If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.
—Vincent Van Gogh
Many people won’t even attempt journaling because they think they can’t: that they can’t write, be consistent, have anything worthwhile to say, fear someone might read it. To that I will have to concur with Mr. Van Gogh, if you hear anything that is keeping you from journaling, then by all means journal, and that voice will be silenced!
The number of attempts I made at keeping a journal was reflected in the number of journals I had in my possession–at least a dozen! I had numerous journals with 3-5 pages written in and then nothing! It seems that with each new attempted, I’d buy another journal and say, “I’m really going to do it this time,” but once again there would be 3 or so entries and then nothing!!! My good intentions were halted by these stumbling blocks:
- I don’t have the time
- I am so not a “writer”…everything I say is drab, uninteresting, ineloquent, and frankly it sounds like a big, fat pity party
- I don’t know what to write about
- I can’t write that down…what if someone reads it
- I keep saying the same things; nothing seems to be changing or it doesn’t seem to be helping
Have you heard yourself say any of these things when attempting or even just thinking about journaling? Let’s look at these for a minute:
If you really want to start to journal and are pressed for time, set a timer to an amount of time you would like to devote to journaling…5, 10, 15 minutes…and then just write for that amount of time. You can journal in the morning, lunch time, nap time, or before bed. Whatever time is best for you is the best time to journal. Time is the easiest one to overcome if you really want to journal. If you haven’t decided if journaling will benefit you at all, reread last week’s blog or check out these articles about the benefits of journaling. I bet you will find a couple payoffs you never even knew can occur with journaling.
http://apt.rcpsych.org/content/11/5/338.full (read the grey boxes!)
- I AM SO NOT A “WRITER”…everything I say is drab, uninteresting, ineloquent, and frankly it sounds like a big, fat pity party
- First….you are a writer. If God has blessed you with the opportunity to learn to read and write, the fingers to hold a pencil or plunk at a keyboard, or the ability to speak into a machine that will write down what you are saying, then you are a writer! All of that is a gift from God and God doesn’t give us gifts to sit unused. Believe that you are a writer because you’ve been given that gift.
- Second…journals aren’t necessarily meant to be novels or books or articles, so grammar, spelling, prose, and fancy words can all be thrown out the window! I say ‘necessarily’ because someday you may realize there is something worth sharing with others in your journal that can be refined. But for day to day journaling, no editor, English teacher grading or neatness is necessary! Be free to make as many mistakes as you wish. Just write!
- Third…if your journal, on many occasions, sounds like a big, fat pity party or in some other negative way that you wish it didn’t, I’ll say, “HOORAY!! You are on your way!” In the introductory blurb to the Psalms in The Message Bible, the author says that Psalms are prayers from people being human! (As I encouraged last week, try reading some Psalms.) He goes on to say we tend to think prayer is what “good” people do when they are doing their best, but when you read the psalms you will note that they are pouring out their thoughts and feelings often in a very unpolished and impolite way! We would think the psalms would be prayers by “nice” people because they are in the bible, yet when we read some of the things they pray for (smiting, send to the pits, heap with coals), we realize these are just humans crying out to God for help during their times of anger, fear, grief or lament. So if your journal sounds like a big, fat pity party or something else negative, “Hooray”, you are being honest and human!
- I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT
Bluntly, anything and everything! Even write “I don’t know what to write about” over and over if you need to! There are lots of great resources about WHAT TO JOURNAL and I will share some tips, ideas and these resources in the next blog.
- I CAN’T WRITE THAT DOWN…WHAT IF SOMEONE READS IT
If you are using your journal to process feelings, things from your past, or any current painful situation, you probably will write things you hope no one ever reads. If you are really concerned, tear out the page and get rid of it. Writing out and putting what you are feeling or processing on paper is what is important. If you rip the page out and burn it, the benefit of having written it will still be there whether the page is or not. I have put some post-it note disclaimers on a few of my journal pages that say, “This was a really bad day”. The only reason I didn’t toss the page is I want my daughter to know, if she ever reads it, that it is okay to have really bad days. It is important that you feel your journal is safe, so be mindful where you leave it. Do whatever you need to do to feel safe about keeping a journal. You can choose to never write out your negative thoughts and feelings and have your journal be focused only on your life blessings and gratitudes. That will produce incredible benefits, as well.
- I KEEP SAYING THE SAME THINGS…Nothing seems to be changing or it doesn’t seem to be helping
This comment makes me laugh because I was saying it looking at journals where I only journaled 3-5 times, then stopped, then attempted again a year or more later! What I would tell myself now, after journaling consistently pretty much every day for the past 7 years, is trust the process, give it a chance, and give it time. Things have shifted, insights have been gained, wounds have been healed, and many areas of my life have improved 100% due to time, consistency and dedication to journaling. This does not mean you can’t experience a change in one journaling session, you can! I just want you to know there are long term benefits to journaling as well. Offer yourself the opportunity to try journaling, commit to be consistent, and jump back in if you miss a few days or weeks or months.
Encouraging Your Whole Heartedness:
- Still not sure about taking the time to journal and the benefits you might receive, here are a few more resources along with the ones above:
http://apt.rcpsych.org/content/11/5/338.full (read the grey boxes!)
- If you want to give journaling a try, treat yourself to a new journal and a really nice pen. Go shopping this week for those.
- Sit down and journal at least one time this week. Need something to get you started before next week’s ideas on what to journal? Fill in the blank to this question: When my life is ideal I will be/have/or be doing _____________. Don’t think too much about this, just start jotting down a list!
- Are you still having some fears or blocks about journaling? Tell me what they are in the comment section! Thank you!