I have loved discussing journaling this month. It's one of the topics I'm most passionate about. Because of its versatility, journaling can and will morph into anything we need it to be. What does that mean? It means journaling works for ALL of us: authors, bloggers, painters, freelance designers, entrepreneurs, opera singers, Podcasters, hobbyists, actors... (I can go on if you'd like ) Regardless of our creative pursuits, we can benefit from journaling.
If you haven't checked out the rest of the journaling posts in this series, you can find them here:
And don't forget: There are over half-a-dozen worksheets/printables/workbooks in the library to get you started journaling.
Plus (yes, one more thing ) my latest eCourse, Write Your Way: Journaling for Beginners is now available. If you want to create an inspiring journal practice using daily journaling, brain dumping, and freewriting strategies, grab the course!
Now let's dive into nine specific ways journaling will benefit you...
Overcome Creative Blocks
I went into great detail in this post here about how journaling can help you overcome creative blocks, but it's worth mentioning again, because Journaling. Will. Help. You. Overcome. Blocks. I guarantee it. Why? Because through journaling, you will be able to identify patterns. You'll notice that with each new idea, you experience fear, so the next time you start something new and are afraid, you can remind yourself, "This is okay. This happens every time. And every time, I push through it."
Or perhaps you have a habit of procrastination (which is also a form of fear). Through journaling, you will be able to recognize when you are procrastinating, why you are procrastinating, and what you need to do so you can get your work done.
Writing about creative blocks can help take away their power because when we know who our creative enemies are, what they look like, and when they like to show up, then we can stop them. Journaling hands us the weapon to do this. (Read more about how journaling can help you overcome your specific creative blocks here.)
One of the simplest, purest, and most beautiful styles of journaling is a self-history. And I don't mean history like your high school textbooks, I'm talking about a history that is made up of who you are, who you have been, what passions and dreams you've had in this life, your struggles, your achievement, and your favorite memories and childhood stories you want to pass on.
While I don't do this often, every year or two, I still pull out my journals from high school and read them. Apart from amusing myself with how ridiculous life seemed at sixteen, I actually have learned a lot about myself—specially about my depression. I wasn't diagnosed with depression until I was seventeen, but from reading my journals from my freshmen and sophomore years, it's obvious to me I started struggling with depression when I was fifteen. Looking over a decade of journal entries has helped me recognize my personal depression cycle, which in turn has helped me manage "bad" episodes when they roll around.
I have a pretty good memory, but I'm kidding myself I think I can remember everything from my life. If I hadn't kept a journal as a teenager and young adult, I would be missing a key tool in helping me recognize the woman I am today and the woman I want to become.
Turn Your Daydreams Into Realities
Don't just dream about visiting Greece, write about it in great detail.
- Why do you want to go?
- How would you get there?
- How much money would it cost?
- What would you do while there?
The more you can visualize a dream, the more likely it will become a reality. This doesn't just work for vacation dreams either.
- What do you want to do with your life?
- Where do you want to be in 10 years?
- What career do you want?
- What kind of home do you want to live in?
Rather than wishing for these things, journaling brings us closer to our true desires because when we journal, we have to get clear, really clear, about what exactly we want. Literally seeing those dreams unfold on the pages before us will lead us to setting actionable goals to make these dreams a reality.
I mentioned in Morning Pages: A Freewrite Experiment, Julia Cameron suggests that one can't write about the same problem day after day without doing something about it. How many times can you sit down at your journal and write, "I hate my job," or "I'm tired of the house being a mess," or "I can't think of another blog post idea," or "I'll never be a published author"? Sooner or later, you'll get tired of writing that same problem down again and again and you'll be forced to do something about it.
Not too many of you know this, but a year and a half ago, I was attempting to write some short fiction under a pseudonym. Six months into this plan, I was really frustrated. I turned to journaling, and within a few weeks, I had an answer to my problem: I needed to scrap the pseudonym and scrap those short stories (at least for now). Would I have eventually come to that conclusion without journaling? Maybe, maybe not. But journaling definitely accelerated the solution for me.
Have a problem? Have you journaled about it yet? Here's why you should... (<<< click here to tweet!)
Get Ideas Out of Your Head
Getting ideas out of your head and onto the page makes it easier to think clearly and make better decisions. Regular journaling also reminds you of your goals because odds are, you'll be writing about them over and over again. Most of my journal entries include something about eltscott.com because that's my life right now. That's what I'm working on all day, every day, so of course when it comes to journaling, my business is usually the first thing on my mind and so I write about it.
Did you know if it hadn't been for journaling, byemilyscott.com wouldn't exist right now?
June/July 2016, I started journaling about my need for another creative outlet. This led me to creating this site, which started out more as a lifestyle blog: a place for me to capture my photography, poetry, and art. I kept blogging, but I also kept journaling, and by September, I completely switched gears on what I wanted eltscott.com to be because truth was, I didn't so much need a place to express my creativity, what I really wanted was a safe place for others to find their inner artist again and let her free. I recognized that through overcoming my struggle with creative blocks, I wanted to be able to help creatives do the same.
Just goes to show, you never know what ideas might be hiding in that brain of yours until you write them down.
Connect With Creativity and Be Inspired
Journaling creates a channel for creative energy. And this isn't only true for writers. I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to play the piano or paint something after journaling. Journaling in itself may be writing, but it definitely is not only writers who can benefit from this practice. Because journaling is a private practice, we are more likely to let go in our journals.
When the public is watching, it's difficult to let all our walls down, but in our journals, we can be raw, and it is THIS that opens the doors of inspiration and creativity.
Putting yourself in a situation where you don't have to be afraid (there's nothing terrifying about writing in a journal no one is going to see) opens a connection between inspiration and yourself: "Let those ideas come in. I'm not afraid right now. I can handle them."
A Place to Release Everything
All the anger, fear, stress, those negative critters that eat away at us...let them all go into your journal and send them on their way. When you write down your fears, they lose their power. Once you can take a step back and look at the bad day, the sour mood, the anger at your boss—once all these emotions are transformed into words, they lose their hold over you. You've released the negativity onto the page. You don't have to hold onto it any longer.
In the past, I've even painted over these negative entries and turned them into something colorful and bright—literally transforming the negative words into something positive.
You can also use your journal as a place to write unsent letters because most of the time it is US who need to read these words, not the person the letter is addressed to.
- Letters to your boss for being a jerk today.
- Letters to your future self, encourage her to push forward even when all seems lost.
- Letters to an ex, acknowledging the relationship you had, but also admitting it is time to move on.
- Letters to a family member you've had a falling out with, telling them why you were hurt.
- Letters to the school bully who you blame to this day for always seeing the "fat girl" in the mirror every morning as you brush your teeth.
- Letters to someone who has passed away, spilling out everything you wish you had told them while they were still living.
Don't let negative thoughts and feeling eat at you. Dump them on the page and move on.
I recently wrote an email to my newsletter list asking them when was the last time they checked in with themselves. Why? Because journaling says: “You need to take time to build a relationship with yourself.”
How important are the relationships in your life? Do you take time out each day/week to strengthen your relationships with your parents, siblings, significant other, friends, and coworkers? I’m betting you do because when someone is important to us, we make time for him or her. But are you making time for yourself? And are you building a relationship with yourself?
Regular journaling (and by regular I mean at least 4 times a week) leads us on a journey to self-discovery. Try as we may, we can't do everything. By journaling, we can narrow down who we are and what we really want out of life. There's only so much time in a day, a week, a month, and a year. What is it you want to spend your time doing? When you look back on your life 50 years from now, what do you want to remember? What do you want to have accomplished? What kind of life will you have lived?
Improve Your Relationships With Others Too
It's difficult to improve your relationship with yourself and NOT have that affect the other relationships in your life in a positive way. By increasing your self-love through journaling (through those daily reflections), you will accept yourself and your imperfections. This leads to a happier you, a more confident you, and THAT person, is going to have happier relationships in turn. Novelist A.S. Byatt said, "Much as I love my husband and children, I love them only because I am the person who makes things. I am who I am is the person who has the project of making a thing. And because that person does that all the time, that person is able to love all those other people.”
I too notice when I've given myself the time to write in the morning or paint in the late afternoon, I'm in a better mood when my husband comes home from work and ready to spend the evening with him, which strengthens our relationship. It is actually when I don't take time for myself, I am more irritable or resentful towards the people I spend time with. Spending time with myself each day isn't selfish. Spending time with yourself each day doesn't make you selfish.
We feed our souls so we can be better people to the ones we love. We take care of ourselves so we are able to take care of others. We allow our journal practice to strengthen us so we can in turn strengthen our relationships.
What has your journaling practice done for you?