Write something no one else will read. The idea leaves me feeling like Sylvester the Cat counting tweety birds circling his head after a failed plot.
I write for a living. Between blogs, news articles, press releases, podcast and video scripts, op-eds, and educational pamphlets, I produce more than 400 documents per year. The subjects range from mental health (like this post) to environmental science, and animal welfare campaigns to analysis of a community’s by-laws. The voices and pen names change, as do the word counts and vocabulary, but one thing remains constant: there’s an audience.
When Carrie Packwood Freeman suggested I try journalling (Ep. 003 The Widow’s Journal), and provided that caveat of not letting anyone else read it, I didn’t quite understand the depth of the task.
I’m not complaining about writing: I love to write, and I’ve worked hard, and gotten a little lucky, to do so for my career. But pretty much everything I’ve written for the last 16 years was done so with the intention of others reading the final draft. Consideration of an audience will affect just about every step of the writing process, particularly how certain concepts or views are perceived by others, how to adapt to a different voice for a specific audience, and even the depth of vocabulary.
That said, Carrie, along with a whole lot of other people, have experienced positive results in their lives through the act of journalling, and it seems to be a valuable tool worth trying.
Brief research (expertly done via Google and Google Scholar) shows that this tool isn’t new, and that it is used across many treatment modalities.
Most of the studies I had a brief look at examined the efficacy of journal writing in exacting circumstances, as opposed to its overall impact. Pop-psychology articles and blogs note that the simple exercise of writing down feelings, ideas, and thoughts in a private manner on a regular basis can assist in problem solving, clarifying emotions, improving insight, and, of course, improving your writing skills.
The negatives pointed out in one blog have the feeling of the negatives of any kind of self-evaluation or therapeutic tool that can encourage insight: becoming too concerned with self-evaluation, or being a “passive observer” in your own life.
I’ve been out of town more time than I’ve been home since I picked up a journal, and so far all that I’ve penned in this notebook (like many writers, I have several, and each has a specific purpose) is some ‘worry logs’ and ‘current problem logs’ for my CBT program. Now that my schedule is normalizing, I’m looking forward to giving it a shot – and not sharing anything I write in it (*gulp*). I’m also acutely aware that like any tool, it will take time and practice to get better at it, so I do intend on sharing my progress, if not the content, of my journals with you in the future.
Top photo: Baloo helping me write in the new journal while on vacation in Northern Ontario.