This fab entry is a guest post by Dawn Herring, dedicated journaler and blogger over at www.journalwriter.blogspot.com. Thank you to Dawn for her insightful entry!
I’ve always considered dreams to be a significant source for insight, direction, and revelation. Not all dreams are equal in importance, but I believe they are worth dissecting, especially if they are vivid, poignant, or even frightening.
As a child, I paid close attention to my dreams even though I didn’t record them.
Once I started keeping a personal journal as a young adult, I began recording dreams that seemed significant to me, ones that resonated and left a lasting impression upon waking.
Because I recorded them in vivid detail, no matter how strange, nonsensical, or frightening they were, these are the dreams I still remember many years later.
At one point when I journaled my dreams more regularly, instead of recording them in my personal journal, I began using a more structured method in a separate notebook, which included jotting down themes, colors, symbols, people, elements, seasons, and animals in addition to the actual summary of the dream itself. But I ultimately found this method too cumbersome, time- consuming and boxy for my taste.
I returned to dream journaling in my personal journal, going back to the occasional entry. I didn’t do it long enough to make it a daily habit.
I received an email from a reader this week with a pretty big roadblock. She diligently kept a digital journal for years. And then through a computing error, every single one of her files was accidentally deleted. After suffering this loss, she’s understandably having a hard time returning to journaling.
Here are six steps for working through the loss of your journals. I hope these suggestions can help you return to the practice of journaling, which is itself healing.
1. Honor the Sense of Loss
It may sound melodramatic, but losing your journals is a death in a way. Don’t trivialize this sense of loss. While not everyone will understand your grief, I can assure you that other journalers do understand. Many of us have lost our journals before, or fear losing them, and can identify with your pain.
When I lived on a houseboat, I would sometimes awake in a panic, fearing a leak. If we took on water, 20 years worth of writing would get wet and be lost forever to depths of Lake Union.
Losing a large amount of journaling is akin to losing part of your identity. So don’t try to talk yourself out of feeling the grief. Acknowledge it and honor it. You have experienced a devastating loss and it will affect you profoundly. Let it.
What would posess someone to get up on stage and read the most embarrasing passages from her teenage diary to a theater full of strangers?
I’m still trying to figure that out, even after my regular participation in the Salon of Shame.
I’ve been attending the Salon of Shame as a spectator for several years. The premise is simple: half a dozen people, mostly in their 30’s, get up on stage and read passages from their teenage diaries. Any subject matter is fair game. Explanations and post-scripts are discouraged – shame is best delivered straight-up. You’ve got five minutes at the microphone.
Meanwhile, sign-language interpreters translate your words into grand gestures for the hearing-impaired portion of the audience. The ASL interpreters are often the highlight of the show.
I decided this summer it was time to participate, since I have over 100 notebooks filled to the brim with laughable material. Oh, and I run a website about journaling. Right.
Reading at the Salon of Shame has been an eye-opening experience. Here’s what I learned. (more…)
I received an email this week that one of our fellow journalers passed away on Saturday. Her name was Stephanie and I want to tell you a little bit about her because she had a big impact on me.
Stephanie was one of the earliest and most active readers of this web site. She often sent me encouraging emails telling me how much she appreciated me and the work I was doing. She told me she’d started writing again because of me. There is no greater gift in the world than for me to hear those words.
We bonded over our love of Blueline notebooks, which she ordered after I recommended them. Her frequent love notes often brought tears to my eyes.
The most incredible part is that during this time of selfless support, Stephanie was very ill. She had had a difficult couple of years as one affliction after another ravaged her body.
I had no idea she was sick until her husband notified me of her passing. That’s the type of person Stephanie was – she would offer love and support without drawing attention to herself or what she was going through. (more…)
Want to get started journaling? I bet you’ve got a few questions. I’m going to do my best to answer them. Below are the ten essentials for getting started keeping a journal, based on the most frequent roadblocks.
If you don’t have time to read the whole post, stick with #1 and you can’t go wrong!
1. Keep it Simple
Journaling at its core is simple. You get some paper and a pen, you write a few pages about what’s going on. You do it again tomorrow. And the next day.
We humans are a curious bunch — we make things needlessly complicated. So if you feel yourself getting mired in whether or not you’re doing it right, what kind of journal to use, when you “should” write, or if the color of your pen will affect the outcome, take a breath and get back to basics.
Words, on a page. It’s really that simple.
2. Keep it Private
Don’t share your journal and shelve it out of reach. Your journaling privacy is essential to the process. Your journal is a safe place for you to explore whatever is on your mind without worrying about how it will affect anyone else. If you fear it will be read, you’ll censor yourself and the benefits of journaling will be lost.
Also, sharing your journal opens it up for debate and criticism, neither of which are appropriate for this medium. It’s nobody’s business but yours.
When you’re not writing, keep your journal out of sight. It’ll at least keep the honest people out.
3. Do it Frequently
Writing frequently supports the habit part of journaling. It allows you to witness the ebb and flow of your life. It gives you perspective that you won’t always feel this way — after all, you didn’t feel this way yesterday.
Daily journaling provides the most benefits and the best results. If you only write when you “need to,” you will forever be in crisis management. Your journal will be filled with dire consequences and high stakes. And you’ll continue to live in reactionary mode.
The beauty of frequent journaling is that it helps you grow as a person, helps you recognize patterns in your life, and helps you gain perspective and control over your environment.
On the other hand, just do your best. If you can’t make time for journaling every day, do it as often as you can. A couple times a week is better than not at all. And if you miss some time, just get back to it without beating yourself up.
Journaling should support you and make you feel good. It’s not another Task to be checked off your Action Item List or fodder for self-flagellation when you “fail.”
4. Banish the Grammar Police
Surprisingly, one of the top reasons people cite for not journaling is that they can’t spell or their grammar ain’t perfect. Since you’re journaling for you (see #2 above), it doesn’t really matter if you dangle your participles or misspell “conjunctivitis.” Journaling is not grade school and nobody’s going to hit your knuckles with a ruler.
If you’re especially concerned about this, don’t re-read your entries for awhile. You’ll have less opportunity to judge what you’ve written.
5. Write What You Know
Facing the blank page can be overwhelming at first. When getting started, just date the entry and note your location. Start by describing your surroundings if you need to get warmed up.
Write a little bit about your day. What’s on your mind? Think of your journal like an old friend you’re sitting down to coffee with. Just answer, “What’s up? What’s new? What’s going on?”
If you still find yourself stuck, try a few different journaling prompts.
6. Find the Best Time and Place
You may instinctively know the best time to journal (hint: it’s when you’ll actually do it!). Look for a natural lull in your day that you can finagle into journaling time. Experiment with morning journaling vs. writing just before bed and see which works best for you.
Find a comfy place to journal where you won’t be interrupted. It’s essential that the few minutes you designate for journaling be honored by family, friends, housemates and pets. Lock the dog in the bathroom or get out of the house if you need to and write at a café or the library.
This is your time, and you may need to defend it protectively!
7. Write for quantity, not quality
Don’t get caught up in how “good” your journal writing is. Nobody cares. Just get it done.
Set goals based on effort — say, 3 pages or 20 minutes of journaling. Then even if you’re convinced your journaling is terrible, you’re still successful because you got it done.
Writing quickly for a set period of time is also a way to keep your inner critic at bay, and to banish any negative voices telling you that what you’re doing is stupid or that you can’t write. Just get the words down and don’t worry about how good they are.
The power and beauty of journaling lies in the process, not the product.
8. Try writing by hand
Journaling by hand in a paper notebook moves a different part of your brain than typing does. And before you argue that you can write faster on the computer, journaling is not about speed, efficiency, or volume. It’s about dedicating a few minutes each day to honor yourself, your thoughts and your feelings. Writing by hand helps you get in touch with all of that better than a keyboard.
So slow down and savor the process. It builds your brain synapses to hold thoughts in your head long enough to write them down. Journaling by hand will make you smarter. (Did I mention it will also make you better looking?)
9. Keep the stakes low
Don’t make any grand announcements before you start journaling. Set yourself up for success by keeping the stakes low. You don’t need to proclaim to everyone in your life that you’re now a Writer. Don’t promise yourself you’ll write for one hour every day for rest of your life. Don’t expect yourself to churn out the Deepest and Moist Poignant Journal Ever.
Just get a $1 composition book at the drug store and write 3 pages, as many days this week as you have time for. End of story.
The higher we make the stakes, the more intimidating the process becomes. And the less likely we are to do it, or feel satisfied with the results.
Are there words on that page? Yes? Then bam! — instant success.
Wasn’t that easy?
10. Enjoy yourself!
Remember that journaling should be enjoyable (most of the time). If you take the task too seriously or put too much pressure on yourself, journaling will become a burden instead of a gift. Keep a spirit of play, and infuse your journal with a little humor.
You’ll likely feel awkward and self-conscious when you first start journaling. That’s totally fine — you’re allowed. Most people are a little awkward and self-conscious when they begin something new, unless they’re a freak of nature. It’s okay to poke fun at yourself, or to keep the prose light-hearted.
Banish the image of the Diarist hunched over the table with furrowed brow, contemplating the existential dilemma du jour. Instead, feel free to detail your dinner experiment that made Julia Child roll over in her grave.
Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to life as a dedicated journaler in no time!