Keeping a Journal: The Write Stuff

My Journals

My Journals

Most of us who have experienced prolonged abuse ~ particularly if extreme emotional abuse was involved ~ sometimes feel like we have scrambled eggs for brains. Yet, at the same time, we are literally making life and death decisions.

During those dark days, my journal was my greatest tool and, in many respects, my best friend.

My journals kept me sane. They helped me discern common threads and themes. They helped me surface difficult and painful issues in the tiny bites that my heart and soul could handle. They helped me to sort through the flotsam and jetsam of my life to decide what to keep and what to jettison. They helped me to slowly make sense of the shattered pieces of my life and to draw a new map for myself.

My journals celebrated victories with me and cried over disappointments and setbacks. My journals gently reminded me that it was time to end the pity party and to get to work on a new goal or a new dream. My journals caressed me when I needed a hug. My journals criticized me unmercifully and applauded me boisterously. My journals know all my secrets.

Before I participated in the Artist’s Way, my journal entries were sporadic and undisciplined. I learned from this experience that it works best if we scribble three pages per day. I give myself the luxury of writing more if I’m on the threshold of a breakthrough, and I’ve learned to stop at one page if there’s just nothing inside me worth noting. I discipline myself to keep writing, however, if I sense my reluctance to scribble is due to an iceberg of an issue.

My journals are a safe place where I can be completely honest with myself. At times, I have thought of my daily scribbling as conversations with God. At one point, I pretended my journal was the sounding board I’d be for a close and dear friend.

At a writing seminar, Mark Trahant, who was the editorial page editor at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, shared a helpful habit which I have adopted. When he finishes a journal, he goes back through his entries and takes notes into his new journal. This habit has helped me to notice subtle trends and to form links between events that I hadn’t realized were connected. It also helps me to realize when I’m making progress or getting stuck.

My journals are simple. I buy spiral notebooks. Our local library sells recycled magazines for 10 cents per copy. Periodically, I pick up a stack and go through them to rip out articles for my research. I also cut out pictures and words and phrases that speak to my heart and soul. When it is time to make a new journal, I create collages on the covers that are visual images of where and who I’d like to be. I’m often pleasantly surprised that when I’ve finished a journal I have arrived at my destination. To preserve my collages, I laminate the covers with clear plastic shelf paper.

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