I’ve recently noticed all the journals for sale out there. Craft shops, drugstores and office supply outlets all sell notebooks for recording our thoughts. They come in every colour and size, dated or not, and some come complete with stickers and meaningful quotes. A journal is not to be confused with an agenda or a diary.
An agenda’s purpose is to record all the things you have to do, while in a diary you record all the things you have done, where you went, who was there and the minutiae of a day. But a journal is a place to unfold the circumstances that lift and drop us through our days, a place to ask questions and to gather meaning from things we go through. This is what gives it value.
However, in order for a journal to become a useful part of life, you have to actually write. To get started, buy something in which to record your thoughts. It could be as mundane as a scribbler or a notebook from the dollar store, or it could be something that looks good and feels good in your hands. I started out with a large, coil-bound notebook so that my writing could go all over the place. No squeezing my important thoughts onto a small page. Then, you need a pen or pencil that writes easily (some don’t) and in a colour that you like. I use a purple pen. Now, you’re ready, but what to write?
Many years ago, when I was going through an upheaval in my life, I stumbled across Julia Cameron’s book titled The Artist’s Way. At the beginning, she outlined how to do “morning pages,” which are three pages of writing, longhand, first thing in the morning. You write whatever comes to mind, ugly or not. Here’s an example: “I have nothing to write. My life is boring. I feel brain-dead because I didn’t get enough sleep again. I wish I hadn’t eaten so much last evening. But when Hubby brings junk food home, I can’t resist. I really have to stop eating like that. I feel like ....”
And then you might think of something else. You don’t stop until you’ve written three pages. Writing like this helps to get the negativity out first thing in the morning and then you are able to get on with your day. Over time, you might see themes of what was on your mind in a given year. For me, it was my weight, a fractured relationship and digestive issues.
I have done morning pages for many years and have kept most of my journals for reference and to see where I was at a certain point and where I am now. Over time, I could see that I had the same recurring themes year after year. You’ve probably heard the saying, “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting the results you’ve always gotten.” That’s what I found out about myself through reading my morning pages.
As Cameron notes, “By writing lines on a page, we begin to read between them. We sink below the surface of events to the interior mystery of our feelings ....” Morning pages changed the direction of my life many years ago. I was in a long-distance relationship and about to leave the country with my son and marry the person I thought I loved. But I had nagging doubts. Finally, I reread 18 months of my morning pages and underlined every reference to my love relationship. There was my answer, plain as day. I realized that the relationship had been causing me anxiety and depression for some time. The doubts weren’t new; the realization of them was. I ended the relationship and went on to live a much better life than I otherwise would have. My journal had become my therapy.
If you’re going through a tough time, journaling can be a big help toward making life changes. And if you’re not going through anything drastic, journaling now can help you realize new things about yourself and your dreams. Try it and see for yourself.
A native of Newfoundland, Christine Faour grows lavender on her hobby farm in Coldbrook. After a lifetime spent teaching, she now spends her time knitting, quilting, making things from lavender and writing about her take on life at anourishedlife.ca. She has one book, Eat Where You Are, a memoir in recipes.