Thursday, February 26, 2015

How To Start A Journaling Practice

I journal every day.  

Every. Single. Day. 

This might sound impressive, but it's not.  

I didn't mention how many minutes I journal, or how many pages I write, or what I write . . . which varies.  

I wrote 3 pages this morning.  The last time I did that was about a week ago.  Well, if I write every day - then what did my other entries look like?

  • Sometimes I write lists of things to do - I just have to get the junk out of my head before I can write anything for anyone.
  • Ideas on blog posts are a favorite thing to capture.
  • I might print out a FB post I wrote and cut and paste and tape into my book (yes, tape - I'm not archiving my journals).
  • I might sketch something quick.
  • A good TV show or song I hear on the radio is often thrown in there, normally on the tops of pages, so the next time I am in iTunes or looking for something I grab my book and find it.
  • Dreams - not the ones I have in my sleep - but the things I want to do with my life, the vacations I want to take - sometimes these are my favorite entries.  

In other words, every time I have my journal in hand, I am not writing stuff about my feelings, etc., more the stuff of my life.  

I am recording moments, thoughts, things going on in the world, problems I am facing and so many other things that I get excited to pick it up and throw who knows what into it.

Why I think people start this practice and fail is because they put large demands on what their practice will look like.  

They set an intention to journal 30 minutes every day, and might succeed for 2-3 days, then stop, and never write in the journal again.  I have been at countless journaling classes or seminars where people admit to having all these empty journals lying around their house with exactly 3 pages written in them, and the rest is empty.

Here are my tried and true thoughts
on how to start a practice.

Don't time yourself.  At the beginning of starting your practice, you might want to set a time goal, thinking you'll aim to journal for 30 minutes.  That's fine.  If you sit there in that 30 minutes and write nothing, that's fine too.  You are just learning to set aside time for yourself.  Thinking of it this way might help you succeed.

Write whatever comes to you.  This means you might bitch, write a list, write about the fact that you have nothing to write about, describe the awful shoes the woman next to you at Starbucks has on, but write anything and everything.  Look at the blank page and fill it up with the crazy stories from the news or why you hate, and always will, fanny packs.

Don't judge yourself.  It is normal at the beginning of any practice, whether it is starting an exercise routine or starting to date, we all want to be good at it.  But you won't be all of the time.  In fact, most people start journaling and their journals might have nothing but bitching in them.  That is okay.  That is great.  It takes awhile to find your voice.

Worry not whether someone will read it.  This is a tough hurdle for most people. And it took me many years to completely let this go.  Some strategies for handing this are:
  1. Keep your journal in a hidden or secret place
  2. Journal online with a program that is password protected
  3. Make a plan with a friend that if something should happen to you, they are the ones to remove your journals - I have this and once this arrangement was made, man, I write everything.

Just write.  To get me to do this, the book that encouraged me was Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way.  The book  is a 12 week program that makes you start every morning with 3 written pages.  I love a good 8-12 week course on pretty much anything.  I got up every morning while I had an infant, went to Starbucks at 5:30 a.m. (while everyone was still sleeping), wrote my three pages and came back home and got the kids ready for the day. It killed me, but it was only for 12 weeks, right?  You can do anything for 12 weeks, I kept telling myself.  I wanted to be an artist then, yet little did I know, it was really teaching me to be a writer.  Do I still write 3 pages every day?  No.  But when I have an especially busy day of writing ahead, yes, I start with this exercise.  It works.  Trust me.

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