A Tool for the Spirit
By Susie Cortright
The fountain of personal wisdom may be as close as your nearest
That's because keeping a personal journal can be a powerful way
to ease anxiety and nurture your spirit.
The word "journal" may mean 100 different things to 100
different people. For a psychologist, it denotes a tool for a patient's
self-analysis. For the writer, it may be a notebook of ideas and ramblings. For
most of us, the word denotes a day-to-day diary, a log of action and reaction.
For me, a journal is a notebook of ideas and solutions that I
have discovered using my conscious and subconscious mind.
Journaling is a remarkable device for easing worry and
obsession, for identifying hopes and fears, and for allowing your creative self
Journaling harnesses the power to tap into successively deeper
layers of your subconscious mind while it zaps the nervous, passive energy that
ties your stomach in knots and leads to more guilt and worry.
Journals are tools to help you discover the wisdom you already
possess. Sometimes, this wisdom will surprise you. Other times, it will
challenge you. Always, it will come directly from you, empowering you to trust
yourself and to take action by giving you the deep-seated knowledge that you
know more than you think you do.
In addition to revealing your personal insight and wisdom, the
journaling process can help dispel feelings of loneliness and confusion by
helping you discover a unity within yourself.
As your conscious and subconscious mind work together to solve
problems in black-and-white, the ideas are validated and more easily applied,
even if you never share these ideas with a soul.
Writing for Insight
The act of writing has tremendous potential to tap the
subconscious and to arrange conscious thoughts in a clear pattern as words flow
from your mind down your arm, into your hand and across the page.
But first you must banish your internal editor by: * Writing
quickly, allowing the words to freefall from your subconscious.
* Writing continuously. Don't erase or cross-out any words.
Date each entry in your journal. Note the time, place, and any
details regarding your mood and emotions that will be necessary for context when
you read back on your work.
After you've finished a journal entry, take a walk or get up for
a glass of water before you reread your entry, and remember to reread your
writing with compassion.
Then, write an Insight Line--a sentence or two about what you
think the piece is trying to tell you.
There are as many journaling techniques as there are people who
practice the craft. The important thing is to explore the underlying layers of
your mind--using whatever conduit works for you.
Get creative with the techniques you use. We all have a
subconscious mind that communicates to us in a different way.
If you are stuck and have nothing to write, try recording
snippets of conversations, facts, feelings, fantasies, descriptions,
impressions, quotes, images, and ideas. Draw pictures. Make a collage from a
Use the technique that best suits the way in which you express
yourself. You know your own mind and how it best communicates with the world.
Clustering is one method that works well when the ideas don't
flow on their own. Put the central idea in the center of the page and circle it.
Then, without pause, make associations, placing them in new bubbles and tying
them to the main idea.
The result is a complex matrix of ideas, many of which you
didn't even know you had. If you wish, compose these thoughts later into a
cohesive essay that says exactly what you want to say. Or simply move on.
What You Need to Begin Journaling
* Paper. The only thing you need is a notebook so your ideas
don't get lost. Some journal-writers swear by the loose-leaf notebooks so they
can insert pages, but I'm always afraid of losing some of the more personal
pages, and I don't want anything to inhibit my ability to write freely and
Other journal-writers opt for the expensive, hard-bound
journals, reasoning that the journal will be a keepsake.
These work just fine, as long as you are able to write freely in
such a formal book. Some of the things you will be writing will not be pretty.
If you are afraid of making mistakes or you feel inhibited with this kind of
notebook, you're better off with a plain old spiral bound from Wal-Mart (my
Some of you will be creating more drawings than essays. If
that's you, consider a wire-bound sketch pad.
* Pen. Treat yourself to just the right pen. Test some of the
expensive pens. See how they feel in your hand and how the ink rolls across the
page. The best choice is one that allows you to write quickly and smoothly.
I personally love the easy-flow fountain pens because the color
comes out so bold that it makes me feel more confident. And it practically
glides itself across the page.
* Environment. Your journal should always be there when you need
it. Write on the bus, in the office, or late at night when insomnia strikes. If
you have the time, a regular writing ritual can be very soothing.
If you do wish to write in the same place and at the same time
every day, create the ideal writing space for you. Maybe you're most comfortable
in a rocking chair surrounded by pillows and candles and Schubert tunes. Or
maybe you prefer silence and a cherry wood desk or a gentle breeze and a rickety
Whether you set a time for writing each day or you do it on the
fly, make sure the time you spend writing in your journal is time solely devoted
to you and your task.
an online magazine devoted to helping busy women find balance. A writer and
designer, she enjoys helping moms preserve and record their precious
memories. You can get Susie's advanced scrapbooking tips