(This is an excerpt from our February 2015 newsletter. View the full newsletter here.)
I get a lot of questions about the best ways to journal.
My journals have been some of my best friends during the past two decades. Stacks of them reside in my home, and each one chronicles major milestones in my life: my first love, my first heartbreak, my first year in college, dips into depressions, euphoric expansions, new homes, world travel, and so much more. Writing in my journal has been a crucial means of developing an intimate trust in my inner wisdom and an outlet to freely process uncensored emotional distress that otherwise I would have held captive in my body.
Even when you’re not going through extreme life changes, journaling offers a useful way to examine the intersection between your inner and outer worlds daily. This process can’t just happen mentally. A transformation occurs when you meet the page with your pen and your words flow. A wise witness emerges from within you — the one who can extract the insights and magic from whatever you’re presently living through and help you to see how to apply them. Here resides an important ingredient in reclaiming your creativity. I found the courage to write this book only after doing Julia Cameron’s twelve-week creativity recovery plan, as described in The Artist’s Way, and committed to write at least three handwritten pages in my journal each day. When you journal, even if it’s just a page before bed each night, a deeper part of you can come forth and share her voice. She’s not your mind. She’s your soul. And she holds the key to your truest happiness.
Dr. Christiane Northrup, women’s health pioneer and author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and The Secret Pleasures of Menopause, advocates regular journaling and employs it with thousands of women in their journeys to greater health and happiness in all stages of life. Since emotional distress rests at the root of most women’s physical and psychological ailments, no woman can afford to live without this simple yet tremendously potent self-reflective tool.
Your journal doesn’t have to be fancy: I usually spend less than four dollars on mine
and get simple spiral-bound notebooks with colors and designs that appeal to me. Write your name inside, and add the date too, since it’s fun to go back years (or even a few months) later and marvel at how much you’ve grown.
Here’s a journaling practice that I did sometimes before working on my book. It helped me to get my ideas flowing and to dig beneath my surface thoughts and emotions to find the deeper level of intuitive, creative flow underneath.
It’s called “The Proprioceptive Method for Finding Your Inner Voice,” by Linda Trichter Metcalf and Tobin Simon (from Writing the Mind Alive).
- Create your own comfortable ritual to begin a writing practice (light a candle, sit in a special place at a certain time every day, etc.)
- Set a timer for 20 minutes. Write down what you hear (within) for 20 minutes. Don’t stop writing (or typing) for that entire time.
- Really listen to what you write and then ask yourself (and write down the answers to) these Proprioceptive Questions:
- What did you think, but did not write down?
- How do you feel?
- What larger story is what you wrote part of?
- And, the seed-thought for future writing is: What other ideas surfaced that you didn’t write down?
- Date it and put it in a folder (digital or paper).