It was quite the experience – from several emotional first meetings with people I’ve been writing in community and sharing my life with, online, for more than a decade – to being in the company of more than 300 people to whom I didn’t have to explain the importance of journaling. On both fronts it was an intense and inspiring five days. Even now, more than a month after stepping off the plane into the blessed moistness of a Campbell River evening, I’m processing what I saw and heard, not to mention writing more than ever. My stockpile of journals is coming in handy.
The first keynote address by one of my journaling heroes, Christina Baldwin, set the foundation for what followed in subsequent days. Her topic, "Restorying the World: How Journal Writing can Heal the Future”, gave clear voice to concepts I’d never been able to express in all my years of journaling. So much wisdom shared in such a brief time. While journaling is primarily a private endeavor, done to make sense of our experiences, within our collective journal pages are the stories of how we all live our lives. Whether it’s done verbally or by sharing our written words, we can all be Storycatchers.
Every conference participant was given a rectangular beige button that many wore alongside that staple of conferences, the name tag. The Storycatcher button summed it up in four concise words: connect, question, listen, and reassure. By doing that with others, we begin to share and heal from putting our own stories into the world and learning from those of others.
Story isn’t simply what happened in a literal sense (the event) but what we tell each other about what happened. The "where were you when?” question that punctuates every generation is a perfect example. Examples of such gateway moments are the Cuban Missile Crisis and more recently, 9/11.
If our stories are maps, a way of navigating through chaos and horror, providing a life raft through the difficult times, then journal keepers are the map makers. The story that comforts one person and helps to show them their next step does the same for the next person.
Baldwin’s website, named after her recent book, www.storycatcher.net, is well worth your time and attention, in particular the "About the Book” section, where you can download information about how to take your stories into the world and encourage others to do the same.
And how did the meeting with the group of my email friends unfold, you ask? We lived Baldwin’s words through writing in our journals and sharing more of our stories during meals, in our hotel rooms, everywhere and anywhere.