The Power of Journaling
Journaling is such an empowering tool that Oprah Winfrey actually credits it for saving her life. Other dynamic, memorable women — Anne Frank, Sylvia Plath, Lynn Redgrave, and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux come to mind — also used journaling to help overcome obstacles in their lives and keep their heads above water in crisis situations. Sometimes they didn\’t live through their crises, but their journals have survived to give us insight into how they dealt with personal tragedy. And the list goes on. James Barrie\’s journals, which he began during childhood to express his grief at his brother\’s death, eventually evolved into the story of Neverland that has inspired readers for over a century. Che Guevara\’s Motorcycle Diaries gives us a window into the background of a fascinating revolutionary. In her novel The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende includes an episode telling of an imprisoned women\’s survival through her journals.
I\’m a huge journaling advocate. In my experience, journaling is the best way to get what\’s worrying you inside out of your head and onto the page. It\’s best therapy imaginable.
In my lectures, I tell of my own journaling journey: that of an overwhelmed divorcee, suffering the loss of her marriage and trying to raise two little kids on her own while holding down a high-pressure job, finding recovery through journaling. As it did with Oprah, journaling saved my life.
For Baby Boomer women, journaling is especially important. Over the last several decades our generation has witnessed some of the most volatile and intriguing times in history. It\’s up to us to preserve our experiences with these changing times by writing down our own personal stories. But how do we do that?
We start by journaling them.
Here\’s what makes journaling so universal. You don\’t have to be a writer to keep a journal. There are no rules; you simply write what\’s in your head and your heart, get it all down on the page. I did this with my first novel, Travels With My Lovers. Originally I wrote the stories in journal form, not thinking I\’d ever do anything with them. Years later, I turned them into a novel that provided a window into a young mom\’s journey of self-discovery; in doing so, I ended up encouraging women to express their emotional freedom.
Your journals don\’t have to become novels, however. You can just journal for your own benefit. Think of your journal as your best friend: a way to get through a crisis; a silent affirming partner or confidante; a survival tool available at any time, day or night; and a way to get your emotions, positive or negative, out of your mind and onto the page.
For you writers, journaling can also help you overcome writer\’s block. If you\’ve come up against a brick wall in your writing, start a journal about what you do when you aren\’t putting words to paper. If nothing else, writing about procrastination keeps your skills sharp and triggers your blocked mind to start writing again.
Sometimes it\’s hard to make that first step, though. In this instance I tell people the most important thing is to create a ritual of a comfortable time and place where you can let your creative juices flow, and then make a pact with yourself to devote that time to your journal writing, even if it\’s only ten or fifteen minutes a day. Once you get into that flow, and you become accustomed to having that precious time to yourself to express what\’s inside, you\’ll be surprised how much you will look forward to it each day.
In future articles I will be giving you tools to help you create that ritual, as well as give examples of the different types of journals you can write (here\’s a hint: they\’re almost limitless).
The most important thing to remember is to give yourself permission to do this for yourself. Give yourself the gift of precious time to devote to your inner thoughts. Once you\’ve accomplished that, the rest will fall into place.
One of my favorite writers\’ quotes is from the awe-inspiring Barbara Kingsolver. “There is no perfect time for writing,” she says, “there is only now.”
Truer words were never spoken – or written.
© 2010 Erica Miner