Get the Most Out of Journaling

People write for all kinds of reasons. Some people write to track major successes and ventures, to try and see patterns – see why things worked. Others write to create a chronology, like mini-chapters of an autobiography. Still others are simply compelled to write, and journaling is the least demanding outlet available.

There are times, though when journaling is (or should become) necessary. It’s one of the healthiest ways to deal with anger, disappointment, heartbreak, and failure.  When you’re missing someone with no chance to communicate with them, when you have successes that need to be shared, when your emotions are so overwhelming you will be swallowed whole without an outlet: this is what journaling is for.

So you sit down, with your rage, or fear, or excitement sitting heavily on your shoulders, and the paper stares at you, mocking and cold. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Other people journal all the time; they aren’t paralyzed or hit with writer’s block. You start feeling like your inability to journal properly says something deep and dark about yourself. All of a sudden the terrible emotions you were looking to escape from are a million times worse, or the excitement you were looking to celebrate has dulled.

Stupid journaling. Stupid people who recommend it. Just like meditators. Smug jerks.

At this stage, it’s fairly common to give up and spend the rest of the day in an emotional huff, snapping at everyone and everything to release some frustration and crankiness that the journaling was SUPPOSED to take care of. Stupid journaling.

Stop. Take a breath. Try a few of these tips and see if they work. Most have worked for me to get past even my worst cases of paper mockery (the feeling the actual paper you’re trying to write on is laughing at you. Found in the final stages of writer’s block.)

  • Write in different colours. I have a simple colour scheme I follow, based on the way the colours make me feel.
    • Black – anger
    • Red – hurt
    • Green – guilt
    • Purple – excitement
    • Blue – narration of events
    • Orange – fear

The most interesting thing I’ve found with this style of writing is that I can go back months and years and know at a glance which of those emotions dominated any given period of my life. Then I can look at the happenings during that time and see patterns in my emotional responses. But even if you’re not that into introspection, seeing a whole page covered in red can be pretty damn satisfying.

  • Write letters
    • To people I miss, I speak to them as if they could answer.
    • To people who have hurt me, I give my side, no holds barred, no interruptions.
    • To people I am intimidated by, I define my relationship with them safely and privately.
    • To people I admire, I write to them so I don’t gush all over them.
  • Start a secret blog
    • Be as out there as you want, as judgmental, as weird, as kinky – whatever floats your boat – with impunity.
    • In this medium there’s an aspect of human interaction missing in the other forms of journaling.
    • Create a whole look, a whole persona on your blog. Be an expert, be bigger than life.

One VERY IMPORTANT NOTE HERE. If you want to write a secret blog, a place just for you, then KEEP IT BLOODY SECRET. There can be NO CONNECTION BETWEEN THIS BLOG AND YOUR REAL LIFE. Don’t be stupid about it; it’s the internet, for heaven’s sake. If you write crappy things about people, do it on the understanding that they might find it, read it, and be hurt by it and this is NO ONE’S FAULT BUT YOUR OWN. If you don’t want to risk that, then please just keep a paper journal tucked under your mattress like the rest of us.

  • Read

Sometimes it takes other people’s words to start yours flowing. Find a book that matches your mood, reread an old favourite, or ask for suggestions from your social media circles. There’s a reason that Bridget Jones’ Diary was such a huge hit – we love living vicariously through other people’s misery.

A few options to try:

  • Brainstorm single words
    • Fear…
    • Guilt…
    • You…
    • I…
    • Different…
    • Hope…
    • Love…
    • Tomorrow…
    • Yesterday…
    • Success…
    • Failure…
    • Next…
    • Again…

If none of these ideas get your wheels churning, right now may not be the ideal time to start journaling. Perhaps a 5k run instead?

Happy writing!



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