Sunday, May 25, 2014

On the Journal: Part 2


              According to a bunch of articles on the subject of journaling, what I have been doing is writing a diary. This is not a dictionary distinction, but one made by those who view the business of journals in a serious light. 
Diaries (according to Cheryl Craigie) are simply records of daily life. Like my lists, for instance.  A journal, on the other hand, is “a repository for all of the things that interest and inspire you. It also provides a safe environment to experiment and grow creatively.”
Wow. That kind of sounds like work to me. Something that only serious authors are allowed to create. Yet Craigie’s article claims it’s fun.
Myrko Thum says the journal is a conduit for self-reflection, goal setting, and fulfilling those goals as promises to ourselves.  It’s a planner, an idea repository. This sounds more like my lists. Although it appears to be easier to write than hauling a book around everywhere to jot down ideas and creative events, this kind of record seems to be even more serious minded.
Speaking of serious, there are lots of online articles on journaling as therapy. For instance, many psychologists and psychiatrists employ the technique as treatment for depression, PTSD, social and medical difficulties. That totally reminds me of the blogs I wrote while undergoing treatment for breast cancer. It truly was therapeutic and even, so I was told, helped some others get through the same experience.
Educators use journals for practicing of grammar and spelling skills. As a teacher, I sometimes read the journals, and sometimes the students told me it was private. In both cases, I never marked the entries, and, after a while, most of the children appeared to enjoy the process. Perhaps this is what has been missing in my personal journal experience: stick-to-itiveness.
Other experts emphasize the thoughtfulness of journal writing. We take time out for ourselves. We focus on our inner reactions, emotions, and ideas that we don’t want to share aloud. It’s a sense of exerting control on our environment by examining our experiences and labeling them. A few minutes of quiet, individual deliberation tucked into a busy, loud, crowded world.

Peggy Nolan, in the Huffington Post, gives twenty-six reasons for keeping a daily journal. Some of them include accountability and reduction of stress.
Personally, my stress level went up just thinking about having to write in the journal every single day. I guess that’s my aforementioned lack of self-discipline speaking, which prompts me to wonder if I ought to impose some kind of writing schedule on myself. Perhaps I’d write more than a few short stories per year and a novel every other year.

Maybe I’d find peace of mind. Wikipedia calls journals “windows to the soul”. What if they’re right? I haven’t kept my window open for very long. Maybe I should change that.
Phylameana lila Desy claims that the act of writing a journal “drains the brain of mindless clutter”. That is definitely something I can use. Julia Cameron in “The Artist’s Way” recommends writing every morning to clear out useless data and negative emotions so we can start our day fresh and unencumbered. Sounds like a fabulous idea to me. Probably much better than reading a newspaper filled with the terrible acts that humans commit.
My brief foray into journal research has convinced me. I am going to try it—on a daily basis, not sporadically. For me, it could me an exercise in self-discipline. Want to join me? I’ll let you know how my experiment goes. Feel free to share yours!  cathy@catherineastolfo.com
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