Opening the mind and spilling its guts. (What I have learned from 15 years of Journaling)
I have been keeping journals since I was sixteen years old and have found them to be amazing tools for awakening creativity. Some have been filled with songs, others with pages of poetry and others with daily entries that coincide with travels or special adventures. Each entry is totally unique and captures the essence of a moment in a way that pictures alone could never live up to. Committing words to paper is like taking a snap shot of your internal experience, of your feelings about what you are doing.
Journaling is an art form like any other. It requires dedication, discipline and regular practice. It might sound easy to someone without experience but it is actually a lot harder to do than one might expect. Aside from the simple act of taking time out of our busy lives to sit down and make an entry, journaling also requires a level of honestly and vulnerability that few people are prepared for. Unless you plan on lying to yourself or pretending to be someone that you are not, your entries are inevitably going to reveal things about your true being that you may not be aware of. This kind of unveiling can be very challenging at times but it can also be a great teacher. If we are willing to make the commitment and are brave enough to look at things as they really are, truth will undoubtedly rise to the surface. From there, it is up to us to take action.
For me, one of the greatest benefits of keeping a regular journal is that it has allowed me to remember and to celebrate the little things that life so often blesses us with. We are usually so preoccupied with the struggles and the frustrations of life that the simple moments of clarity get completely overlooked. The memory of sitting in the woods and listening to the birds sing is so easily replaced with the memory of being stuck in traffic on the way home from work. The memory of sipping coffee in front of the woodstove as the snow accumulates on the pine trees is so quickly forgotten when competing with the memory of loosing our wallet and arguing with the credit card company. When we take the time to focus on the simple beauty in life and remember to record our feelings when immersed in those spaces, we are simultaneously creating a road map that can lead us back there in the future.
Another great benefit to regular journaling is the cathartic release that it so often provides. Lets face it; life can be stressful. Sometimes what we need more than anything is simply to talk about our problems and release some steam. Our fast paced world tends to over stimulate and over-whelm us if we get too deeply invested and all that mental rumination can weigh heavily on the psyche. Writing about the things that trouble us can help us work through the problems and, in time, help us to let them go. Lugging around mental baggage can have the same effect as carrying too much physical gear; it weighs us down and over time, can seriously damage the body.
On top of accurately recording feelings and providing a safe space for the release of frustration, journaling also has the ability to reveal profound insights and uncover silent truths that might be buried deep within. By treating our writing as a type of improvisation and allowing our words to flow freely without correction or constraint, we create a kind of canvas that our mind is encouraged to paint upon. Through this type of “word improvisation” we are allowing our lesser-known colors to flow into the spotlight and be examined in a way that they rarely are. I can say from personal experience that this kind of practice, when engaged authentically, can produce some incredibly interesting and often times, inspiring results. I have even used this kind of practice in the writing of song lyrics and have unearthed some serious gems in the process.
I think the real trick to this kind of journaling is in the suspension of judgment. We have to let go of our ideas about who we are or how we typically write and just start recording the messages as they come. We even need to be prepared to suspend our morals and our filters if we really want to encounter something fresh and rewarding. Its not that we have to get all hedonistic and start encouraging depraved fantasies (though if that’s what’s in there then its best to acknowledge it), I’m jut saying that we need to be open to encountering things that we wouldn’t normally allow. If we can do this and can remain present with the stuff as it arises, then the soil of our minds will most certainly be tilled; allowing seeds to be sown and fruit to be harvested.
The last thing I want to include about the benefits journaling is the restorative effect it seems to have on the memory. With all the technological devices that are designed to schedule and record our lives, the simple act of remembering has been kicked to the curb. The details of a given experience might get condensed into a couple of sentences for a Facebook post but the richness of that moment is so easily lost through convenience. I have found that by including details and elaborating on the richness of a specific event in my journal, I am much more likely to connect with and remember what I was doing.
Journaling has been one of the greatest practices that I have dedicated myself to. I have learned and captured and remembered so many great things that I otherwise might have missed. I would encourage anyone on the creative path to add journaling to their regular practices and experience the results for themselves.
In honor of this practice and the creative energy that has been generated because of it, I have added a “journal entries” section into my blog page so people can experience my process first hand. I will be adding to this section from old entries as well as more recent ones as they come about. I hope this will encourage you to start keeping your own!