Don’t let the word ‘journaling’ frighten you. If you can put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, you can journal. It’s as simple as that. And it doesn’t need to be the beginning of a new year to start. That’s the beauty of it – journaling is always there, waiting for when you decide it’s the right time.
It has eased me through a variety of Big Life Events, most recently a separation and subsequent divorce. And sitting quietly with my journal in gentle candle light went a long way toward facing and feeling my long-buried grief around the death of my mom when I was a child. But lest you think the pages of my journals are completely angst-filled, let me assure you it’s also where I celebrate my joy and successes – from landing The Job to the found-again freedom of having my own apartment, visiting a previously unexplored part of our province and learning to roller blade.
As a long-time journal-keeper, journaling is the major way I connect with my inner self and process what’s going on in my life. The physical act of writing unlocks a part of my being that I’m not able to access any other way. Sitting down to a blank page with my journal and knowing I’m in a safe place brings me comfort. When I begin to write, I can feel the tension beginning to loosen, knowing that what I’m creating is for myself. I feel like I’ve ‘come home.’
Looking back on my early journaling days, there are a few things I wish I’d known then. Let me share them with you in the hope they’ll help to ease that feeling of uncertainty that can come with trying something new.
When it comes to journaling, forget grammar and spelling! This isn’t an assignment and you’re not being graded. Hide the dictionary.
Don’t avoid giving it a try because you can’t commit to writing every day. You don’t have to. The benefits of journaling aren’t limited to those who do it daily. There have been times in my life when I do write every day. However, there are just as many times when I don’t. On average I’d say I write four times a week. Sometimes more, sometimes less. It all depends on what works for me at any given time.
At this point, you might be thinking, "I can’t journal because I don’t know what to write about.” When you’re starting out, it can be a challenge. Don’t let it stop you. I’ve written about a huge variety of things, from an overheard conversation in the grocery store to how it felt to move to Campbell River, to my utter joy at successfully propagating an African violet from a single leaf.
Finally, find a journal that you’re comfortable writing in. Don’t be influenced by what you ‘think’ you should use. There’s a huge variety of so-called journals available. Most of them don’t work for me. Either they’re spiral-bound, (an awkwardness I can do without since I’m a lefty) or they don’t have enough pages, or I simply don’t like the way they feel in my hands. For years I’ve experimented with a variety of journals – from lined ones to a spiral notebook using only the backsides of the pages to my current choice – a 5 x 8 inch artist’s sketchbook. I’ve also used a larger size. I love the freedom of unlined pages. It allows me to paint and collage in addition to writing.
Most of all, journal for the pleasure it brings.
Gina Forsyth is a Campbell River-based writer and researcher and an avid journaler. She’s recently started belly dancing and clowning lessons.