When I was younger I used to keep a diary. I remember it had bears on the cover and a padlock that I locked religiously to keep my brothers out. I used to write all sorts in there; which boy I fancied at the time, whose house I was sleeping over at – deep stuff – but also things I wanted to manifest, my deepest desires (usually to go out with the boy I fancied) and other wishes and goals important to a pre-pubescent.
I fell out of the habit of writing in my diary during my teens when I didn’t think it was ‘cool’ enough, I suppose. But what a shame.
It’s taken me a long time to get back into the habit of writing, personally, intimately, for noone else but myself. I write my blog, but that’s different, I’ve written for magazines, for my work, all for other people, but I found it hard to write for a reader closer to home: me.
For years I have noted down thoughts, inspirations, quotes, and intentions on my phone but putting pen to paper and striving for a consistent journalling practice, for some reason, was so much harder to do. I didn’t think it was important enough, I guess.
Recently, that’s changed and I’ve tried my hardest to make it a routine – surprisingly, it actually came quite easy. Now, I take the time, usually each night before bed or during a quiet moment in the hammock, to write. To release. Whatever comes out; stream of conscious, zero censor, verbal diarrhoea, to be crass. It’s not all gushy ‘Dear Diary’ dreaming, some days I’ll have nothing to say – as much as I try. Others I’ll surprise myself and write pages and pages at a time cramping up my hand. There are also days I’ll be more attuned to my emotions, deeper needs and higher Self; there are also days I feel uninspired and unmotivated and the only thing I can think to write about is what I had for dinner. But that’s ok. It’s the process of writing that’s the point – and sticking to it.
Journalling is cathartic. You’re releasing, no matter what you write. Some people even go back and make a habit of rereading their entries to chart their growth or changes in their life – not a habit I do, personally. And not for any reason in particular other than I don’t feel the need to. If I’ve released, I’ve released. But maybe I should. One day.
So my question to you is: when was the last time you wrote anything that wasn’t a shopping list or a to-do list? Did you have ‘Dear Diary’ days like I did as a kid? If you did, I challenge you to try and rekindle that habit of writing, of journalling, and to look within. If you didn’t, I still challenge you to try. Humour me.
I want to encourage you to start writing for yourself. About yourself. About what inspires you. What scares you. What ails you. Even if it feels like escapism rather than release, it doesn’t matter.
What you write doesn’t have to be an essay-length entry, just a few sentences at first. You can even start with what you did that day. Then move onto observing how you’re feeling. Maybe try putting into words your deepest desires, goals you want to manifest. Later, you can reflect on how you are moving forward to achieve these goals.
Allow your journalling to be a stream of conscious; an uninterrupted flow of words, thoughts. It’s ok for your mind to be on one track and then suddenly switch to another, like that game of lateral thinking. Just keep writing. And whatever you write be truthful. Write honestly. There’s no judgement between these pages. Use your journal as a place of 100% transparency. It’s only you who will be reading it – and maybe not even at that.
Once you start, you might find you enjoy journalling so much you keep your journal in your bag or take it out with you in case you feel called to write something down spontaneously. Even if you don’t have it with you when you need, jot your thoughts or inspirations down on your phone or a scrap of paper to remember for later. Sometimes if I’ve had a burst of inspiration I literally stop myself in my tracks and get out my phone to write it down then and there. If I don’t, I forget – the curse of a colander brain.
Your journal – physically – doesn’t have to be anything fancy. I bought mine (a bright yellow exercise book for school kids now water damaged from the beach) in the sale at the supermarket. Classy. It doesn’t have a padlock on it either, like it used to, and I no longer hide it away under my pillow or stuffed deep at the back of my drawer. Usually it’s lying open, pages to the sky, beside my side of the bed. [My boyfriend will never read it. That’s an unspoken rule.] You can get a fancy journal though if it helps you cultivate this ritual and a feeling of sacredness. Also, if you feel like you want to keep yours more private and secure then do whatever you need to do. What happens between you and your journal is your business.
Ok, then what? It might help to have a nice bath or enjoy a contemplative yoga practice or meditation beforehand. Next, sit down, open up a clean page and try muster up a few sentences. See how it goes, even if what comes out seems forced or a little twee at first – it doesn’t matter. Then, can you can dig a little deeper… What are you really feeling. Be honest.
Don’t be afraid to let your pen run away with you. And remember there’s no wrong answer.
You’re just doing this for you.
Some questions to kick off your journalling practice:
- How did I feel today? (Or: How do I want to feel today?)
- How did I step out of my comfort zone? (Or: How can I?)
- What am I avoiding?
- What am I taking for granted?
- How can I grow?
- What can I let go of?
- How can I show more compassion (to self and others)?
- Who can I appreciate more?
- What did I learn from today/yesterday?
- What is my goal (short or long-term)?
- And if all else fails – What did I have for dinner?