The Many Faces of Journaling
by Steph Beth Nickel
Have you ever opened your electronic journal or notebook and simply written, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”? I have. Maybe not with that many Hs, but you get the idea.
I’ve also written what Julia Cameron refers to as Morning Pages, three pages of whatever pops into my mind (also known as “stream of consciousness writing”). Cameron recommends doing so first thing in the morning to clear out the cobwebs. I should probably get back to this practice.
Journaling is a wonderful way of expressing our frustration, clearing out those cobwebs, and what I refer to as “rambling until we stumble upon truth.”
The advantage of journaling is that no one, not one single person, ever has to read what we’ve written. We can process thoughts, emotions, and questions we’re reluctant to share with anyone, even our most trusted friends and family members.
As a Christian, you might be concerned that your journal won’t always overflow with faith-filled declarations. I came to grips long ago that God knows my innermost thoughts and motives already. It’s often good if we face up to them and learn to apply the Truth in genuine, truly lifechanging ways.
Of course, we have much to be thankful for. Gratitude journaling has become a prominent idea, at least as far back as the publication of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. Keeping track of what I’m thankful for is another practice I’d like to get back to.
- An app on your phone, such as Day One or your Notes app.
- Good ole Word on your laptop or desktop.
- A simple notebook and a ballpoint pen.
- An elaborate journal and colourful gel pens.
- An artist’s grade sketchbook, brush markers, washi tape, and stickers.
Lies to Squelch (Trust me, I’ve told myself these lies repeatedly.)
- Each sentence must be perfectly crafted with proper punctuation and no misspelled words. (This is a hard one for writers to set aside, but it’s important to do so.)
- If my writing is horrible… If I can’t find my favourite pen… If my “artwork” looks like a preschoolers got her hands on my supplies… I might as well give up. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
- I must “hold back” for fear someone will come across my journal. (There are ways to ensure this doesn’t happen, including asking your family to respect your privacy and/or tucking away your journal where they will not find it.)
- Pouring out my random thoughts has no benefit.
- God will think less of me for expressing my fears and doubts.
Ways to Get Started
- Give Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages a try for at least a week. She recommends using pen and paper as there is a different neurological connection between brain, pen, and paper than between brain, fingers, and keyboard.
- Pouring out your heart in the form of prayers is a great way to focus. I know praying aloud with others or writing in my prayer journal keeps me focused far better than “saying my prayers” silently.
- Buy a simple notebook to get started. If you spend a lot of money on elaborate supplies and a leather-bound journal with handmade paper (my favourite), you’re less likely to put pen to paper for fear of messing it up.
- Grab a pack of multi-coloured gel pens. Sometimes, just writing with fun-coloured ink can elevate your mood.
- Slap on some stickers. This is one of the easiest ways to express your creativity and summarize the mood or topic you’re dealing with.
Are you a journaler? What are your favourite journaling tools? Is there something you hadn’t thought of that you’re going to try out?
Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org;
join her Facebook group:
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.