A lovely follower of mine, Andrew, is doing a paper for uni on journaling. He asked if I would mind answering some questions for him about my journaling experiences. I was delighted. And I have to say he had some terrific questions. I know there are a lot of you out there that journal, so I thought you might find his questions interesting as well. (Hope this ok, Andrew. 🙂 ) You may even want to tackle them on your own blog. If you do, add a pingback, will ya?
Journaling Interview for Andrew
When did you start journaling and why?
I wrote my first poem in second grade. By fourth or fifth grade I was writing stories. I discovered diaries in junior high school along with every other love-sick girl! I would keep a diary for long periods at a stretch, but the fascination always seemed to wane after a while. By the time I married at 20, I had moved from all the angst of the teenage years to keeping a daily journal of what was going on during my days. Up until then my diaries had always been in spiral notebooks. I wasn’t enamored with locks and keys. Too much drama. And those diaries always found their way into the trash. When I married in 1972, I began buying decorated hard-back journals with space for reporting your whole week spread over two pages. I never threw them away. They’re stored in a box in the basement.
I stayed in “reporting mode” until roughly 1982 when I made a profession of my faith and was baptized. It became very important to me at that time to track my spiritual growth. Those journals contained Bible study notes as well as general daily comments about what was going on in my life, but it was at that point I first began reflecting on my inner life. In 1992 I discovered Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, and journaling changed drastically for me. Suddenly I discovered those daily writings were sparking my creativity as well.
Not much has changed since then except I have gone BACK to using spiral notebooks!
What was/is your favorite part of journaling and why?
My favorite part of journaling, surprisingly, is the physicality of it. I’ve never made the transition to personal journaling on typewriter, computer, or on-line journals. There’s just something about the feel of my emotions trickling out of my brain, down my arm, through my fingers, into the pen, and watching the ink flow onto the page that grounds me and takes me out of my “head space.” I can feel the paper, smell the ink, hold my words in my hand, then read (and probably read again) and find out what I actually think! (Julia Cameron’s practice of writing Morning Pages – three hand-written pages each morning – solidified my present journaling habits.)
What is your least favorite part of journaling and why?
Similar to my favorite part, and as silly as it sounds, I have difficulty finding a writing instrument I really like. To date my favorite pen is the Pentel RSVP fine-point with the rubber grip. There is a problem with their ink, however. It tends to clog the pen quite frequently and then they must be thrown out. Despite that, the feel of them in my hand is perfect. Even when I’m tense, the rubber grip keeps me from squeezing the pen too tightly and getting cramps in my hands. It’s not unusual for me to write for a couple hours at a time if I’m in the mood or working through a problem. That makes the pens worth buying.
What do you find to be the hardest part about journaling and why?
One of the hardest parts of journaling was finding the time to be consistent when I was raising my kids. My writing often varied from daily to weekly and even every few months.
The other difficulty for me has been re-reading and realizing I’m stuck emotionally somewhere. When that happens I tend to write the same information, complaints, regrets, etc. over and over again. It can be discouraging because then I know I have to talk to someone in order to move past whatever the issue is. Generally I will dig my heels in and keep writing for weeks before finally hashing things out with my husband or a friend.
Do you feel that journaling taught you self-discipline?
I do feel that journaling helped me develop a sense of self-discipline, but I also had to learn to be flexible or I knew I’d never stick with it. Sometimes when your head and heart are working on something you’ve been struggling with, you need a little extra space just to ponder. I’ve had to learn to USE journaling, not to let it use me. Not to let it become just busy work because Julia Cameron said I had to write three pages a day. It is not a master; it is a servant.
What type of journaling did you do, expressive, visual, through music?
Though I have had some interesting experiences working with collages in my journals, mostly they are the written word. My notebooks are full of original poetry, poetry of others, quotes, Bible verses, occasional taped-in newspaper or magazine article, and always a lot of inner reflection.
How long did you/have been journaling?
I’ve been seriously journaling since 1982.
Did you share your journal entries with anyone and if so who?
I often share my journal entries with others. For two years I wrote for a monthly newsletter for our church denomination, and my column, Potpourri, came directly from my journals. I’ve also published one magazine article from my journal as well. I’m not one of those folks who hides their journal. Mine are usually on my desk where anyone can access them. Now and then there may be things I struggle with personally that are too tender for me to talk to family or friends about. When I need to write about those things, they go in a small, private journal that isn’t left lying around, although I don’t hide that one either.
How often did/do you journal, daily, weekly, monthly, when you remembered?
Yes! Daily, weekly, monthly, and even when I remembered. But I find I can’t leave journaling alone for very long. It grounds me and gives me a sense of myself. I need to write to hear what I have to say, though I have found since I’ve begun blogging that journaling has become more infrequent. It seems the need to express myself has also been fed through blogging.
Do you feel that journaling has helped you feel less stress/anxiety?
Journaling has been a God-send for me. It’s kept me sane through a lot of emotional growing seasons. There’s just something about getting “stuff” out of my head or heart and onto paper where it won’t get lost that frees me up to relax. I find writing very therapeutic.
Do you feel that journaling has helped you through spells of depression?Absolutely. During those times it becomes my best friend. It always listens. It never judges. And when I write through a bout of depression, I am able to see how the roller coaster emotions follow a pattern. That has been very helpful for me in knowing if I just keep at, eventually I will come out on the other side again, armed with whatever I need to move forward.
Do you feel that journaling has helped you discover more about yourself?Several years ago I read the book Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self by Sarah Ban Breathnach. I fell in love with it and re-read it, journaling as I went. I’d read an essay a day, then respond in my journal. I read the book several times. The book inspired me to begin blogging using the idea of “spelunking in my heart’s cave” as a theme. From October 2014 to the present I have gone back through the book in bits and pieces revisiting the parts most pertinent to me and used them as the basis for many posts. As I’ve done so and gotten feedback from followers and friends on those posts, I’ve discovered a whole new side of myself that I always thought was a “myth”, for lack of a better way to say it. That’s why hearing myself repeat things over and over in my journals, even to the point that I’d have to seek someone out to talk to, has been like digging up “artifacts” in my cave.
Do you feel that journaling has helped you accept things about yourself that you didn’t before?
A huge yes to this question. It has helped me understand three very important things. First, I’m not perfect and that’s okay because neither is anyone else, especially my parents. Secondly, that I’m a human BEING, not a human DOING. And thirdly, that I’m not a HUMAN BEING having a spiritual experience, but rather a SPIRITUAL BEING having a human experience. I realize not everyone is on board with spiritual philosophies, but that’s how it is for me.
Do you think that journaling has helped you make plans for your future?
I think so. It has helped me move forward on several occasions. Helped me to get brave enough to tackle things I might not otherwise have done. Such as participating in the NaNoWriMo writing experience in 2013 during which I ended up writing an entire 90,000-word manuscript in 30 days. I had to talk myself into doing that in the hopes that my future would eventually include publishing a book.
Do you think that journaling has made you feel more accountable for your actions?
I would say so. There’s no way you can hide from yourself when you’re being honest in your journal. Rather IF you’re being honest in your journal!
Do/did you journal with anyone else, friends or family?
No. I’ve never had that experience.
Do you think that the notebook you journaled in said anything about you through the designs on it?
Of course. The type of journal a person chooses to use says a lot about their personality. I actually have several journals. My main personal journal (Moodlings) is a spiral notebook (a ton of them!). My very private journal (View From the Lighthouse) is in a binder as is a family journal that I’ve done weekly for years (The Saturday Morning Kitchen Khronicles) that talks about the goings on of our kids and grandkids. I tend to be focused and serious when I journal, so nothing fancy, and for the most part I don’t like fussy hard-back journals that don’t lay flat. The only exception is the leather travel journal that I have.
Do you find it easier to express yourself to the world after journaling?
I’d say so because it helps me clear up my thinking. It gives me a chance to practice saying what I may need to in certain situations.
Do you feel a sense of calmness after journaling?
Yes, though I’d use the word relief rather than calmness. I may still be agitated after journaling because my mind is still working on a problem, but I always feel a sense of relief as if I’ve now given myself the space to work something out.
Would you recommend journaling to a friend, family member, acquaintance, or co-worker?
Do you feel that journaling made you feel like a more confident person?
I do. Not only that, but it also helped me to like myself better because it enabled to see things about myself I needed to change.
Any other thoughts on how journaling benefited you?
It was cheaper than seeing a therapist!!! (Grin) And I actually really enjoy it.