Category Archives: Journal Writing

How to be less conformist

What is it to conform?

Clearly if you’re behind the wheel of a car your best bet is to obey the rules of the road and travel in the same direction as those vehicles on your carriageway.

Conformity can mean safety.  Intuitively we know when safety is key. Non-conformity on a dual carriageway is literally, potentially fatally, dodgy.

But are there any times when there are risks associated with conformity?

Readers of The Journal Writer’s Handbook pose the question “How can I be less conformist, more originally me?” They are perceiving that there is a deficit that is triggered by conformity, some kind of theft of their originality.

Journaling is a good opportunity to recognise our authentic self – but that doesn’t automatically result in ease around non-conformity. We might know what’s good for us, but actually living that out in reality, other than in the confines of our private notebook, is another matter.

What would people say? How would your friends react? What would your family think?

Conforming is very much about our perception of others’ comfort; it’s about towing the line, or writing our story within the lines. It’s about following rules, obligations, expectations that are designed to make life easier, more straightforward, where we can just swoosh off one assumption onto another, like bouncing from one smooth cushion of air to the next.

Conformity is comfortable. On the outside. For others. No special arrangements or attitudes need to be adopted. Everyone, it can be assumed, is just like us.

But where our Truth is at odds with conformity, what then? Do we have to live a secret agony, having to hide who we really are from the rest of the world?

What’s the price of being true to ourselves? And expressing that out in the world? What does it take to shake off the fear that non-conformity brings?

I don’t recommend trying to drive the wrong way along a carriageway, but perhaps one small act of defiance can help us grasp who we might really be under the conformity cloak.

Baby steps. What non-conformity will you permit yourself today? And what would be its impact?

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February 14, 2019 · 6:12 pm

Journaling for truth

The reason to write a journal is not simply to have a notebook full of scribblings.

That’s not the result we journal writers are looking for.

Yes, an array of beautifully bound journals bulging with ink can look impressive on a bookshelf. They can provide “something sensational to read on the train” as Oscar Wild would have it. But that’s not the reason we write.

The English artist LS Lowry, famed for his matchstick men, explained in an interview that the reason he paints is to try and understand life. His creative task was all about enquiry rather than representation – and it feels to me that this is true of most sincere efforts to explore creatively, and to give range to the imagination.

One of my workshop attendees told me that she writes to find out “what’s really going on with me”.

And this feels closer to the truth about why we journal writers are compelled to put our thoughts on paper.

But it’s not even as if we need to spend much time re-reading and re-interpreting what we’ve put down. By moving our pen across the page and allowing words to form at the end of it, we are already engaging in a sometimes alchemical process of revealing “what’s really going on”. A cursory review, perhaps a couple of days later, can often show us a surprising profundity and thread of integrity. We may not have ever suspected what lay within us, what was ready to be expressed if only it was given a conduit.

The pen is mightier than the sword, so it is said. The pen can certainly give us access to truths we might have suspected, but never really brought to life.

So the result I’m seeking as a journal writer is to unveil my truth. To feel it emerge, and to enquire into it once it has “landed” in a form of words on the page in front of me.

Often I will refute it. It might embarrass me. But then the next layer of enquiry must be applied. What is being embarrassed? Is that the real me?

Sometimes it will feel affirmative. It is something I have long had an inkling about – how wonderful to finally give it some inky shape!

Occasionally real magic happens. I review my writing and notice a spelling mistake. But the word that I have seemingly formed in error is actually the exact word required. There is a Freudian realisation that the truth of my sub-conscious can and will emerge as I move my pen across the paper.

Our journal is the place where we can begin to recognise the power of our sub-conscious, and where we can dare to explore the effects of our ego mind on how far we are living our truth. And once its sitting there on the page we can choose what to do with it next.

What’s really going on for you?

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January 22, 2019 · 2:45 pm

Words for a New Year

2019 is here – and since I was born in 1969 this means it’s a big year.

But a New Year is big for all of us. It’s a new beginning. A new opportunity. It’s time to embrace life and make it awesome.

Around social media I’ve seen a number of coaches and writers extolling the virtues of picking a word for the year that sums up our intention for the 12 months ahead. And this is the time – in these early days of January, before we have to stop wishing everyone Happy New Year – to set that intention, to choose our word.

What is the word that encapsulates your intention for the coming year?

It might be a word that evokes a feeling, or that provides focus, or inspiration. It might be the name of a place or a person that represents that which we are aspiring to. It might be a colour; or a quality. Are you intending to have a red hot year? Or are you looking for serenity?

Something I have rediscovered over the past 18 months is my delight in dance. I began attending 5 Rhythms classes in Spring 2017 and I started to understand something new about myself that I had barely glimpsed before: namely that when I move my body to music it never fails to calm me, make me smile, feel joyful – and connected to the real me.

Strangely, when my son was very young and attending nursery school his teacher asked him one day “What does your Mum do?”

I expect she was anticipating being told about my job, which at the time was IT Project Manager. But this is not what my son knew nor could explain. Rather, he described what could only be his own perception of what I actually did most of the time he was with me: “She dances,” he replied.

There is something wonderfully surprising, yet also delightfully obvious about his observation. I always have music playing, so I always am dancing. Simple as that.

So in the spirit of this energetic truth about who I am and what I do, at least in the eyes of my now 21 year old son who rolls his eyes whenever he finds me boogieing in the kitchen, my word for 2019, the year of my half century, is Dance – with all the rhythm, joy, passion, movement, and stillness that that activity evokes.

What word will you choose for 2019? What does it evoke for you? How does it relate to your true self?

Set your intention in your journal – and enjoy responding to it as the year unfolds.

dynamic dance

 

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January 2, 2019 · 3:58 pm

An alternative Christmas list

The thought occurred to me just this morning that a lovely gift to receive at Christmas would be a list of reminders.

Sometimes it would be nice to be reminded of the things we love but always forget to buy for ourselves. Like candles, or bath salts, or underwear, or thermals, or new ink.

In my case I play golf but I forget that I need golf balls or a towel to wipe my clubs on, or a new club head cover for my driver.

It would be lovely to receive such a list from someone who knows us well, who has watched us navigate through our various activities and listened to our joys and frustrations. Someone who has taken notice, then taken the time to note it all down.

Of course you could argue that such a person would probably do as well to buy us the little things we forget to acquire ourselves. But there remains in my mind something delicious about receiving a list that begins: “I know how much you enjoy your candlelit bathtimes, and your morning coffee with your journal and fresh ink, and hitting a clean shot on the golf course, and being warm, and wearing something slinky underneath…so I suggest your list of things to remember for yourself includes….”

Sometimes the gift of acknowledgement and recognition is worth a million parcels! And next Christmas I won’t be at a loss to know what to ask for!

Perhaps our journal can play this list-making role for us. It certainly is a great tool for our self-care.

So what list of reminders would your journal write for you? Take up your pen and invite your journal to remind you of the little things that bring you most joy, that you can give to yourself throughout the year.

Happy Christmas.

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December 12, 2018 · 12:51 pm

Journaling to fit – or fit in?

I’m thinking a lot at the moment about my life and my experience. I guess I’ve always been the same. It’s always preoccupied me how I be part of the whole without losing my individuality.

Wondering how to fit in is an insidious past-time. It becomes an obsession – what others think of us, how we will be judged, whether we will be rejected.

It causes us to lead fearful and sometimes paralysed existences.

Much better then to be fit – for our own purpose.

And in my understanding this means figuring out how to be our best self. How to become aware of what drives us and inspires us; how to weigh our strengths and weaknesses, and how to figure out what we should do about these.

Do we blow our trumpet about our strengths to drown out our weaknesses? Do we justify our weaknesses and attribute them to our less than perfect life experiences? Do we blame others for them?

I’ve frequently read some very wise words about how to deal with our weaknesses. Namely, we need to accept them, and, if we’re brave enough, dive into them to see what is under the surface of them.

What needs are being expressed through our weaknesses?

Once we get that far we have a bit of a conundrum. Perhaps our needs are unconventional. Perhaps we might start worrying that fully owning our needs will cause us to be ostracised by society.

It’s tempting to allow external judgements to cause us to stifle and deny our needs. It is also important to remember that our own ego will taunt us with its own souped-up version of  external judgements to keep us stuck and towing the line.

But if we’ve explored our weaknesses reflectively and honestly, in a way that is true to who we are, then we can begin to imagine how best to fulfil our needs in their entirety, without compromising our best self.

As reflective writers, our journal is absolutely the laboratory for this kind of investigation.

Our life experience becomes the dance between fitting in and being fit for our own purpose. Our journal is the place where we can test our thoughts and imagine a life lived according to what we think, rather than what we think others think.

jigsaw-hans-peter-gauster-252751-unsplash

(I love the image of the jigsaw pieces by Hans Peter Gauster on Unsplash. It is a great metaphor for our uniqueness. And the notion that unless we know all our edges and curves and irregularities we can never know exactly where or how we fit in. But that when we boldly show all of our shape it becomes obvious who we are and that we are the only one who can complete the picture.)

 

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December 11, 2018 · 12:24 pm

Why journaling’s time is now

I’ve been a journal writer forever. And I’ve been a personal development junkie (in the nicest possible way) since about 1999.

I’ve done all sorts on this journey – trained as a coach, run workshops, taken mindfulness talks into schools when hardly anyone in schools was practicing mindfulness… I’ve even feigned a 3 year old’s tantrum in a seminar full of solicitors, to try and show them the power of perspective. It was not one of my highlights.

And all through this process I’ve kept a journal. In 2012 I published a book about it too.

But it’s only really now that I think the time for journaling has truly come.

Why?

Here’s my list:

  1. We live in a world that is becoming increasingly fake and flakey. It’s difficult to know whether we are being told the truth on numerous scores. Sorting out our own subjective reality and experience – and training ourselves to be as honest and impeccable about that as possible – is important for our sanity. Journaling supports that.
  2. We have no control over anything other than ourselves. If we want to make any kind of change in the world we need to start with ourselves as individuals. Journaling gives us that space to know ourselves.
  3. Originality and innovation start in the imagination. If we want to contribute freshness to our world we need to give ourselves permission to explore our own imaginations and escape the cookie-cutter approach of our education. Journaling totally enables that.
  4. Independence of thought is vital to a fulfilling life. Otherwise we risk following the sheeple and missing out on the reason we’re here, or, better put, the infinite number of potential reasons we’re here. Journaling gives us the power and practice to think for ourselves.
  5. Finding a purpose for ourselves, and being able to regularly remind ourselves of that purpose through reflective writing, brings us inspiration and joy in life. Then we can take less notice of the sheeple s**t. Journaling is a great vehicle for purposeful exploration.
  6. And last but not least, as with meditation, we can train our egos to calm down and tune in more frequently to the under-pinning principles that make life worth living – those of Love and Compassion. Journaling gives us a private space to do this without spiritual by-passing; a place where we can vent our shadow side and gently bring ourselves back to our Truth.

Dr Jordan Peterson advocates self-authoring to determine for ourselves what path we wish to take in life, and to figure out how to discipline ourselves to get there. I agree with him – and I also think giving ourselves time to smell the roses is important too.

Honesty, individuality, imagination, independence, purpose, love and compassion are some of life’s sweetest scented blooms. Don’t miss out.

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November 28, 2018 · 10:22 am