“I am not what I think. I am thinking what I think.”
I have been thinking (watch out for the flying sparks.) I am writing a book about gratitude journaling, because I profoundly believe that reminding ourselves what we have to be grateful for, on a daily basis, will attract more to be grateful for into our lives. I also believe that journaling can be a therapeutic exercise, that can help us identify our fears, our limiting beliefs, our incorrect assumptions and our blind spots.
Practising what I preach, I keep a bullet-point gratitude journal. I also use my journal to write about anything that is upsetting me on a given day, and once I have written it out of my system, I look for something to be grateful for. No matter how dark the clouds overhead may seem, there is always a silver lining to be found. I am quite convinced that it would have been impossible to survive the trials and tribulations that came my way these last two years if I were not in the habit of using my journal as a confidante. Putting my distress into words on paper first, has also made it easier for me to talk about it to my closest friends, something I found very hard in the past.
Journaling enables me to capture my thoughts, emotions and perceptions so that I can examine them and evaluate their worth. Rationally. Exposing my thoughts, emotions and perceptions to the light of day allows me to take a hard look at them and instead of reacting mindlessly, I can adjust my reaction to ensure an outcome that does not cause more distress.
Lately, while writing my book, I have been thinking about how journaling can help us survive as writers.
Personally, as a writer, I find journaling an indispensable aid. The writing I do first thing every morning, my morning pages to use Julia Cameron’s expression, serve many purposes:
- It jump-starts my writing day. When I wake up, I do not immediately start writing brilliant prose (if ever,) it takes me a while to get into (writing) gear.
- It is an exercise in mindfulness, when I redirect my wandering mind time and again to what I am writing about in my journal.
- Journaling, for writers, is much like physical exercise, it builds our “writing muscles.” Writing for 10-20 minutes without worrying about spelling, grammar or even making sense, is liberating.
- It stimulates my creativity. My journal is a veritable treasure chest of creative musings, captivating ideas and personal anecdotes. For inspiration, I use the Q&A a Day Journal by Potter
- I used my journal for research. When I am writing, I often look back at past entries in search of coping strategies to add to a book I am writing.
- Writers, by nature, are an introspective lot, more given internal pondering, than a steady outpouring of our innermost thoughts and feelings to a counsellor. Journaling can be a writer’s therapist. As Susan Sontag said, “In my journal, I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself.”
- Journaling can cure writer’s block. Daily journaling can help me to work out how and where I got stuck. Journaling provides with a record of my writing efforts and routine. I can look back and try to work out how and why I got stuck. My journal also shows me where I was and what I was doing during my most creative periods so that I can recreate a particularly productive environment to get rid of writer’s block.
Following fast in the footsteps of my thought about the use of journaling to authors, came another thought: I host walking and wine tasting workshops for writers here in the south of France, especially for writers who suffer from writer’s block. I do not presume to be able to teach anyone how to write, I depend entirely on the inspirational effect of walking the 9-century-old Camino de Santiago de Compostela to inspire, as it did Paulo Coelho, my visiting writers to start writing again. For that reason, it is a short workshop, a maximum of 4 nights – half-a-day to arrive, 2 days to walk the Camino, one day to sample some of the delectable wines of this region and half-a-day to leave.
Now I am thinking (duck the striking lightning) that I might be able to teach writers something after all – how to use mindful journaling and vision boards to improve their writing. Madeleine L’Engle advised, ‘If you want to write, you need to keep an honest, unpublishable journal that nobody reads, nobody but you,’ so I am thinking about creating a 7-night workshop, alternating walking, wine tasting and journal writing, with one or more equine-guided mindfulness meditation classes thrown in for good measure. I think I would love to host a workshop like that.
Before I ignite my mind to spontaneously combust, I think I had better stop thinking and get on with the morning’s “serious writing,” so back to the chapter about the physical benefits of regularly expressing one’s gratitude in my new book.
The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself.
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