5 Ways Journaling Helps You Navigate Change

5 Ways Journaling Helps You Navigate Change

Humans are creatures of habit. We go about our daily lives, confident tomorrow will be just like today. So when change hits, as it inevitably does, we feel lost and unsure.

Change throws us off our game. It yanks the familiar ground out from beneath us. When we don’t know which end us up, we seek the comfort of the familiar. Of ritual, stability, constancy.

Amid this struggling economy, many of us face uncertainty. We may be dealing with job loss or home relocation; both of these changes top the stress charts. Even a welcomed change of scenery or a positive career switch can be disorienting.

In times of change, journaling makes us resilient. It helps us find steadier footing so we can roll with the punches. When the world around us is uncertain, our journal provides a home base, a constant, and an undeniable sense of stability. Here’s how.

1. Journaling provides a sense of continuity

When you journal regularly, the act itself becomes a ritual, a routine. Journaling through good times and bad keeps you centered when change hits because the habit is there to support you.

Even when your life is turned upside down and you’re not sure where to begin, your journal is there every day for you. Even as the walls are crumbling around you, you can sit for half an hour and be guaranteed this continual appearance of blank pages to fill. There is comfort in this constant.

2. Journaling creates a home base

Your physical journal can create a sense of home and comfort. It is familiar, and the more often you write in it, the more a part of you it becomes. Filling your journal with pieces of daily living will affirm its status a rock solid part of your life.

When nothing around you is familiar, your journal provides a space to feel at home.

3. Journaling keeps us present

Journal writing pulls us into the present tense, where we fully inhabit the moment. In this state, we deal with change best. We are not obsessing about future fears yet to happen. We do not need to relive past mistakes. On the page, we can choose to dwell fully in the now.

The now is where we do our best work. We make the best decisions, we feel the most secure. As Julia Cameron wrote, “In the exact now, we are all, always, all right.”

4. Journaling proves you’re a survivor

Once you’ve journaled your way through one big change, you’ve got written proof that you can make it through your current situation. Even when you feel uncertain about your own abilities to cope, you can see your previous entries and recognize your resiliency.

If this is your first go at journaling through change, knowing you’re leaving a path to follow for your future self is one way to find stability on the page. You’re leaving a breadcrumb trail for yourself to follow at another point in time. This can be both comforting and motivating.

5. Journaling provides an outlet

Venting in your journal reduces your stress level so you can return level-headed to the situation at hand. Perhaps even your exciting new change is keeping you from thinking straight. A full-on gushing session will take a load off and allow you to return to earth to handle logistics.

Sometimes the physical stress of change, the worrying or excitement, takes its toll on us more than the actual change itself. Purging this mental energy onto the page frees up valuable real estate you can then use to handle the details of life.

Whether the change you’re facing is positive or negative, internal or external, journaling will help you through it by providing solid ground, continuity, and proof that you’re a survivor.

10 Ways Journaling Builds Your Creativity

10 Ways Journaling Builds Your Creativity

Regular journaling is an invaluable tool for building creativity. If you’re looking to increase your creative quotient or breathe new life into any medium, pick up a pen and paper and start journaling today. Here are just a few of the benefits you’ll reap from this inspirational practice.

1. Develop in private without pressure.

A journal is your private playground. You can experiment there freely, hone your craft, practice new ways of writing or try on new ideas for size. Since your journal is just for you, you are freed from the pressure of performing. There’s no feedback, which means you’re more likely to put words out there without censoring beforehand.

Journaling lets you practice. You can try different writing styles in your journal, stretching your repertoire and comfort zone

2. Realize you can create whenever you want to.

Get used to generating something whenever you sit down. The myth of the “muse” can be a damaging proposition for creation. In reality, your ability to be creative is not dependent on some amorphous, fickle external power. It’s just you and your creativity.

You can prove this to yourself by committing to daily journaling. You’ll quickly learn that you can sit down and write, whether you want to or not. You’ll grow to realize that creativity is not limited. In fact, the more you use it, the more readily it flows. Daily journaling helps you tap into an abundance mindset where creativity can never be used up, and it’s available “on demand.”

3. Connect more fully with your environment.

If you choose to journal about your surroundings, the practice puts you in touch with your environment in a tangible way. Capturing the scene on paper forces you to tune into what’s really going on. We spend so much time in our heads, that it can be invigorating to truly pay attention to what’s going on around you.

Journaling teaches you to engage all five senses when writing (and perhaps even a sixth). Sitting at an outdoor café journaling, you’re suddenly aware of the scent of lilies in the air from the market across the street. The bubbling of a nearby fountain. The sunlight filtered by the trees playing on your notebook. The world becomes a richer and more nuanced place from which to draw inspiration.

4. Make room for new ideas.

When you have a great idea and you commit it to paper, it makes room for new ones to flood in. A regular practice of “brain dumping” ensures there’s always free real estate in your head for new ideas to take up residence.

5. Build confidence in your own ability.

Journaling builds confidence on many levels. It makes you more comfortable with yourself as you get to know yourself and your world better. If you journal frequently, you’ll get visibly better at expressing yourself, and expressing yourself in any medium is essential for creativity. Once your confidence is boosted a bit, you become more eager to create. Isn’t it more fun to do something you feel you’re good at?

6. Create a rich well of creativity from which to draw.

A well-worn journal is a treasure trove of material for creativity of any kind. Collections of ephemera from daily life – ticket stubs, receipts, snapshots – can be worked into mixed media pieces. Scenes captured in words can be translated into images. Overhead dialog can be worked into stories and plays.

Your journal is a receptacle for life, which can be recycled innumerable ways into new forms of expression and creativity.

7. Combat “dry spells.”

By a similar token, pages and pages of writing can serve to propel you through dry spells when your other creative pursuits aren’t going anywhere. You can troll your journal for ideas, inspirational images, even taking a few sentences out of context can give birth to a whole new project. You’ll never need to suffer creative from block again.

8. Let the universe know you’re a dependable scribe.

The universe wants its stories told, and it’s always looking to hire storytellers. By showing that you can regularly show up and tell a story, the universe learns to trust you with its stories. You may experience this as “inspiration.” Ideas seem to arrive from nowhere. It’s your job to get them all down on paper.

9. Exercise the creative part of your brain.

Journaling by hand exercises your brain in ways that typing does not. We spend a lot of time at the computer these days, regardless of our line of work. The written word is becoming extinct. But sitting down at a table and putting inky words on paper puts us in touch with our more personal and authentic self. Once your brain is stretched in that direction, it becomes easier to access that unseen world of inspiration.

If you doubt the power of journaling by hand, try it for a few weeks. Then compare it to the results of journaling on a computer. The difference is staggering.

10. Focus on process not product.

Creativity is all about the process. A focus on product can instantly derail a project or stall your inspiration. Journaling is an ultimate exercise in process over product. It teaches you to create for the sake of creating and not for a deliverable or saleable item. Since your journal is for your eyes only, you have no ulterior motives for creating. You do it for you.

Setting journaling goals based on time and energy spent instead of how “good” the results are enhances this focus on process. You’re less likely to be paralyzed by fear or perfectionism when you focus on process because you’re not worried about the outcome. Focus on process allows you to play more freely in your creativity. And we all need a little more play.

A regular journaling practice has these benefits and many more. Get started today and see your creativity flourish tomorrow.

Are You Afraid of Flat Foxes?

Are You Afraid of Flat Foxes?

The other day I was driving to work when I passed the South Lake Union Park.

The tamed section of the park is fairly new, but the wilder parts of it have long been a favorite spot from which to enjoy the Lake Union fireworks. It’s also a favorite gathering spot for the enormous flocks of Canada geese that are verging on pest status around Seattle.

Where there are geese, there is poop. Lots of it. I probably don’t need to elaborate on the consistency of this poop, but in the interest of full disclosure, it’s nasty, runny, gooey, sticky stuff.

I am intimately acquainted with Canada goose poop as I used to volunteer for the Seattle Goose Project. The goal of the SGP is to help geese and humans dwell in relative truce in an urban maritime environment. Easier said than done.

Nobody really minds the geese themselves, but the general population could do without standing knee-deep in feces to enjoy the waterfront.

There are too many geese making too much poop, so the city used to round them up every year and shoot them. The SGP stepped in and said, “Hey – maybe there’s a better way to do this.”

They came up with some methods of dispersing the geese in public waterfronts (a pack of Labradors), preventing baby geese from hatching (oiling the eggs in the nests), and physically removing the poop from beaches and parks (Kristin and fellow volunteers with a shovel).

So I was reminiscing about the summer I spent scraping goose poop off the grass as I drove by the park on my way to work last week.

There was a construction fellow walking along the waterfront in his bright orange safety vest. His deep blue government-issue coverall was emblazoned with “Marty” on his chest. Marty was smiling, smoking a cigarette, swinging something at his side. I watched him walk, watched the Canada geese disperse rapidly at his approach. And then I noticed what he was swinging in his hand.

It was a fox.

The fox was flattened, the poor thing — obvious road kill. I pictured Marty peeling the fox, cartoonlike, from the pavement. Imagined a yellow center stripe crossing its inert body.

Marty kept swinging this flat fox — it was rigid, except for the ears and tail, which eerily fanned in the wind as he walked.

Then, as I watched in horror, Marty produced a mallet and a stake. He took the flat fox by the head, preparing to swing.

At this moment I realized that the fox was a decoy. It was a perfect fox replica, extra convincing with its ears and tail in motion.

This realistic decoy was placed in the park to keep the geese from landing there and fouling it up. (This, of course, is quite an improvement in geese management over me mucking in overalls on a hot summer Saturday. Unpaid.)

Sure enough, Marty’s decoy worked. Several mornings in a row I passed the park, goose-free and green, guarded by a menacing flat fox.

Those geese have no idea how easily they’re being fooled! They haven’t a clue. I laughed at their expense for a few minutes. A fear of flat foxes! Have you ever? Silly birds.

Until I realized that I, too, was likely to be fooled by similar flat foxes in my life.

Unlike geese, I’m naturally gifted with depth perception that allows me to see flat foxes as an obvious hoax. But I’m sure there are similar decoys in my own world I’ve been steering clear of for a while, at my own expense.

So what about you? Do you have a fear of flat foxes?

  • Are there “roadblocks” you perceive that may actually be a decoy?
  • Any scary “guards” you could cozy up to and push over with one finger?

Get out your journal and write about the two-dimensional barriers that you only think are keeping your dreams at bay.

Make Marty proud.

How to Journal

How to Journal

If you don’t have time to read this whole guide, stick with #1 and you’ll do just fine!

1. Keep it Simple

Journal writing 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, which journal to use, or when 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.”

Feeling strapped for time? I hear ya! Even a short journaling session is beneficial if you do it regularly. Free up some time and then try one of these 20 ways to find 20 minutes for journaling. If 20 minutes is beyond you, check out The Lazy Guide to Journaling in 10 Minutes or Less.

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. I PROMISE.

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

When starting your journal, 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’re feeling stuck a journal prompt can help.

And if you’re afraid you’re doing it wrong, I assure you: You are already fabulous!

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. When journal writing at home, it’s essential that the few minutes you designate 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?)

I’m faithful to Blueline Notebooks but it took me 20 years to find my life partner.

Still convinced that you need to journal on the computer? .

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 art, creativity or color. Add some heart to your journal keeps the process fresh and inviting.

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!

Happy journaling!

How to Journal in 10 Simple Steps

How to Journal in 10 Simple Steps

If you don’t have time to read this whole guide, stick with #1 and you’ll do just fine!

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.”

Feeling strapped for time? I hear ya! Even a short journaling session is beneficial if you do it regularly. Free up some time and then try one of these 20 ways to find 20 minutes for journaling. If 20 minutes is beyond you, check out the Lazy Guide to Journaling in 10 Minutes or Less.

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 starting your journal, 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’re feeling stuck a journal prompt can help jump start your journaling. Get juicy journal prompts prompts via email when you subscribe to my free weekly newsletter and get my free eBook, 30 Days to a Journaling Life.

And if you’re afraid you’re doing it wrong, I assure you: You are already fabulous!

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. When journal writing at home, it’s essential that the few minutes you designate 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?)

In my journal tour video I illustrate the pros and cons of notebooks I’ve used through the years. Now I’m faithful to Blueline Notebooks but it took me 20 years to find my life partner.

Still convinced that you need to journal on the computer? Listen to Podcast #2: Paper vs. Electronic Journals before you decide against journal writing by hand.

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. Adding art, creativity, color or heart to your journal keeps the process fresh and inviting.

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!

Happy journaling!