editing what is on the page, you stop journal writing. Editing is quite a different activity from journaling. And that is what you are sitting down to do! Neither spelling, nor grammar, nor punctuation is of the slightest importance when you journal. When you make it your focus, journaling stops. The place in which you write and the time, as well, are decisions for you to make from the outset. You need to choose a comfortable chair or setting that will encourage your efforts and not an environment in which you feel constrained or inhibited. If you always pay your bills sitting at the kitchen table it would be a good idea to select a different place to journal. Writing outdoors is another possibility, or writing in a coffee shop if you are comfortable with other people talking or working at their computers around you. 

If you choose to write at night, leaning against comfortable pillows might work well – as long as you don’t fall asleep. The time of day or night you write depends upon your own rhythms and availability. I have gotten so accustomed to the process that I’ve written in airplanes, bus terminals, trains, concerts, antique shows, hospitals and doctors’ offices. A doctor’s office is one of the best places to write while you are waiting for the nurse to call you that the doctor will see you. Writing there diffuses some of the anxiety that often precedes medical appointments, so I write about it instead of keeping it inside. I let it out on the page. And this is one of the best uses of the journal – de-stressing emotions and making room for other feelings. 

Watching the television is not a good time for journaling. Television is about someone or something other than you. Journal writing is all about you.

I also recommend that you make a decision before you begin writing whether or not you will answer the telephone if it rings. That is entirely your decision. Again, you are the boss.

Make an appointment with yourself to write at the same time every day, and if you fail to make it – it’s not the end of the world or the end of writing in your journal. If you make it a priority in your life, it will come to be natural and easy to do. And that is what journal writing can become for you – natural and easy. 

If you’ve never written a journal before, or if you once wrote one, you can begin from today to begin enjoying the benefits of journal writing. In my next blog, I will go into detail about all the benefits of journal writing. Check back soon to find out how  to receive 52 weeks of suggestions for journal writing: SOUNDINGS.

© 2014 All Rights Reserved

Here's How! A Journal Writing Blog

Welcome to “Here’s How!” a blog created to help you get the most out of journal writing – whether you write every day, every week, every month – or if you are a reluctant writer who’d like some encouragement to begin.

I have been journaling since 1955 and have written several books about the process of journal writing. I’ve offered workshops all over the country for people who are interested in improving their health and having more fun living. That’s what I’m going to blog about: using journal writing to get the most out of life!  

Whether or not you are going to participate in this activity depends entirely on your answer to this key question: Are you worth 5, 10 or 20 minutes a day? That’s what it takes to get started with an activity that can have a profound influence on the way you look at the world, your relationships, yourself. Reducing the stress of your daily routine, opening the door to new possibilities, exploring alternatives different from the “same ol’ same-ol’.” All this and more are available to you once you can answer yes to that question. With almost 60 years of personal experience and years of helping others to engage in this, I will be exploring what others – both famous and anonymous – have discovered in the process of journal writing.   

I invite you to read the book I’ve written called Write For Life: Healing Body, Mind and Spirit Through Journal Writing (Kaplan Publications, rev. ed., N.Y., 2010), that contains fifteen different journeys along with five “windows” through which to explore conditions and attitudes that have some influence on the adventure of journal writing. These windows, which I will open to everyone who follows this blog, will expand the perspective through which you observe and appreciate the impressions you receive.

I am also a poet who has written poetry since I was eleven. Many of the poems in my new book, Portal Poems: Perspectives on Aging (Good Sheppard Press, 2013), have the seeds of their creation in my journal entries, so I will be including them, from time to time, as well. Journal writing is the starting point for many different kinds of creative thinking and we can explore how to make this work for you. For me, the journal is a private place in which I can explore the process of healing; and the blog is a public place where I can publish what might inform and be useful to others. 

And both are about having FUN! That, by the way, is the first thing people want to know when they come to any workshop – including mine. I have made a practice of asking people what it takes for each of them to have fun and I’ve gotten answers that have an enormous range: dancing, good food, booze, stimulating conversation, a change of scenery, jokes, getting all dressed up, singing, watching a baseball game, listening in on other people’s conversations, finding new ways to make money and the list goes on and on. But the key factor in each of these is essential: you cannot have fun unless you show up! Unless you show up for your journal or your blog you won’t have fun! And that’s just how it is.  If your journal writing is putting you to sleep, stop; go to sleep. Your journal will wait for you to wake up.

This is as good a moment as any to write about the tablet or book on which you are going to write. It is important that whatever you are going to write on be comfortable and accessible for you, as well as being easy to put away. And that is an important consideration. Do not leave your journal lying around for anyone else to read it. It is private and requires your attention as to where you keep it. Too many people have had the unfortunate experience of others reading what they thought would be for their own eyes only, and the results were disastrous. It is also important that even if found, it is not to be read. That is the only way you can be honest about what you write. If you know someone else is going to read it, you censor yourself and lose the benefit of expressing your feelings. The facts and figures you write do not heal you; how you feel about the facts and figures makes and enormous difference to your health.

This is what the research has proven.  I will be blogging about the research that has been done on the effects of journal writing in a future blog, but for this one, let me just say that if you have even the slightest interest in the process of change, it is essential that you include your feelings in whatever it is you are writing about.

© 2014 All Rights Reserved

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