Journal Writing: Thoughts, Musings, Platitudes and Gratitudes
Since I was quite young, I’ve kept diaries and journals. Some were for school-related requirements, such as when I went on a trip: I once wrote 30 notebook pages for a 4-day trip to the American Southwest in 5th grade. I remember being in third grade with a “secret diary” that had a lock and key.
30 years later I still write in my beloved journal.
I’ve filled moleskine journals with my words, notebook journals, wire bound journals and more. More recently, I went digital, writing over at Penzu.com.
One nice thing about writing over at Penzu is that it calculates word counts of your journals. Since near the end of 2014, I have written over 177,000 words of thoughts, musings, platitudes and gratitudes:
You could say I’m a fan of journal writing.
Wait, that’s an understatement.You could say I truly believe in the power of journal writing. Click To Tweet
I’m touching upon this subject now because another fellow reader, Tessia (who’s over at Feral Child and Feral Child on Facebook, and QUITE the soloist!) asked how I come up with subject matter to journal about.
The truth is, I am kind of “wordy” to a fault. If I don’t know you that well, I might not share about everything that lights my soul.
But if you get to know me, I don’t shut up about philosophy, personal development, caring about others, pursuing projects, and more.
I admit that that’s probably not very becoming of a “meditator,” but it is what it is.
I am who I am: verbose, garrulous, wordy, loquacious and any other word that would describe someone who’s a word nerd.
It’s okay. I own that. I love, LOVE words.
To be sure, there are times when I have to think about what I might like to write about for a journal entry. I don’t usually get stumped for long.
When I think about one of the following, I always can come up with something to write about:
- what’s going on in my life
- short-term dreams
- long-term dreams
- getting a new job
- ending an old job
- work blues
- work highs
- favorite quotes that prompt a thought
- a problem I’d like to solve
- explore an idea
- release pent-up emotions regarding something important to me
- project ideas
- gratitude lists
- personal development
- coming up with my mission statement
- reflecting on my mission statement
- current events
- start a story
- talk about a recent experience (a trip, an outing, time with a friend, something that happened at work)
- intentions I’d like to pursue
- thoughts about family
- thoughts about the state of the world
- thoughts about the environment
- intuitive drawings
- intuitive poems
As you can see, I think about lighthearted things, and serious things and…my mind never stops thinking. This is probably the biggest reason I’ve taken to journaling, so that I can clear out the mental chatter that equates to the inside of my head. And also why I meditate: I can literally give my mind a break.
I don’t know if there are others out there reading this who feel that the stuff inside their heads feels like a jumble of words bouncing around like ping pong balls. If those word don’t get out somehow, they will explode in a frenzy of all-night binge writing episodes with the likes of a mad
It’s a good thing – for myself AND for the world – that I talk to my journal and clear out my mind daily with some meditation.
I know this intuitively. And I reap the benefits. So does everyone else (by me not going insane).
Benefits of journaling
I know firsthand the benefits of journaling.
If you’ve known me for awhile, you probably know that I didn’t have the easiest upbringing: being adopted within my family and growing up in a nursing home should tip you off to some of the (interesting) events and activities that made up my life back then.
While I always looked to peace and harmony – both within my family and throughout the world – I didn’t always know how to express the complexity of emotions that I felt as I grew into an adolescent and adult.
Though many have described me as a live Polyanna in a modern rendition of Voltaire, behind the scenes, I struggled at times to reconcile what I went through with my family and dealing with the influx of bitterness, anger, discontentment along with gratitude, love and hope I felt at the opportunities afforded me as a result of my upbringing.
(You can see why I’m such a HUGE advocate of meditation – in all its forms – and journaling: these two activities, more than any others, probably shaped my life for the better.)
At the urging of my husband, various family members and close friends, I began to write a book – really, a very long journal – about my experiences.
I do have some doozys for stories, if I may be so bold.
In the summer of 2009, I opened my laptop, brought up a fresh document in my word processor, and started typing away.
I wrote about everything regarding my childhood: expressing love, anger, humor, loss, sympathy, empathy, frustration, despair.
150 pages later, I stopped.
I stopped mostly because I’d come to a natural conclusion of that long volume of my life and was beginning another.
But something else happened. I wrote with the intention of publishing. I wrote with the intent to tell the world about my troubles and triumphs.
After writing all that, however, a huge sense of peace and acceptance came over me.
I no longer harbored bitterness.
I accepted that everyone who ever entered my life was just doing the best that he or she could.
I accepted that all humans are fallible and that we’re all stumbling through life just like everyone else and everyone deserves our compassion, despite the decisions – good or bad – that they make.
I no longer had a desire to publish.
Maybe I will someday.
I called a really good friend who happens to be a psychologist. She told me jokingly that, “You shouldn’t tell everyone about your catharsis with journal writing, because then I’d be out of a job.”
She was really kidding, but she went on and on about how I’d discovered the best things about journaling: the healing, the acceptance, the emotional processing, the release of all that pent-up frustration.
And I felt peace.
So, I know.
I know from first-hand experience that journal writing can do the following for you:
- it helps you process emotions
- it helps boost your self-worth and self-esteem by the volume of work you create
- it helps you to experience profound healing
- it helps to release all your emotions – the good, the bad and everything between – with non-judgement and privacy
- it helps you get clear mentally on what you’re thinking
- it helps you explore ideas in depth
- it helps you see patterns of growth by looking at what you’ve written in the past
- it helps, like a photograph, to relive good memories
- it helps you to learn from your mistakes
- it helps you to tangibly see that your thoughts are real and that they matter
- it helps you to explore any idea – no matter how outlandish – and you won’t be judged for it
- it helps you to feel more gratitude, especially if you’re making lists about what you’re grateful for
- it helps you to reflect on what’s working in your life and what you’d like to improve upon
- it helps you to understand where you are presently and where you might like to go
- it helps you to communicate more effectively – since speaking, listening, reading and writing are all related, all these things improve
- it helps you to boost your creativity by being able to explore ideas and innovate
- it helps you to become more thoughtful in your actions and therefore lends itself to mindfulness
- it helps you to see your growth and how far you’ve come on your life’s journey
- it helps you to be brutally honest, with no censorship, to understand what you’re truly feeling
More than that, when you see all the words you’ve come up with – all the lined pages of scribbles and musings – you suddenly realize that you CAN write books, and you can share ideas.
You see these volumes of work that represent your life and you can pass them on to family or friends or just keep them for posterity.
You can relive the experiences of your life – both good and bad – and understand better where you were coming from, why you felt the way you did, and what actions you took. In other words, you can really learn from yourself and about yourself to understand who you really are.
Your journal can handle ANY emotion you write into it: you can write out a SCREEEAAAMM, you can express love, you can scratch and scribble your anger and your journal can take it.
When you’re all done, all your emotions go on to the page, you feel like you’ve expressed yourself, and you can get on with your life.
Can you feel the passion I hold for my dear journal?
This is also how I know I just love to write. Most people will never see the words behind the cover of my journal. I do it because it makes a difference to me. So that, in turn, I can make a difference for others.
Back on March 17, 2013, at 2:36am, I wrote a poem. I was processing the raw emotions after the death of my dog, and couldn’t sleep.
I don’t mention this to be melancholy, but to illustrate the process by which writing was a way to work through what I was feeling at the time.
I admit…I thought a little of Emily Dickinson at this poem. I edited it a bit for better presentation here:
My Friend, Life
Death, you wear a cloak and lurk in
Your shadow is never far away.
You watch us sing, dance and play,
But then you cast your shadow
And leave silence in your wake.
For sure, no one knows when your
Darkness will wield itself upon us,
Taking us one, two or four score,
But surely you feel some regret
At being an usher to the nevermore.
What a terrible job it must be,
Charged with such a task,
What reward is in it for you
That makes you come and trespass–
Day in and day out
Since the beginning, I ask?
Do you see the other side?
Do you straddle the line between
Life and afterlife?
Is it as far as you can see,
Stretching somewhere to eternity?
Do you wait for Spirit’s instructions,
Or act on your own time,
Deciding who gets to live
And who’s turn it is to cross the way?
Is do your fingers stretch long on some days and short on others?
Do you commiserate with Suffering
And make bets behind closed doors?
I know, Death, that someday
We will meet.
But for now, I bid you good-bye
and send you to the back seat…
Decades later it is you I will see –
I hope no sooner –
After I have
Sung and danced a jubilee
With my friend called Life.
Yes, I lost a family member that day. I still miss him, but writing and working out what I felt helped immensely in my process of healing.
Now, when I happen upon this entry, I feel a measure of sadness of course, but I also think about the love I felt for my beloved dog, the memories we shared, and how much “life” has happened since then.
Publishing and Meditation Journals
As many of you know, I’m about to publish the Tree of Life coloring book (I’m hoping within the next week or so), but I’m at the mercy of the process at the moment: it’s a wonderful learning curve, figuring out image resolutions, getting proofs, formatting documents for coloring book dimensions and the like. I’m having fun with it, but I’m on a steep learning curve.
To that end, I’m thinking about taking some of the images and creating a meditation journal with coloring pages, writing prompts, blank pages for ideas, list pages to create intentions, and more.
I may have to switch back from digital to the pen again after creating it, because honestly, THAT sounds so fun to do!
Before I do that, I wanted to see if other folks might be interested in such a thing. I realize that sometimes the things I come up with in my own head, don’t necessarily translate to something that everyone else would like.
I’ve created a quick poll. I would love your thoughts and you can choose more than one answer:
And tell me, do you keep a regular journal? If not, are you thinking about starting one?