So here’s the first post in my new blog! The Journal Writer’s Handbook is my upcoming book about the fantastic past time that is journal writing. After months of dithering and making very little progress on my manuscript for The Journal Writer’s Handbook, suddenly today I find myself contemplating its publication date, and thinking about using social media, even a blog, to let the world know about it. And this is what has surprised me – hence my question.
I’ve also been surprised (pleasantly) by being offered editorial space in a local magazine to promote not only the book but a series of journal-writing workshops. Having failed to pull my finger out for rather a long time things are starting to happen that frankly demand that I finish the book and release it into the world. And I’m surprised by what a relief it is.
Anyway, what is the Journal Writer’s Handbook? It’s a book that has resulted from my conviction that reflective writing is one of the most remarkable tools for personal growth and development. It’s cheap, easily accessible (especially once you’ve read the Handbook), doesn’t require any special appointments to be made, and above all is private. Keeping a journal doesn’t involve having to humiliate yourself in front of anyone else, or reveal your deepest and darkest side to relative strangers you’ve paid to listen. No money changes hands – it’s just you, your pen, your journal and however honest you’re prepared to be. (But, as one workshop participant declared: “there’s nowhere to hide when you’re writing to yourself.”)
The Handbook came about when someone told me they’d like me to move into their house and constantly give them journaling exercises to encourage them to write. Otherwise, they admitted, they’d probably find another cake to bake instead. There’s nothing wrong with cake, but I can see how this might become a tiresome procrastination strategy. And seeing that becoming a resident spouter of journaling prompts really wasn’t going to work for my lifestyle I decided it would be much better all round to put together a little book that would take up a lot less room in people’s houses than big ol’ me.
So I wrote it. It turns out to be over 35000 words long – and that was a surprise – with a comprehensive guide to getting started and keeping the momentum going; a quick reference index of exercises to suit various circumstances of life; and a Mood Index, suggesting journaling approaches for different feelings and emotions.
It’s currently in its first galley edition, but it’s well and truly on its way. But if you can’t wait to have a go and see for yourself how illuminating journal writing can be, spend a couple of minutes free-writing in response to these reflective kick-off prompts:
“What’s surprised me most today has been…”
“My usual reaction to surprises is…”
There are no right and wrong answers – just allow your pen to move across the page and see what appears at the end of it. It could be your biggest surprise yet.