Journaling 101

A decade ago, I started journaling. It helped me navigate one of the most challenging periods of my life, my divorce. The suggestions in this post can apply to anyone feeling lonely, misunderstood, working through a problem, and of course, going through a divorce. If there was ever a time for journaling, it is today. Journaling is my therapy. Journaling is my meditation. I hope it will be yours. 

I held onto the seven journals I wrote during my divorce because I knew someday I would have the courage to start this blog. It may sound a little out there, but at times I believed the old journal’s presence brought negative energy into my space. I frequently imagined burning them. If I wrote this blog today without them, I would never be able to tap back into the raw emotions I experienced during the first few years of this life-changing process. If you are in the beginning, middle, end, or just thinking of a divorce, I have great news for you. Someday your memory will fade and the flood of negative thoughts and emotions will subside. It’s going to take a lot longer than you expect, but it will happen. Until then, journaling is the answer. 

Are you new to journaling? Welcome! If you are anything like me, you may be worried about someone reading your journals, poor grammar, mis-spelling, and the list goes on and on. No one will grade this. A date is helpful to give you an indication of time, but it’s only a suggestion. If you hate old-school writing, open a doc and just start typing away but do me a favor, ignore any red underlines. You won’t want to kill the momentum by acting like your middle school English teacher and correcting every mistake you come across. This is real. This is raw.

For my pen and paper gals, treat yourself to a journal that speaks to you. Ordering on Amazon is incredibly easy and always fulfills our desire for instant gratification; however, I suggest that you either buy one you can return or seek one out in the wild. Turns out, I’m very particular about how my pages turn and the feel of the journal in my hands. Bound journals are beautiful, but if I find it awkward to write when I turn the page, I’m going to ditch it, hate the process, or give up easily. Brands like Moleskin offer a simple and elegant option. Just don’t forget to make sure it’s lined. As for a writing tool, find one that is smooth keeps up with your writing. We have no time for slow drying ink during a vent session! 

When I am journaling, aka ranting and raving, I skip a line and write an “ah-ha moment” that I want to come back to or a question I want to explore later. Here is where the underline and circle function of your hand comes into play. It’s an incredible tool. Anything you can do from stopping the momentum helps. What I found is once I started being honest with myself, the flood gates opened, and the words poured out. Be patient. Breathe. It took a long time for you to become so tightly wound, and it will take time to unravel all these thoughts and feelings. 

Hate writing and typing? Try voice dictation and recording. Create an audio version of a journal and let it all out, sister. What I love about this method is that you will be able to hear the inflections and tone of your voice. Just remember, don’t be surprised when you play it back. We always sound a little different than we think we do in our heads.

Throughout the years, I find myself journaling during times of distress and trauma. Experiment journaling during the highs in your life as well. Oprah works with a gratitude journal each day, and she has said that it changed her life. When Oprah speaks, I listen. 

Here are a few summarized tips for your journaling practice:

  • The goal of a journal is to be vulnerable and real with yourself. The answers that you want will appear in time and can only come from you. 
  • Pick a format that will work for you and your life. Try a few. There is no right answer; it’s all about what will make you successful.
  • If you live with people or share accounts, set up password protection or a safe home for your journal. Talk to people about the importance of your privacy. Trust me; if you are a hot mess like I was when I started, they will steer clear.
  • Are you worried about how to start? I will have another blog post with journal prompts coming out soon. 
  • Leave your inner perfectionist at the door. We don’t have time for her. 
  • It takes time to be radically honest with yourself. I wasn’t honest with myself for five-plus years of my marriage, so I couldn’t expect my inner wisdom to shine through right away. She needed a little time to be pampered and recognized before she felt it was safe to come out. Be patient. My rule of thumb is that depending on the number of years you were in this situation; it may take one to two journals to get real. Stick with it, because when you get real, you heal.   
  • Once you have written an entry, read it aloud to yourself or play it back. I call this reflecting. It’s incredible what you will gain from this. If the process makes you cringe and want to stop, skip it. You are the boss of this situation. In my practice, once I finish a journal, I would go back and read it like a book. YOU are in there, sometimes hiding, but you will start to emerge. Then if you want to have a good time, wait a few years, pour yourself a glass of wine, and read. You will be AMAZED at how far you have come. 
  • Make journaling a practice. Ten minutes a day for a month. Create a routine around it. You can enlist a friend as an accountability coach or join a writing group. 
  • If you have trouble sleeping and quieting your mind, keep the journal by your bed. Write the thoughts in your journal and go back to sleep. Sometimes this will work, other times an Advil PM will do the trick. 
  • If you don’t feel like journaling, but want to keep up your streak and practice, write the date and “I don’t feel like journaling.” Call it a day and try again tomorrow. No guilty self-talk allowed. 
  • Traveling? Take your journal with you. Dictation may not be the best in an airport if you don’t want the people around to listen to you pour your heart out, but writing and typing often pass the time, and for some reason, some of my best entries have been on a plane. Besides, what else are you going to do unless you have someone attractive sitting next to you? In that case, close the journal and start a conversation! 
  • Journaling makes any time-sucking lines move faster like the DMV.
  • Remember that thought that popped into your head and made you seem like a horrible person? Write it in the journal. Get it out! Don’t let it stagnate. I think of my journal as my forever delete pile. Once I have it down, I usually have an easier time letting it go.
  • Over the years, when my friends are going through a difficult period, I will send them a journal as a surprise. If you love someone and see them struggling, share your practice. One warning, temper your expectations. If they don’t use the journal, do not hold it against them. What works for you may not work for everyone else, and the timing may not be right.
  • Lastly, if dinners out and a good face to face vent session with your girlfriends works better, great! I encourage you to do both. Friends are very supportive until you have repeated your same story and vent dialogue for the 20th time. If you find yourself looking over at a girlfriend guzzling her wine with a blank stare, it’s time to find another outlet. Where’s that journal again?

I wish you the best in your journaling adventure. 

Do you have a tip or prompt that might help someone? I would love to hear it. Until then, stay safe and healthy. 

Sending writing inspiration,

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