When life feels tough and heavy our journal can be nothing short of a life-saver, but journaling is not only for times when our circumstances are difficult. Writing in our journal can also coax out our joyful, playful nature, and this is as valuable in the long run as ‘brain-dumping’ stressful thoughts and emotions.
Play is intrinsic to who we are as human beings. It is a sign of our intelligence; is socially cohesive; provides a contained environment for our competitiveness; offers an opportunity to be other than we usually are; and is an arena for learning about ourselves and others.
So naturally I want to introduce play into the pages of my journal. If I were a photographer or good at drawing or craft my journal might contain visual and tactile play – images, sketches, doodles, swatches of fabric, a whole narrative built around colour, texture and artefact. Creative journaling and scrap-booking help to make our lives look and feel more beautiful – another important function of play.
But I deal in pen-and-ink words. I have no patience for fiddley sticking and drawing. How can I get playful in my journal?
One journaling technique which never fails to get me playing is list-making. I love the extreme challenge of “100 things in 10 minutes”, and I can choose a topic such as “things that make me laugh”, or “favourite games”. The structure and constraints of the list operate like the rules of a game; the topic of the list lends it its fun element; and because it’s a private journaling exercise, with no right and wrong, I can be as candid or rebellious as I like.
Another idea which requires the ultimate act of play – that of assuming a radically different perspective from that we would normally adopt – is writing metaphorically. Metaphor sounds complicated. It can be complicated to explain – but it is surprisingly easy to use. In fact it’s as if our brains are wired for metaphor. Try this exercise: cast yourself as a household object, a favourite literary character, a colour, an odour, or a piece of music, and write about your day from that perspective. Once I reflected on what my life would be like lived at the pace of a power-saw – the prevalent sound I could hear from my journal-writing spot. It contained a salutary lesson, and spawned a greater appreciation for the incredible wisdom we are capable of when we allow ourselves to play.
By journaling about the playful things that bring us joy we become more familiar with them, and we prepare ourselves to accept and embrace them into our lives. This is how playfulness on the page translates into playfulness in our real lives.