8 Ways to Journal and Why
Why bother with journaling?
As a writer, people confess to me all the time: “I suck at writing. Journaling is something I know I should do, but I just can’t bring myself to write.”
What they really mean is they suck at following the rules of writing and because of that, they associate punishment with their attempts to express themselves on paper. They judge their “writing” as bad and consequently avoid it. Sadly, they are also avoiding an amazing portal to their creativity. And they have no idea what they are missing!
In our culture we harbor a grave misunderstanding about the word creativity.
We spend a lot of hours consuming creativity (music, public art, books, magazines, blogs, movies, videos, etc.) but far less time creating. We fail to recognize or honor our own creative powers.
Because as children, we’re given examples of creativity. We learn guidelines for what is “good” and “not good” creative effort. Before we learn to really create, we learn to judge creativity. Fearing judgment, we bottle up our creativity and declare, “I’m not really creative.”
But we ALL have creative powers, whether we want to admit it or not. We ARE creative beings.
For example, getting a job is creative. One day you don’t have it; the next day you do. Sure, someone has to hire you, but you have to do all the work to create this opportunity for yourself. You have to imagine what it is you want, search the want ads, read job descriptions, create resumes and apply, you have to envision yourself doing the job so you can successfully interview with the hiring agent. Without these creative actions, the job will not manifest for you.
Many attribute these things to luck, but in reality we’re using our divine gifts of choice and will. Our creativity is a power shared with us from the divine. So we’re really missing out if we don’t develop it more fully. Journaling, in all its many forms, is a perfect way to experiment with and become comfortable with our powers of creativity while at the same time opening up to the divine.
Journaling is a conversation between you and You. It is a process through which you create relationship with your inner self, your authentic being, or as I like to call it, your soul. It is about making time daily to contemplate what your soul wants for you and your life. It’s a time to reflect on experiences and to learn about what they mean, and how they are helping shape you as a human being.
Whenever I am feeling confused, sad, uncertain, alone, un-cared for, or just simply down, I know that my morning journal is the best place for me to go. I can tell the page everything without censoring my story. What I write doesn’t have to make any sense, and I know that all of my emotions will be accepted. I also have a gratitude journal where I keep track of all the abundance taking place in my life. Between these two, I can make sense of my life.
The point of our journal practice is not to create consumable products. It is simply an opportunity to create private time and space for creativity to flow forth. Without the pressure to share it with others, we remove the need for it to pass inspection and therefore give ourselves freedom to more fully allow what wants to be born of it.
And even if you still hate to write, you should know that there is more than one way to journal. Different creative personalities are going to approach a journal practice in their own unique ways. Perhaps your resistance to journaling may be a result of not having found your own creative style.
When you give yourself freedom to journal your way, you’ll do it more often and with more excitement about the results. Here are some examples, but feel free to experiment and combine forms to suit what wants to be expressed from within you. There is no “right” way to communicate with your soul.
Freestyle journal –
Sitting down with a blank page and allowing whatever comes up to be written down. Maybe it’s a poem. Maybe it’s an angry venting session. Perhaps you write song lyrics or haiku. Maybe it’s a back and forth conversation with yourself, or a nonsensical ramble of thought. Whatever it is, simply allow it to flow uncensored. You can time yourself to bring some structure to the practice and really commit to getting something on the page for 5, maybe ten minutes. I like giving myself limits, because it makes the commitment easier every day. I’d rather write a quarter page every day than to dump out five pages and then not write again for months.
Art journal –
My son is an illustrator and he carries his sketch pad pretty much everywhere he goes. Sometimes there’s ideas written down and sometimes it’s simply lines and images that are percolating up into his awareness. My daughter also makes colorful art journals with drawings, paintings, and writings. She uses thin markers to write, so every page is an explosion of color and form. If you like to doodle, paint, draw, cut and paste or color, perhaps a book without lines is perfect for you. Allow words and images to mix on the page. The point is not to create “acceptable” art, just let your chosen medium tell a story in shapes and lines, colors and words.
Image journal –
This one is a little different from the art journal in that you find images that catch your eye. You can cut them from magazines or copy and paste into a computer document. Then write for 5-10 minutes non-stop on what you see and feel about the image. In setting a time for yourself, you push yourself past your initial perceptions and then deeper into the feeling and emotional interpretation of what you see. Often times this practice reveals a lot about our judgments, fears and about how we experience ourselves as part of the world.
Gratitude journal –
This kind of journal can take many forms, but I like to keep it simple. Every night before I go to sleep, I pull out my notebook, write down a date and then list the five things I’m most grateful for that day. If we never give thought to what’s great about our lives, we lose track and take a lot for granted. A gratitude journal helps us keep a running log of the good in our lives. With that awareness front and center every day we become an open conduit for more of that good to flow to us.
A lot of people don’t know that blogs have privacy settings. You can keep posts you create there completely private or share only the ones you want to share. Blogs however can be a great way to journal in conversation with others. Blogs are often followed by other people who share similar interests and experiences. And blogs aren’t just for cooking or sharing cool travel pics (although those can be great too). Many people turn to the blogosphere to write about their challenges with health issues, parenting, weight loss, getting clean, and overcoming all kinds of adversity. A blog is great for documenting an emotional/physical journey. If you prefer working on a computer vs. pen and paper, creating a blog might be perfect for you.
Travel journal –
Travel is an amazing form of self-discovery because it launches you out of the comfort zone of home and exposes you to high levels of unfamiliar people, places and customs. Writing about what you learn and experience is a great way to process and make sense of the world and your place in it. Travel journals are often combined with photography, art and collage. If you tend to travel a lot, adding a journal practice can make your experiences even more fulfilling.
Guided (or prompted) journal –
Journals written with prepared prompts are quite popular in the marketplace, both online and in bookstores. With these types of journals, you don’t have to think of what to write about. Authors who create them provide prompts designed to elicit inquiry into certain aspects of life. They can be general in terms of self-discovery or specific for healing particular aspects of life like trauma or grief. Every day, you open to a new page and answer a thought-provoking question. When the pages of the book are filled, you will feel enlightened (and sometimes surprised) when you return and read what you’ve written. Often we don’t even know what we think until someone asks us.
In Journal Writing Workshops you engage with others through focused prompts to learn about yourself in relationship to other humans..it can be a very powerful form of healing!
No matter what your journaling style, I encourage you to develop a daily practice – five to ten minutes spent in creative flow to bring you closer to the source of creativity within you. A month later and you will feel like you’ve met and gotten to know someone who just might be the best friend you’ve ever had.