Why I Stopped Journaling And How It’s Made Me Happier and Healthier

Once, a long time ago, I thought that my journals had magical powers.

Why I Stopped Journaling And How It's Made Me Happier and Healthier

Journals, were, since I had started writing in one at age 14, a place were all my feels (and believe me, I had a lot of feels) were safe. My journals were a place that I could take out my feels.  I could analyze them. I could ruminate on them. I took each thought as if it were a pebble from a pocket run my fingers across its jagged edges. With a journal you can go back and remember pain. I would analyze events and observations the way an astronomer analyzes the stars. I wanted clarity perhaps, or affirmation, or some sense that these ramblings had importance.

From the time I was 13 to the time I was 27, I kept a journal. I had spiral notebooks. I am left handed, so I found blank journals a little difficult to maneuver, so I preferred either a cheap portfolio that I could put loose leaf paper in or a spiral notebook — several subject, college ruled, that would lie flat on a table as I wrote. I liked writing in pencil or quality fine point pens. I decorated the books sometimes with cutouts from magazines. I had one that was full of pithy sayings “Dreams are wishes that only have wings” or stuff like that and I would write snarky things underneath it. I had one that had the transparent overlay of a blond girl in a pink dress with flowers all around her and I had a lot of fun, on every page, adding in my own unflattering embellishments. My anger was very real in these pages. So was my sadness. My darkness. My loneliness. My despair.

I kept all of these journals, from the time I was 14 until I turned 27, in pristine condition, hoping that someone else, perhaps my children, would see the value in these words. Couldn’t I share my pain? Couldn’t they feel sorry for me?  I really thought that any truths that I came up with in the process of writing was not just a truth, but it was a SPECIAL TRUTH only I could see. I thought that these journals were the anchor of who I was. I thought that if I spritzed them with an air of prayer and spirituality that they would be like incense or an offering of sorts and it would make me more worthy or more spiritual or more mystical or something. I thought my children would see this too. I thought that this raw honesty would be instructive. I never thought it would be creepy.

At age 27, I stopped writing in my journals as regularly. I had married. And I had five babies in less than eight years. My box of journals sat ignored and unattended to. As my maturity and responsibilities grew, the power of the journals weakened.
I cleaned out that box.  I flipped through them. The magical truth that I thought penetrated every page wasn’t really magical at all. It was just sad. It was self-indulgent. It was emotional masturbation. It was too much. It was not enough. There was nothing magical or spiritual about it. I didn’t think that my children would ever see the value in these meanderings. They would see their mother not as someone who was strong, but someone who was perhaps victimized or self-pitying or self-righteous or condescending or narcissistic.

Would I miss these journals if they were gone forever? I had lived without them for years and hadn’t thought to much about them. I decided they weren’t worth carrying around.So I unceremoniously took them to the curb and let the trash truck take them away. 

By not journaling every morning, this is what happens:

  1. I start the day thinking about what I have to do instead of what’s been done to me.
  2. I don’t allow my emotions to lead me, I take control of them.
  3. I don’t allow negative ruminations to snowball, causing destruction in my real time relationships.
  4. I don’t have a record of sins. Either my sins or the sins of others.  I can’t go back and remember pain if I have no track of it.
  5. I am far freer to forgive and walk in grace, forgiving myself as well as others.
Often I see advice that says, “all writers should journal because . . .” and while I can see the value for some, I think it’s a bad idea for me.  But I think my reality is this:  words have too much power over me and they drag my emotions down. The words in my journal will naturally lean toward the negative and destructive and be tainted by this air of writerliness or spirituality and for me, it’s not necessarily a safe place. It’s safer to stay away.
My words are my toys but they are, at times, a choking hazard. They suffocate. They have too much power and I have to be careful. 
What do I do instead? I blog here. I vent on a all purpose document and promptly delete it. I take the more sensible parts and put it in my weekly newsletter. I save bits and pieces of emotion for my characters and make them richer. I put these now tamed emotions into a container and tell them to behave.
I have a new healthier way to write and I think, that for me, it will make all the difference.

 

 


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward, PTSD survivor, and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day.Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. She lives in Massachusetts with her family. Her new novel, Soulless Creatures, which is about two 18 year old boys, not vampires, will be released August 2015.

 


Free Copy of Soulless Creatures for any OU Alumni! by Katharine GrubbWorking-class future leader Roy Castleberry and pampered over-thinker Jonathan Campbell are 18-year-old freshmen at the University of Oklahoma who think they know everything. Roy thinks Jonathan could succeed in wooing Abby if he stopped obsessing over Walden. Jonathan thinks Roy could learn to be self-actualized if he’d stop flirting with every girl he meets. They make a wager: if Roy can prove that he has some poetic thought, some inner life, A SOUL, then Jonathan will give him the car he got for graduation. Roy takes the bet because he thinks this is the easiest game he’s ever played. Roy spends the rest of the school year proving the existence of his soul, competing against Jonathan for Abby’s attention, dodging RAs who are curious about the fake ID ring in his room and dealing with his past. For Roy and Jonathan, college life in 1986 is richer, (both experientially and financially) than either of them expected.

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Soulless Creatures by Katharine Grubb

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About Katharine Grubb

Katharine Grubb has mastered the art of freewriting because she wrote her first novel in 10 minute increments. There are probably easier ways to write a book, but with homeschooling her five children, she’ll take what she can get. Her latest book, Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day was just released and is available on Amazon.com She lives in Massachusetts and blogs at www.10minutenovelists.com.

One thought on “Why I Stopped Journaling And How It’s Made Me Happier and Healthier

  1. Katharine,

    I totally get your reasoning here. Would you believe I actually wrote numerous journals using my future daughter’s name (long before I was ever pregnant) with the intention of never forgetting what it was like to be a teenager? M-I-S-T-A-K-E!!! Though it was pretty cool that my first child was a girl, and I did give her the name in my journals– she is now 21 years old and I have yet to share the majority of what I wrote to her when I was between the ages of 14 and 16. Although I never tossed out those journals, I did rip out and burn some pages! However, today I use journals for a different reason. First, they are my therapy! Second, they are a record of my struggles, triumphs, and answered prayers I plan to use bits and pieces of through my future novels. In the end, I guess each of us needs to decide whether journaling is right for us… and if it can help or hurt our writing goals. Thanks for your honesty. I’ve never considered why someone wouldn’t want to journal. 🙂

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