Two months ago, I touched upon journal writing in my post, “What To Do When You Feel Like You Can’t Write?” I alluded to the fact that basically, when life throws you a curve ball, one of the best things you can do is write in your journal. I spoke about how journal writing provides self-comfort and self-knowledge. I said it was your writer’s training ground, your therapist, and your best friend rolled into one. But journal writing is such an essential part of my writing life that I wanted to say more.
When you’re stuck on a project or need space away from it, writing in your journal can help move you forward. When you’re pissed off, sad, afraid, confused, and feeling like an unfit conversationalist, you can speak your mind in your journal. You never have to worry about how you look or sound. You are safe from the thoughts, opinions, and judgments of others. You have nothing to prove, and you don’t have to be concerned about writing anything “good.” The fact that you’re writing is all that matters. Showing up. That’s it.
A few weeks ago on Facebook, I wrote that the difference between doing a little writing and a lot of writing is small. The difference between doing NO writing and a little writing is great. Even when you’re doing a little writing, you’ve got your finger on the pulse. You never know when you’ll experience a quickening from within. And when you do, you’ll be ready to follow its lead. You won’t have to strive and struggle to achieve your writing goals. It’ll just happen—because of your quiet, faithful commitment to simply and unselfconsciously scribble just a little bit each day! Your journal is the perfect place to do this.
It’s easy to forget the power, effectiveness, and cumulative results you reap writing a little bit each day. We think we have to spend hours at our desk to get any real work done. This can lead to avoiding writing altogether. We divert ourselves with busywork, kids, reading, exercise, or (gasp!) shopping. There are plenty of distractions. Even a trip to the grocery store can seem exciting if we’re trying to avoid writing. I don’t know about you, but I feel crappy when I’m not writing. But if I can find my way back to my journal, I feel like I’ve come home. It grounds me, and at the same time provides an entryway into my higher self. I believe wholeheartedly in the power of journal writing to heal and transform.
After my mom died, I plunged into work, didn’t take time to grieve, ignored the voice inside that told me to slow down, and then, last November, my life as I knew it screeched to a halt. For several months I suffered from debilitating anxiety, fear, and grief. I am feeling better now, thanks in part to my journal. I’ve poured out my heart and cried over its pages. I’ve written letters to my mother, and I’ve let myself be comforted by the wise, steady voice within.
I sometimes question, How this is possible? What’s going on here? And when I’ve found solace in my writing, I’ve also wondered: Why is journal-writing such a balm? I once read that when we write, we actually create new neural pathways in our brains. We literally change our brain, breaking old neural habits and creating new ones.
In his book, Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions, psychologist James W. Pennebaker shares the results of his clinical research. “Self-disclosure,” he writes, “is good for our emotional, as well as physical health. Confessional writing brings about brain-wave congruence. As you write, the two sides of your brain converge. As you get deeper into your writing, you may reach a meditative state, which produces theta brain waves, which are slower than our daily, waking-state brain waves. The theta brain wave state is where we experience heightened creativity, breakthroughs, and effortless solutions to problems.”
Jack Canfield, coauthor of the Chicken Soup series, agrees. In his book The Success Principles he writes, “Many people have their greatest success accessing intuitive information through journal writing. Take any question that you need an answer to and just start writing about it. Write down the answers to your question(s) as quickly as they come to you. You will be amazed at the clarity that can emerge from this process.”
Janet Conner, in her book Writing Down Your Soul: How to Activate and Listen to the Extraordinary…, takes this a step further: “If you write with a clear intention to communicate with your inner wisdom, you create a doorway between conscious mind and cosmic mind, self energy and source energy, old neural pathways and new ones, life as it is and life as it could be.”
This is an extraordinary claim. But I believe it. My journal has definitely provided access to Universal Intelligence. Much of the time I’m not sure where half of what I write comes from, but I trust and deeply respect the process.
How about you? I’d love to hear about your relationship with your journal and its influence and impact on your life.
Note: This post appeared earlier this month in my monthly SHE WRITES column.
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