"Writing isn't about the destination—writing is the journey that transforms the soul and gives meaning to all else." - Sue Grafton, "How I Write", 'The Writer', May 2002, p86
Each night I go to sleep, I look forward to the morning chimes of my alarm clock going off at 5am knowing that I will spend the first 30-45 minutes of my day doing something so meaningful to me – journaling.
My alarm sounds while the sunrise is still hidden behind the dark sky. Rubbing my eyes, I hit the snooze button and lay in bed for a few more minutes trying to draw from my subconscious to determine what I am going to journal about. I slowly bring my legs to the floor and follow the smell of the freshly brewed coffee that draws me to the kitchen. With my daily dose of caffeine in hand, I get comfortable at my desk in my home office which is dimly lit with a small lamp on my desk and I sit in a chair facing the illuminating screen projecting from my laptop.
I place my fingers on the keyboard and like a graceful piano player, my hands flow eloquently across keyboard as I freefall my thoughts onto paper. I don’t think about what I write, I just write. There is a sense of calmness and peace to know that the rest of the house is still experiencing REM sleep while I sit in solitude and take this time for myself. After 45 minutes of journaling, the release of thoughts allows me to move freely from journaling to my to-do list for the day.
Why I Journal
1. It’s my way of expressing myself. Some people express themselves through their art, music etc. I do it through daily journaling.
2. It’s calming. I have come to realize that journaling offers me a sense of peace, an opportunity to let it all out.
3. It’s a positive start to my day. Getting it out and onto paper increases my clarity, productivity, focus and strengthens my relationships.
4. It’s healing. My family encountered a series of tragedies that started in 1989, when I was 15. It began with my father, a doctor in Louisiana, who was poisoned with cyanide which left him disabled for the remainder of his life. Two years later, my mother was in a near fatal car accident leaving her with head injuries. With two hospitalized parents, my sister and I almost faced foster care, and in 1996 I lost my 4 day old son to a battle with overwhelming sepsis. With all the hardships we faced and having to plow through life to survive the challenges, I am writing to heal, to process and understand from an adult’s perspective what happened to our family and the effect it has had on me as a person. Journaling about it helps me learn more about myself and understand the emotional strength that I have today. You can find out more about the series of unfortunate events we faced at www.theseludostory.com.
Tips for Staying Committed to Journaling
It took some practice to commit to writing daily. Here are some tips that I found helpful for staying committed to my new year’s resolution of journaling every day.
1. Designate a time and a place where you can find the ambiance you need to write. When I started, I tried traditional writing with a pen on a pretty notebook I purchased. My hand got tired quickly and I realized I was more effective on the keyboard. Next, I tried a Dell mini laptop but the keyboard was too small for extended periods of writing. Then I went to my workspace in my home office (I work from home about 60-80% of the time) and found that my set up at my work station at home offers the most comfortable spot for journaling.
2. Turn off everything that causes you to be “wired.” For me that’s my blackberry (aka crackberry). When I first started journaling, my sister from Southern California would text me at 6-7am. We’re super close and talk every day. Connecting in the mornings usually worked best for us given our schedule. The notification from my phone distracted my thoughts and my writing flow. Also, I had a tendency to check work emails on the crackberry while writing in fear that I may need to respond to some sort of urgent work email. I now leave my ringer off on my phone and leave it in another room while I journal.
3. Just write. There are days I don’t feel like writing but as a commitment to my resolution, I still write. I commit to at least 10 minutes of writing but find that I end up writing for 30-45 minutes. It’s like going to the gym. Getting there is sometimes tough but once you’re there, you’ve gained momentum and can accomplish it. Like today, I didn’t know what to write about so I started my journaling with the words “I don’t feel like writing” and now I have 2 pages filled with stuff. If you find yourself stuck, just keep the fingers moving on the keyboard or keep the pen flowing on the paper and free-write. Don’t worry about grammar, typos or spelling. Freefall on the piece of paper. You can fix it later. The idea is to just get it all out.
4. It’s ok if you don’t write as much. Initially I would get frustrated if I can’t get all of my thoughts on paper. Sometimes my daughter wakes up earlier than I expect which breaks into my writing time. I’ve had to let go of the frustration and realize that time spent with her (she’s two and a half) in the mornings is just as valuable as the “me time” I have journaling. She’s at daycare from 8am – 5pm every day. I don’t get to spend as much waking time with her as I would like. I let go of the writing and cherish the time I have with her in the morning as we play with her dolls, although lately she’s been into baseball. She loves the plastic ball and bat we got for her from the Dollar store.
5. Helps identify unsettling feelings. Sometimes when I journal, I’m looking for an answer to something. Often I don’t even know what the question is but I know there’s something unsettling inside me. I journal and sometimes I find the questions and sometimes find the answers. But even if I don’t find the answers, I’m able to address whatever it is causing the anxiety inside me so that I can move towards identifying it.
6. A higher motivation. Given the adversities my family faced during my teenage years, I am writing a family memoir. I want my future generations to learn about their ancestors, their legacy and what happened to them. I want to give the gift of story to my kids and my future grandchildren. For when I am gone, they can continue to share the story and learn more about themselves by reading a family memoir.
After nearly an hour of journaling, I am ready to face my day. I get my daughter ready for daycare, engage in conversation with my husband, watch the news and turn on the ringer on my crackberry. I am ready to start my day with peace, clarity and purpose.
Reflective question of the day:
If you journal (and for some blogging is journaling), why? What benefit does journaling offer you? What do you do to stay committed to journaling?