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!