When I was a kid I was very dedicated to my journal. I would religiously write my thoughts, ideas and grievances into its glitter edged pages with my special fluffy pen. I have always been curious about my brain, my mind; what it is that makes me tick. I sometimes find my thoughts to be like unwelcome strangers that need to be put on trial or shown the back door. Sometimes my mind is a very loud place to inhabit and I know I’m not the only one to feel this way.
In my early twenties I wrote poetry in my journal. I found something deeply soothing about taking big emotions and condensing them onto a single page within the confines of a structure. These thoughts and feelings no longer felt so intimidating when they sat within their poetic cages sandwiched between sheets of paper. I had control over them, and somehow their power lost some of its grip on me.
To me journaling holds a secret nature. My journal has always had a hidden quality to it. I still to this day find myself tucking my journal to the bottom of my book pile or placing it just out of sight under the bed.
Even with my history of journaling, I have had long writing droughts where my journal has sat neglected and lost, gathering dust. The pattern I have noticed is that sometimes I need it, and sometimes I’m happy to let the days and weeks slip away undocumented. I have noticed that my journal always comes out when I have feelings of instability or doubt in life.
I have learnt that journaling allows me space to quieten my mind and create room in my mind to relax and let in a bit of calm.
More than anything, a journal is an honest friend. In recent months I have found that looking back over my journal has provided me with the evidence I need to see in plain black and white that my mood changes, that my outlook changes. My journal is evidence to my negativity biased brain that nothing is constant and unbending. I am continually adapting from one week to the other. You are doing this too, even if you don’t believe that you are.
My journal today looks pretty different to the journals of my childhood. I’ve discarded the ‘Dear Diary’ stereotypes and made a journal that fits with my life and my character. I don’t have any rules around my journal. I find that rules and expectations around how it should be structured or look like just mean I’m editing it for someone else.
In fact, I actually don’t even refer to it as my ‘journal’ anymore. I call it a ‘Common Place Book’. This means everything goes in here: Book quotes that meant something to me; doodles and postcards with my thoughts sitting side by side nestled in the corner or written in the margins.
Your journal is for you, if you choose to create one it should be something that is pleasing and useful to you. For me my journal has taught me a lot about my own strength. I’ve learnt that I can be creative, that I am allowed to change and grow and am doing so even without being conscious of it, even when things aren’t going great.
Mostly, writing something down with a pen and paper is one of the most effective ways of slowing down my busy brain. Writing helps me train myself to listen to my intuition. Writing offers me the opportunity to carve out space in life. By writing down my thoughts I am offering myself self-compassion and understanding.
I don’t own a perfect journal. I’m not committed to writing in it every single day. I rarely read back over what I’ve written. For me, the act of putting pen to paper is enough. It holds its own magic.
How do you document your experiences? Do you doodle, or take pictures or write? I’d love to know what you find helpful.