Tag Archives: independent thinking

Become an outrageous rock star – or write a journal

Although a teen of the 80s I used to be really into David Bowie’s albums from the 70s – Diamond Dogs, Aladdin Sane, Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust – so last evening I was interested to see Cracked Actor, the BBC’s 1975 documentary about Bowie’s conquest of America.

Coincidentally I’d mentioned Bowie in the journaling workshop last week, and how as journal writers we might learn from part of his creative process – chopping up different words and phrases and randomly piecing them back together to generate lyrics. Sure enough there he was in the documentary carefully piecing together little strips of paper with snippets of sentences. I got excited. He then went on to mention how he’d taken this approach with old diaries he’d kept, chopping them up and rearranging them in ways he claimed actually seemed to predict the future. I got very excited.

Since Bowie hasn’t been much in the public eye for a while I’d forgotten how candidly he speaks, and how he takes care to describe his experiences in simile and analogy, likening his rise to fame to the sensation of accelerating really fast, when you’re not quite sure whether you’re enjoying it or not. He also referred to the precariousness of earthquake-prone Los Angeles, and how he always felt an underlying tension and unease about the place because of it. And when asked why he’d taken on so many Americanisms since he arrived in the US he likened himself to a fly floating around in his milk carton – a foreign body getting a whole lot of milk!

One of the American interviewers from the time got irate with Bowie’s seemingly evasive attitude, accusing him of speaking in riddles, but personally I love this metaphorical approach to reflection, and believe it can often reveal more truth than literal responses.

The other thing that excited me from a journaling perspective was Bowie’s explanation about the different characters he portrays in his music. He said he believes that we are all made up of so many different personality facets, and his character creations were his way of exploring his own make up. He then commented that if he’d encouraged other people to explore some of the different characters that make them up then that’s something.

So journal writers there are things to learn from the Thin White Duke. But if becoming a Bowie tribute act is not quite in your grasp, take up your journal instead.

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Filed under Creative process, Journal Writing

Journaling exercises for International Women’s Day

It’s been a wonderful day celebrating womanhood with other Swindon women here in our corner of north east Wiltshire.

The workshop was warm, companionable and productive, with everyone participating in journaling exercises using the following kick-off phrases:

The best thing about being a woman is…

I can’t imagine living without…

The most important thing to me is…

The simplest step I can take next is…

And we also tried communing with our creative selves using the prompt Dear Creative Self. Two or three of our number discovered that our creativity is a bit narked that we aren’t making better use of it!

Before the Day draws to a close, try writing a letter to womanhood, addressing it Dear Sister. What message can you glean from her?

And last but not least thanks to all those lovely ladies who came along to the workshop today. You make my work a joy.

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Journaling and the value of inner independence on International Women’s Day 2013

The creaking mechanism of my groping intellect has finally spewed out the following thoughts on independence – did you hear the clunk?

First a little bit of context: for International Women’s Day tomorrow I’m joining the women of Swindon Wiltshire in celebration at Central Library, and delivering a very short journaling taster workshop at 2pm. By way of reflecting on the links that Swindon women have with Nepal, Aghanistan and Pakistan, and with many other nations around the world, I wrote the following intro to my workshop. There are exercises to go with this and I’ll publish these tomorrow. Or, if you can get along to the library in Swindon come and join in for yourself!

“We have many privileges as western women – full and equal access to democratic processes, education, employment, and the right to live outwardly independent lives.

When we reflect on the lives of women in places like Nepal, Afghanistan and Pakistan we are shocked by the cultural norms in those countries that disempower women and prevent them from living as freely and independently as we do.

And yet I suspect that in the face of adversity, and barred from the outward experiences that many of us enjoy, those women have a great clarity and independence of thought. Ironically, although traditionally they have fewer opportunities in life than westerners, it is possible that they have greater mental independence than many of us in our ‘information-overload’ society.

Here in the west so much of what we think these days is subject to what other people want us to think.

When we were growing up we only had to contend with our parents, our schools, our peers, newspapers, magazines, the radio and the TV. These days it’s all that PLUS the internet, social media, websites, forums, 24 hour TV, round the clock shopping – the opportunities to be bombarded by information are endless.

Imagine living in a place where information is forbidden. Is prohibition likely to stop us being hungry for information?

If anything, preventing people from being informed only gives them a greater clarity on what it is they wish to be informed about. This comes across over and over on our news channels which conduct interviews with courageous and driven women living under the Taliban regime, at risk of rape and violence in Pakistan, or being held back from employment in Nepal and other countries.

Personally I greatly admire and am moved by the stories I read and listen to about young women who are standing up for their rights and demanding their voice be heard. For them this is the women’s emancipation movement happening a full half century after it happened for us.

We have a duty to bear witness.

And although there is little we can individually do to help (although coming along to events like this makes a huge difference to our awareness) one thing we can do, in fact we must do, is ensure that we don’t squander our own independence of thought on the altar of emancipation.

So we need to be much more careful to take the time to figure out for ourselves what we think.

One way to do this is to develop a practice of reflective journal writing. Putting our thoughts on paper is a great way to dissect them, to understand ourselves and to gain insights into our unique perspective.

It also helps us recognise our own resilient spirit, as well as enabling us to empathise with others, such as our friends in less emancipated countries.

So while it’s IWD and we’re here to experience reflective journal writing, let’s have a go at a few exercises to help us think about womanhood, and create a reflective meditation on solidarity with our counterparts far away.”

Please check out www.the100womenbookproject.com and www.pashtunwomenvp.com

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Filed under Activism, Current Affairs, Reflective Writing Practice

Journaling for inspiration – or just to find out what we know

It’s happened again. One of my readers has mentioned how astonishing it is to find out what comes from the end of their pen when they are journaling.

When we allow ourselves to write, when we just allow the words to flow from the end of our pen without censoring, it is invariably true that whate emerges does so without our control. The words seem to appear undirected. Certainly our conscious minds don’t play a part in dictating what we write. The words come from nowhere that we know about – and astonish us.

Many writers often bemoan the fact that they don’t feel inspired enough to write. We sit with writers’ block, willing it away, trying to ignore it, grasping for that small but perfectly formed idea we need to get us started. (Just as many writers also know that you’ve got to write anyway, even though your conscious mind may not be offering you anything by way of a well-presented thought or argument.)

So here’s the thing. Journaling enables us to write when inspiration is lacking. Instead of being inspired to write, journal writing inspires us. We can start anywhere. As long as we start. Something will pop up. And it will invariably be exactly the thing we need.

Similarly if ever I’m asked what I think about certain things I would have to say in many cases that I have no idea, until I’ve got the time to write about them. I find it very difficult to form an original opinion about complex issues without asking myself the direct question “what do I think about…?” in my journal. Sure I can tell you what others think I ought to think about things. I can tell you what it says I should think on the TV or in the newspapers or on the radio. But I can’t tell what I really think until I’ve turned it over in my journal.

Given this state of affairs I have to get comfortable with the thought that I don’t know a heap of stuff. Every question is a new one. I may have thought one thing about it a while ago, but I may have changed my view. Life, experience and intuition need to be consulted afresh and my journal is the perfect tool for this ever-changing kaleidoscope.

And it’s good to lose control every once in a while. Control is illusory anyway. Far better to be frequently surprised by what we didn’t know we knew than desensitised by what we know we know.

Inspired yet?

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