Getting those buzzing bees in your brain down on paper might just get them out your head. At least for a while.
That, in turn, will give your body time to breathe.
My previously published “Coping in Self-Quarantine: 13 Things to Do Hunkered Down” included #5: Start Journaling! Though I only gave it a few sentences there, I’m seeing vast waterfalls of worry out there – almost every drop deserved – so I’m giving this proven self-help idea a more detailed gung-ho.
I’m a lifelong journaler and a believer in its remarkable healing effects. It alone will not get you through stress and trauma – all tools of mind and spirit you’ve built up ‘til now should be at hand. But it’s a darn good tool, and, if you want to raise concerns while lowering blood pressure, among the best.
Julia Cameron, author of creator inspiration guide The Artist’s Way (highly recommended) says: “When we write by hand, we connect to ourselves. We may get speed and distance when we type, but we get a truer connection – to ourselves and our deepest thoughts – when we actually put pen to page.”
She’s right. It’s liberating to step away from the screen and scritch.
You do not have to be a “writer” to be a good journaller or get something out of it. You do not have to have good handwriting. (Hello, doctors!) You don’t have to know “your” from “you’re,” but while “you’re” at it, please DO. (I’ll be here all week.)
Write like you talk, scribble like you think, one sentence after another, one worry after another, one win after win, one paragraph at a time. Or maybe there are no graphs. Maybe it’s a rambling run-on. Buzz on, bees! Take this, paper! And this! Curse. Yell. Negotiate. Document. Write.
How many pages a day? Julia says “3.” Agree. Some days, it’s a plod to 3, some days you will leave 3 in your rear view mirror.
You do not need fancy, really nice journals to be a journaller, so of course, I have this affiliate link for fancy, really nice ones (Cha-ching!)
I love humble school notebooks, or, for even more unfiltered, let-it-loose thinking: legal pads. Randy gifted me used ones from her corporate days. These slimmed-down beauties take ideas like, well, a pro.
As for new, mint-condition legal pads, Earthwise is affordable – check current price – and is 100% recycled. The stock has a good “hand feel,” but not so nice you’ll have that “oh, this paper is so nice, I can’t mark it up” feeling.
How to begin? Grab the closest pad and a favorite pen. Write this sentence: “Wow, I cannot believe this day.” (Expand on that.) Or here’s a better one: “I have a lot to be grateful for, I guess.” (Like what?) Or be not that high-minded. “You know what makes me mad? Drivers who don’t use turn signals!” (This one is personal for me.)
A historian on Twitter last week also recommended journaling, but he had a loftier lens and more academic focus. “In these extraordinary times, write down what you are seeing, hearing, feeling,” he said. “Future generations will want to read every word.” Hmmm. I dunno. I believe in the future – yay, go, future – but in my journals I am not writing for prosperity. Egads, no. I would have to start using words like “egads.”
I throw my journals in a closet, and then often, scandalously, into recycling. I don’t care. Those are my first-first-first drafts. If an idea is worth preserving, I do know how to type. Watch: sjie5 sjo38745 hkjj!
“Hey, Walt! What’s this journaling ‘mental health benefit’ of which you speak?” Bottom line: I find that journaling makes me feel 17.5% better every day. 17.5%was also the commission advertising agencies used to charge in the 1980s. Coincidence?
I do feel compelled to put a non-jokey warning here. In your writing, you might reach a catharsis. You might hit a point where you put down the pen and cry. Good. Tears are good. They are a release. That’s called grieving. It’s human, it’s real and it’s necessary. It’s the “keeping it in” that is driving you crazy.
Overall, of course, your mileage may vary. But if you could do something that might make you feel 17.5% better (at least eventually) and, if so desired, preserve your thoughts, would you do it?
My late Mom thought so. She was profusive journaller of every family visit, every lunch, every trip to River Roads Shopping Center. I have boxes of her journals in my basement. Heck, I think we all do.
Wait a minute! This has been an idea from my Mom all along!
Well then, there you have it. Take it from her, take it from me:
Mark your marks on the world.
Write stuff down.