I have been writing in a journal, in one form or another, since I was 12 years old. I am so glad I did. Now, I’m not that sentimental; the girl who wrote all that nonsense was self-absorbed and overly dramatic. But I am grateful for the practice. I believe that the 20-30 minutes I spent daily writing as a teenager honed my voice, disciplined my habits, and most importantly became a safe place for my troubled life.
My daily habit of writing became a practice that made me more sensitive to my circumstances and surroundings. I think that I am more empathetic and develop better characters because I wrote so much when I was younger.
As an adult looking back on a troubled pre-teen, I can see that the darkness I was living through was, in some ways, the fuel that kept me writing, if not a completed story, at least in a journal. These journals honed my writing skills, became a place of therapy, and helped me feel more at ease with myself as a writer.
Do you journal?
Keep a journal to:
1. Get in the daily practice of writing.
2. Practice observation.
3. Vent all of your frustrations.
Need to start? Try asking yourself these questions:
- Do you trust yourself? For 10 minutes, write a letter to yourself, confessing something that makes you nervous about this new endeavor. You may want to begin, I’m afraid that . . .
- Envision a much younger you and write for 10 minutes a letter of reassurance. What is it that you’ve learned now that you didn’t know then? What good has happened since then? Take more time if you need it.
- What does it mean to be safe? For 10 minutes write what safety would look like in your writing? What topics could you write about in the immediate future that you feel comfortable with? What topics would you like to put to the side until you feel safer and more at ease with writing?
Once you write in your journal, what do you do next?
Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down The Bones said, “It is a good idea to wait awhile before you reread your writing. Time allows for instance and objectivity about your work. After you have filled a whole notebook in writing practice (perhaps it took you a month), sit down and reread the entire notebook as though it weren’t yours. Become curious: “What did this person have to say?” Make yourself comfortable and settle down as though it were a good novel you were about to read. Read it page by page Eve if it seemed dull when you wrote it, now you will recognize its texture and rhythm.”
We writers are a dark lot. I believe the same emotional sensitivities that haunt us when we are young are the same emotional sensitivities that pour profoundly into our art and allow us to touch others. We need to learn how to lean into the drama (and the trauma) for the sake of authenticity and resonance.
If you haven’t already, try journaling. It may make everything better.