Write down your thoughts to release the stress that could be bottling up inside you… it works!
My mind always returns to a cold, October night when words bailed me out. There was my grandfather, lying on an anonymous hospital bed, wired to a frightening maze of tubes. I stared, speechless. Emotion choked my throat but I was completely tearless. It was only when I pulled out my journal and poured words on empty sheets that a deep, private anguish gushed out of me.
We live in times of undue stress. What makes it worst is the absence of those who can be your cushioning comfort, where a listening ear and a willing shoulder were readily available. Often we look around for a soul mate who will share and lighten our burdens, but there is no one. It is at such times that emptying yourself on paper can clean and heal your insides.
It doesn’t have to be all about anguish and anxiety. People take to journal writing for all sorts of reasons. Maybe it isn’t your intent to fill your journal with painful entries you’d rather put behind you (as long as you’ve found your own way of dealing with them). It is probably a historical reason that prompts you to write a journal. You may want your kids and grandkids to know life as it is today, told through the eyes of a man who lived it. Life in the 60s and 70s is already an indistinct blur for most of us, and our kids will inherit the same lack of accounting. You could make the difference by preserving those wonderful memories, trends, lifestyles, family trees and stories, in your journal. Write a journal your kids would love to see – it may be their window to a world they never knew.
Maybe there’s a new man/woman in your life and you want to start a relationship journal. Here, you will record how the relationship progressed, the poetry your eyes and lips inspired in him/her, the warm, happy things you experienced, insights, revelations, what togetherness means to you, some funny anecdotes and so on.
Then, there are those who have put their deepest scars and fears behind bolted doors. It may be the sudden death of a loved spouse, family split, coping with a dreaded disease, or even child abuse. Sometimes, it’s very hard to talk about deep-seated wounds, no matter how close you may be to some people in your life. Use your words to face the truth; confront the pain. Your words have the power to trigger those stubborn tears and you will feel lighter for having shed them in private.
A geriatric hospital in New Hampshire initiated a Reminiscences project where the elderly were encouraged to talk about their lives. The volunteers used idea-sparking triggers – a period vase, a sachet of Earl Grey tea, a family photo album; and the grandchildren of the elderly men and women recorded their thoughts for posterity. Not only does this serve a historical benefit, it also gives the elderly an agenda they eagerly look forward to, a meaning and purpose to their lives in the twilight zone. It puts them back in a time when their bodies were strong, their minds alert, when they felt good about themselves, and thus hastens their recovery, or ta the very least, reduces their suffering.
Some truths about journal writing…
You don’t have to be an accomplished or aspiring writer to keep a journal. Think of yourself as an artist who doodles on a sketch pad. He isn’t concerned with form or technique or colour combination; he’s just exploring the world in the way he knows best. Your spelling could be suspect, and your grammar ineffective, but journal writing is not about punctuation as much as it is about reaching inside and recording your innermost feelings, fears, and fantasies.
To make it an interesting hobby, you must return to your journal everyday. This is not going to happen if you fill up its pages with mundane trivia like what you did from the moment you woke up till the time you went to bed. That, believe me, is the quickest way to kill the joy of journaling. Get in touch with your feelings. Maybe it is a wet, rainy day that brings back memories of just such a day when you were nine. What were you doing? Where were you? Or, write about something that upset your rhythm and how you dealt with it. It could be an entry about a work-related project that makes you feel inadequate – list all the reasons why you’re feeling inadequate. Can’t go to sleep? Write about the thoughts jostling inside your head, about what’s keeping you awake.
You get better at anything you do with some practice. After a few days, try and make the first line of your entry interesting. Instead of “The sun was shining into the room when I opened my eyes this morning,” try “Do you know the first thing I saw when I woke up this morning?”
Read autobiographical pieces, memoirs, and personal essays to understand how professional writers approach personal journaling, what they write about, and how they write it. This will help you pen your thoughts in a better way.