I suspect that the most common barrier to picking up the habit of journaling is the awkwardness of talking out loud (writing) to no-one in particular.
It is so easy for me to take for granted the gift that journaling has been in my life. Maybe because it is a gift that is to me from me. We easily take our own gifts to ourselves for granted, don’t we? And there is no gift that is more of you, from you and for you than the gift of journaling.
I remember as a little kid hearing the stories of adventurers the world over. There were mountain climbers, seafarers, “discoverers” of new things. There was, of course, our own – now controversial – Christopher Columbus. Was he the first to “discover” the New World? Nah. But you know why he ended up in my childhood stories? Because the man wrote about it all. Somehow my 9 year old brain figured out that if this murdering POS (yes, I knew that even then) could make his life have lasting significance centuries later, perhaps there might be something to writing things down about our ordinary days. Perhaps one day, thousands of years later, my writing could be a clue to some new adventurer-archeologist of what our day to day lives are like now. It could end up in a museum, the way mummies and interesting things found in centuries-old graves are today. The romance of the idea really took root in me as a young child.
My mom got me one of those cutesy little girly pink books with a lock and a key at the beginning of a summer vacation the year I turned 10 and I tried it out. But it wasn’t until tragedy struck that the habit truly stuck in my craw. When I was 14 I lost my best friend in the world to a chronic illness. I will never forget the moment an gaping hole emerged in my life in the place where my afterschool telephone buddy had been. She would call me after school and I would tell her all the things she’d missed out on in the hospital. That year would be the worst year of my life with puberty, high school bullying, and grief all colliding into one noxious experience. But this was the year I would start to write in earnest. Every journal entry began with “Dear Alice,” and I would pour out my thoughts, my ideas, my secrets, school gossip she would have missed, into book after book after book. I don’t know where I lost the “Dear Alice,” but I’m sure if I look back I will find out! I have written pretty consistently ever since then, save for crazy seasons of college exams and a short hiatus here and there.
Recently it has come to my awareness through conversations with friends and clients just how unusual my relationship to journaling is. There are so many people who understand and crave the benefits of journaling (which will take a whole other blog post to itself!) but they have never really been able to develop the habit. There are all sorts of things that get in the way – the lack of stamina for holding a pen so long in a world that has long shifted to typing, or time in the day, or maybe they just aren’t convinced it will work for them. I suspect that the most common barrier to picking up the habit of journaling is the awkwardness of talking out loud (writing) to no-one in particular. It can make you feel a little crazy! It’s probably why having someone like the ghost of Alice to write to made it so easy for me to begin. Taking our our inner thoughts out of our heads and putting them on loudspeaker – even if only to ourselves – can be very confronting. There’s a huge vulnerability and feeling of nakedness that can get in the way of even giving it a shot.
Over the course of the coming months, Blue Island Oracle will be exploring the benefits of journaling, how to journal, when to journal, and how to use what you’ve written to your own good. Look out for blog posts, some ideas on social media, and workshops coming up. But don’t wait! Now is as good a time as any for you to start.
Here are some cool first steps…
- Buy a notebook that speaks to you. Look at things like the spacing of the lines, how comfortable it is to write in, whether the cover speaks to your personality, how portable/concealable it is. Don’t overthink it – it will be the first of many!
- Choose your weapon. Is it a pen or a pencil? Is it blue ink or black ink or pink ink or a bunch of inks? Is it a fountain pen or a ball point?
- Choose a place to keep your new journal safe from prying eyes when you aren’t writing.
- Skip the first page (don’t ask me why, but it works! Who needs first-page pressure?). You can always come back to it later and maybe doodle on it as I did in the page on the photo or give the book a title – whatever you want.
- Begin to write, perhaps exploring the answers to the following questions:
- What do I want to get out of the journaling experience?
- What has been in the way of me starting the journal before?
- Why is now the right time?
- What gifts will journaling give to you?
- NOTE: Avoid making promises you can’t keep, like “I will write every day” or “I will fill this book by June”. This is already gonna feel weird, don’t make it harder!
Off you go, my friend! Remember to come back and tell us how it went!