Category Archives: Journal Writing

Metamorphosis through art and journaling

It’s always a huge privilege to talk to artists about their work. I find it brings their creations to life for me in a way I don’t know that I’d get just by viewing their work in a gallery. I love to understand their process, the questions they begin with, the choices they make and how these present themselves.

Creating art is vital to our humanity, though often in our utilitarian, materialistic worldview it is more convenient, or more practical, to believe otherwise. However I am a fan of art and artists.

As a journal writer I like to reflect on what art has given me whenever I have encountered it. A couple of weeks ago I enjoyed a fabulous conversation with Swindon-based multi-media artist Jill Carter. Her collection Curious Narratives contains drawings, found items, photographs, stitched dolls, journals and items to wear, chronicling her time travelling in Italy, in search of the mythical Sybils, the prophetic women of the Classical world.

The Sybils

Jill’s Sybils, depicted here in pen and ink, are left to right a doll, a healer and a donor. It feels like these are symbols of her process and motivation.

I am intrigued by what dolls, and stitching, mean to Jill. Both are central to her work. Jill tells me that dolls signify our childlike creativity and expression, but she also considers them to be the story keepers, representing ritual and spiritual healing, like religious icons.

After working in social settings Jill describes feeling overwhelmed by people’s stories and how she felt herself being drawn to stitching dolls. I wonder whether this is about containment, holding in that which we cannot process or resolve. It’s like praying, transferring our pain onto an inanimate approximation of ourselves, in the hope of transformation. And the thought occurs to me that this could be why some people find dolls creepy – the artificial, frozen features are the repositories of unidentified fear and suffering.

After the stitching comes the healing. This feels like integration, and is akin for me to journaling. Once we are healed, once we have that clarity, then we can give. It is a metamorphosis of sorts.

Where are you on the journey from stitching to giving? How does your journal and your process help you heal?

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What would Nathan do?

It’s day 3 of the 30 day digital journaling challenge and I’m thrilled to be on-board, gaining insights into the journaling progress of so many wonderful people around the world, and also experiencing a new form of journaling for myself.

It’s early days – and I know myself well enough to recognise my penchant and enthusiasm for shiny new things, which can wane after a while, and when real life kicks in – but at the moment I am astounded by the fluency and ease with which my journal entries are tapping themselves out onto my keyboard.

I’ve always been an advocate of handwritten journals, and will never give up the joy of ink and paper, especially when it is beautifully bound, and feels satisfyingly weighty to hold. Plus the fact that I consider writing to be a physical act, involving real fine motor skill and miraculous neural links and networks. Somehow typing has been to this what I would consider Tiger Woods’ Wii golf to be to the real game.

However.

The real reason for this blog  is not to talk about how excited I am to be typing my journal for a change. (Though for anyone wondering what I’m using I have to confess to just creating dated documents in polaris on my android tablet and backing them up to Dropbox.)

No.

The real reason for this entry today is because I want to say a huge, public thank you to Nathan Ohren and his team for making the digital journaling challenge possible – and for being such an engaging and big-hearted champion for personal empowerment through expressive journaling.

I first ‘met’ Nathan in Spring 2013 when he interviewed me for his JournalTalk podcast series. What a great idea! And he turned out to be a great communicator and an excellent talk-show host. Since then he and I have been friends in the social media space and I am always delighted when he contributes his comments in response to events in my life.

Nathan Ohren

So when he invited me to be part of the current challenge I was very honoured. I admire his enthusiasm and drive and willingness to help others achieve their best. I have to admit that sometimes when I’m stuck in my work, wondering how best to contact a prospect or client, or trying to address a thorny communication issue, I often ask myself what Nathan would do. It always helps.

Without wishing to make Nathan blush any more, I’m wondering if this in itself could be a journaling exercise? To identify someone with qualities you admire and wish to emulate; and to enquire, open-heartedly, about what they would do in your shoes when facing a tricky problem.

And don’t forget to thank them when you get the chance.

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Swindon Celebrates International Women’s Day 8 March 2014

IWD2014Poster

Once again the women of Swindon are gathering to celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March.

A packed programme of workshops, art and craft displays, talks, poetry recitals, singing and dancing is planned to take place around the Central Library and Art Galleries adjacent to Regent’s Circus.

The theme of the day is RESPECT NOT VIOLENCE – taking a stand against violence against women – and the Balloon Launch at 1pm will represent the hopes of Swindon’s men and women that RESPECT will always win through.

I’ll be running a short journaling workshop at 1.30 on the 2nd floor of the Library – so come along and learn how to discover your inner icon through reflective writing.

Look forward to seeing you!

 

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Lessons from Milner – expressing thoughts in their wholeness

Uh-oh.

It’s not quite been 20 years but there is something of the Rip van Winkle about the sleepiness of this blog.

Since reading Marion Milner my approach to journaling has shifted. And it has resulted in my living more – and writing less.

This has always been a conundrum for me. Reflective practice ought not to stifle action. It ought to stimulate action and ensure its enhanced authenticity. Being a lover of action I guess I’d always felt a bit awkward about the reflective bit and have always wanted to strike a respectable balance between the two.

Through Milner I have discovered a fascinating journaling trick which has been like super-charging my life with lightning.

Here’s what she says:

“I must learn to maintain a vigilance, not against wrong thoughts but against refusal to recognise any thought.”

At first I didn’t want to accept that I too may have been refusing to recognise certain of my thoughts. But then when I did, and when I then began to express those thoughts in my journal, things really started to shift in my outer life.

Our inner censors are so insidious and wily. No matter how articulate we are in talking about them, no matter how aware we are of their strange potential to sabotage us, they always find a way to sneak under the radar.

I noticed my inner censor was acting all rational on me. And who doesn’t want to be rational, right? But it was hiding in plain sight, making me think that rational is good, rational is me – when all along it jolly well isn’t.

My inner censor was stopping me from dreaming, and even though dream-like thoughts would nudge at me these were typically not the ones I would write about.

Suddenly when I took Milner’s advice things started to happen. It felt different to express all my thoughts – especially the ones that my inner censor would have been carefully corralling previously. But the results have been transformational.

Try it. Don’t let your inner censor lull you to sleep. Pay attention to the dreams you have when you’re awake. Be vigilant. Be alive.

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Give the gift of journaling this Christmas

Take a moment to think about your closest friends. What’s the gift that would be perfect for them this Christmas?

For most of us we wish our friends happiness, health and peace of mind – so why not give them the gift of journaling this year, and help them discover their inner wisdom and resourcefulness for a happy, healthy and peaceful life?Give the gift of journaling this Christmas

Bundled up with a handmade notebook and pen The Journal Writer’s Handbook is the perfect gift for anyone who wants to make 2014 their best year yet. It contains exercises and prompts to encourage even the most nervous of writers, and lots of examples of how others have used their journals to uncover incredible insights about their own experience.

NB. Notebook and pen not included!

You can buy the Handbook direct from me  if you’re in the UK and I’ll be sure you receive your copies straightaway. Just go ahead and click on the book image to the right and start solving your Christmas gift quandaries today!

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What has journaling helped you achieve?

I’m curious. For all you dyed-in-the-wool journal writers out there – what are the things that you have made possible for yourself just by keeping a regular reflective record of your thoughts and experience?

Maybe it’s something small but incremental. Or maybe it’s something way more significant and challenging.

Recently I got some feedback from one reader that The Journal Writer’s Handbook had made her think so differently about what she was doing with her life post-retirement that she went out and booked a 3 month round the world cruise. Wow.

And another reader who struggles with insomnia was simply delighted to have had a good night’s sleep after spending a few minutes scribbling down her thoughts before turning out the light.

For me the reflective way has helped me cure my back pain, supported me through times of grief and disappointment, and continues to inspire me with new ideas for writing.

So over to you – what would you never have done without your journal?

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Are you an expressive or reflective journal writer?

It’s interesting to pay attention to our thinking around our journal writing practice.

As you approach your journal, do you know what you’re going to write about? Are you recording bits and pieces from your day, a snippet of conversation, a joke you heard, an interesting person you met who made you think?

Or do you dive in and just allow your pen to move across the page, without any premeditated direction or intentional end point?

It’s delicious to spend time writing and finish up somewhere unexpected, or simply in a place of deep satisfaction. I suspect this is more achievable when we do no more than express our thoughts as opposed to reflect on them.

But the distinction between expression and reflection is subtle. And it all starts with how aware we are of our thought process – and how quickly we are moved to interpret our thinking.

I recently realised that much of my journal writing was governed by my need to understand and rationalise what occurs in my experience. As a result much of what I wrote was already heavily censored before it reached the page. Of course I am very adept at tricking myself that what I am writing is authentic expression – but so much has already happened in my cognition before the pen makes its mark.

So I tried a different approach. Instead of sub-consciously crafting my words ahead of sitting down with my journal I decided to face up to what I was really thinking about, and write that down instead.

The results have been remarkable.

Firstly I can see that much of what I think about is pretty trivial. This is very humbling – and means that I can relax a bit out of my self-imposed intellectualisations. I’m just human after all – who knew?

Secondly I noticed an intense period of dreaming. As if my sub-conscious mind had been unleashed, and was determined to show me its wisdom. What was interesting was also that using my journal to record my dreams was good practice in just expressing the thoughts that were in my head, without analysis and reflection. When I found myself writing about a gentleman trying to teach a red setter to play golf I knew that I was beginning to permit myself to write anything without interpreting it first!

Thirdly I’ve noticed an increased facility with the language I’m using to describe my thoughts and experiences. This is great news for a writer! The words seem to be coming from a different place – an embodied place rather than an intellectual place. I love this particularly because I’m fascinated and encouraged by the physical, intuitive intelligence of my body. And now it’s helping me improve my vocabulary – awesome!

So what do you need to do to become more expressive in your journal? Free-writing, dream-recording and simply paying attention to the actual thoughts that occupy us are useful first steps.

Go play – and let me know how you get on!

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