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content word in vintage metal type printing blocks over grunge wood, mixed fonts in style and size

When we sit down to journal, are we in control? Do these scenarios sound familiar?

  • You have the urge to sit down and write, but when you do you don’t know what you want to say.
  • You KNOW what you want to say, but when you sit down to your journal you’re tongue-tied and can’t get it out.
  • You find you’re constantly skipping from one topic to another while MAYBE the one thing you WANT to write about is elusive.
  • You find yourself just rereading your last few paragraphs and then drawing a blank.
  • Sometimes your writing just takes off and you don’t even feel like you’re in control.

“I listen to myself, allow myself to be led, not by anything
on the outside, but by what wells up from within.”
— Etty Hillesum

There’s something to be said for letting our journal control US. If we feel pressure to write coming from our gut (not our sense of “well I’m suppose to journal every day”), we should go with it, even if we don’t understand why in the world we would want to write about THAT! It WILL make itself clear to us as we write. Other ways to let our journal guide us might include:

  • Listening
  • Meditating
  • Praying
  • Using guided imagery
  • Talking to yourself (no one’s watching so go for it!)

“It’s only when we forget all our learning
that we begin to know.”
— Henry David Thoreau

In addition, it seems to me to be important for us to develop our own style. If we don’t, if our journals don’t become uniquely ours, we won’t stick with them. Routines and rituals can be good, but we all need a little spontaneity now and then. Be prepared to color outside the lines.

  • Write some poetry
  • Leave out the word “I” when you’re talking about yourself, your feelings
  • Write about yourself in the third person (You’re at the family gathering spot for Thanksgiving when two of your siblings get into it and you’re dying to hear what they’re arguing about so… She listened at the door to hear the conversation going on inside. Sometimes putting yourself “outside” as an observer can be very enlightening!)
  • Make lists of names you would rather have had, the 20 most important people in your life, or the 10 biggest losses.
  • Write letters
  • Write dialogues with your friend, spouse, parent from THEIR point of view (good for finding a little balance)
  • Talk to an addiction, a dream
  • Have a discussion with yourself.

“Writing, when properly managed,
is but a different name for conversation.”
— Laurence Sterne



It doesn’t always have to be about writing, however.

  • Draw
  • Make a collage (I’ve done this in my journals a couple times and found it very enlightening and amusing.. 😀 )
  • Glue in envelopes and store souvenirs with a note on the outside of the envelope
  • Try writing with your non-dominant hand! (One of my favorites. Writing experts say your inner child really comes alive with this one.)

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
— Albert Einstein

Not feeling particularly creative? Explore the moment.

  • Learn to look at your surroundings, feel your feelings carefully and thoroughly
  • What’s your perception of the moment?
  • Your response?
  • Use all your senses.

“It requires a very unusual mind
to undertake an analysis of the obvious.”
— A.A. Whitehead
“A fool sees not the same tree
that a wise person sees.”
— William Blake

Remember that the length of the writing doesn’t matter. What matters is that we learn to enter into our world more deeply. If we practice writing this way we’ll likely find we’re more fully aware of what goes on around us and more engaged in our life when we’re NOT writing.

Write about the past. We’ve become so future oriented in our culture. On the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, people were appalled to realize that a lot of folks just thought it was a movie about a ship. And how many people in our culture deny there was ever such a thing as the Holocaust? So we need to write about our past. Look for themes and connections in the pieces we write. The past can have some very important messages and lessons for us.

  • Who is the first person you remember?
  • Where was the first place you remember living?
  • What was the first experience or event in your life you remember?

“The past sharpens perspective,
warns pitfalls,
and helps point the way.”
— Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dream a little dream of me! Dreams are a form of wisdom that comes from deep inside us. When we have them and they’re vivid enough for us to recall them, they can be a source of deep learning for us.

  • They can help us define and reclaim our torn and fractured parts
  • There are no right or wrong interpretations of dreams as it’s all about what they mean to each of us (I have recurring dreams about cars which I finally figured out have to do with how I’m feeling about where I am right now in life. But it took writing them down for a couple years to see the connection.)

“The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest
and most intimate sanctum of the soul.”
— Carl Jung 


Lastly, we shouldn’t neglect our soul. We could write about our beliefs; our questions, fears, and doubts; gratitude (Gratitude journals are popular) and joys; hopes and dreams. We can dialogue with our higher power (whatever that is for each of us) to help clarify our faith (or lack of it). When we delve into the mysteries of our spirit we often find our rituals become different and that all things are connected.

“You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done, which may take some time, you are fierce with reality.”
— Florida Scott-Maxell

So how about YOU guys? How do you jump start when you sit down to journal? What is your journaling style like? Have you ever discovered a life-changing message from what you’ve writing?

(Please do remember these are just my opinions and ideas. I’m no bloomin’ expert on this subject!!! And please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. Or if you find you have a lot to say, I invite you to do so on your own blog and pingback to this post.)


Picture Credits:
Content — theliquidscript.com
Puzzle Pieces — alleecreative.com