The Power of Journaling – Part 2
By Erica Miner
Article 2 of series
In my first article I discussed why journaling is such a powerful tool, and why it is so beneficial for everyone. As I mentioned previously, the reasons for journaling, as well as the different types of techniques out there, are almost limitless. What I’d like to discuss today are all the reasons not to journal, and then to give you some exercises for overcoming what I like to call “journaling resistance.”
One of the reasons we don’t journal is because “life” gets in the way. We’re all so occupied with our work, our home lives, and our usual routines that we don’t make journaling a priority. We’re very adept at making up excuses for not journaling. I’m here to reveal what those are – and then to refute them.
Examples of those excuses are:
- “Why should I keep a journal?”
“I don’t have time for that.”
“I can’t write worth a darn.”
“My life is too boring to write about.”
Ladies, get out your pens and notebooks. Once I address these issues, you won’t have any reason not to put these to use.
1. Why should I keep a journal?
Journaling is just about the best therapy on earth. People go to therapy to work out problems, gain insight, especially into personal relationships, and reduce stress. A journal can do all this and more, plus it costs practically nothing except your time and commitment.
As a woman, I’ve been through any number of relationships with men. (Those who have read my novel, Travels With My Lovers, can attest to this; although I maintain that only the author knows for sure what is fiction and what is not.) We all end up kissing a lot of frogs, and because of the subjective nature of love, we rarely recognize the true nature of what really goes on in these relationships. I got married absurdly young, had two little kids right away, and before I knew it the marriage disintegrated. I was still young, but now I was also terribly confused, especially when I reentered the dating world.
In order to overcome my bewilderment, I journaled about my experiences in negotiating the turbulent waters of love relationships. I worked out my problems in my head, but then I realized there was nothing better than getting these thoughts out of my head and onto the page. When I later looked back and read my past entries, I was astonished at what a fool for love I had been. Talk about gaining insight!
Eventually I learned from my mistakes and used that knowledge to find the right person for me. A great improvement, believe me.
2. I don’t have time for that
This is the lamest excuse of all. You make time for journaling. If you don’t you’ll never know what you’re missing. Once you set your priorities and create your daily or nightly ritual time and place to journal, you will discover the value of learning things about yourself you never knew. “What makes me tick?” is a legitimate question. The answer lies inside your head, and once you probe those depths, come up with thoughts and answers, and get them onto the page, you will discover some, possibly many, “aha” moments and wonder why you never tried doing this before.
In addition, as Baby Boomers, we have a unique responsibility to capture the stories of our generation and preserve them for future generations. We are an exceptional demographic, the likes of which have never been seen until now. Our personal insights and experiences can provide information and inspiration to people of our own generation, as well as those who in the future will want to learn about what it was like to grow up in our era. Journaling is an effective way to start getting these stories down. It doesn’t matter if our scratchings turn into short stories, novels, non-fiction essays, or nothing of deep significance. What matters is that we will maintain our perceptions in writing so that others can benefit from them. To me this is extremely valuable.
3. I can’t write worth a darn.
First of all, you don’t know until you try. But more importantly, one of the beauties of journaling is that it really doesn’t matter if you can write well or not. You don’t need to write in any particular style or at any specific level. Just write the way you talk. Have a conversation with yourself. It’s your journal, and you can write in any way that feels comfortable. There’s no need to edit yourself, to create exquisite language, or to worry about being literary. It’s just a process to help you get inside your head, to express your thoughts and feelings, and to feel better about life in general. And who knows? You may find, to your surprise, that you are capable of writing much better than you thought.
4. My life is too boring to write about.
Is it really? Or is that how you believe other people will see it? In the end, it doesn’t matter. Writing about mundane things can be just as fascinating as writing about exciting ones.
Think of writing in your journal as having a dinner conversation with your best friend. What do you talk about? Your family, your work, your problems, your hopes and desires: in short, your life.
Your journal is your friend, too. Whatever is going on in your head that you’d like to share and examine can go on the page. We all have everyday experiences that are worth capturing. Why not write about them on a regular basis to capture and look at later?
For example, I once met a woman who loved to entertain. She enjoyed having her husband’s work colleagues over for dinner frequently, and she liked to create elaborate meals for them. She started keeping a “dinnertime journal” chronicling memorable names, dates, recipes and conversations from these dinners. Once she had collected a large number of these, she was delighted to go back and reference her favorites, and was glad she had gone to the trouble of keeping a record of them (more about this and other types of journals in a later article).
5. Who’s going to read it, anyway?
You are! It’s yours and yours alone, unless you choose to share it with someone else. Unless you decide to write a family saga for the benefit of future generations, you never have to show it to anyone else. You will be rewarded with insights into your own psyche, and that can’t be overrated, in my opinion.
A brief word about privacy: I am repeatedly amazed at the number of people who bring up this issue on the subject of journaling. Recently I spoke to a Boomer woman friend who confided to me that when she was a teenager her mother broke into her locked diary and read the contents. My friend then admitted that she never again journaled after that experience. My heart went out to her. What a personal loss it’s been for her, to not allow herself the joy of keeping a journal.
I could only say that, nowadays, if a person is concerned about someone else reading their most private intimate thoughts without permission, all she has to do is created a password protected file on her computer and her secrets will remain safe. It may not be as fun as writing by hand (journaling is the only writing I don’t do on my computer), but it will allay any fears of one’s privacy being invaded.
All in all, the advantages of journaling outweigh the disadvantages, if indeed there are any. So go forth and write!