As soon as I was old enough to put pen to paper, I started keeping a journal. Back then I didn’t call it a journal, in fact, I don’t think many people journaled back in the day but as a young girl in the 1970s, I wrote my heart out in a small, probably pink, definitely fuzzy, diary with a flimsy binder that kept my thoughts and dreams safe with that patented lock and special key. Oh, the good old days when life was simple! Day after day, I’d start my entries with, “Dear Diary, Randall smiled at me today…” Oh yes, dear, sweet Randall, the first love of my young life played a starring role on the pages of my diary. I guess I started writing my very first love story, filled with youthful girl angst at the tender age of five. Although Randall and I were the best of friends all the way through college, we were not destined to have a HEA. He was my first kiss on the gym steps after school. That tiny peck made for an explosive diary entry with what I envisioned as sizzling chemistry, alas Randal was more like a brother to me, and sadly, he’s dead now. (He’s been that way for over 20 years.) Onward and upward! As I grew older, my diary morphed into more of a journal that chronicled my day to day life. I quickly learned the standard lock and key was no match for my sneaky, conniving older brother, so I created various hiding places all around my room. When I made it to high school and really wanted to keep my secrets between me and my journal, I went so far as to cut a hole in the back wall of my closet to keep my precious journal notes safe from prying eyes. Big brothers can be the worst, but that makes little sisters all the more clever.
Unfortunately, I fell off the journaling bandwagon when I went off to college. Too many parties, too much studying, and way too many bad decisions to document. No one needs a record of that time, and thank the goddess we didn’t have cameras on phones back then! I totally dodged that bullet! Later, after I married and started my family, I attempted to journal my thoughts on being a first-time mom. Too many sleepless nights, so many playdates, and bottoms (and noses)to wipe left little room for mommy self-care. Journaling became a luxury of time and circumstance I couldn’t figure out how to incorporate into my busy toddler’s life. There always seemed to be a reason to place my well being on the back burner. Once my kids grew and became self-sufficient, I started blogging. Blogging is the ultimate in journaling. Or maybe it’s the opposite of journaling since you’re putting everything you think and feel out there for all the world to read. There was no hiding my blog in a hole cut out in the back of my closet once it hit the internet! I went from entirely private to utterly exposed in a matter of gigabytes. The horror!
About five years ago, I started dabbling in journaling again. Who among us doesn’t have a weird addiction to office supplies? If there could be a support group for over-buying pretty notebooks and fancy pens, I’d be its leader. I have stacks of pretty journals, some filled with random notes and ideas, others, stark white with nary an ink mark marring its pages. I have copious attempts at finding the right balance of journaling self-care lining the shelves of my treasured bookcase.
At the end of last year, I felt horribly blocked. On a personal level and on a creative level, my mojo was gone. After a particularly bad day, I remembered something my mom told me when I was younger and had a bad dream. She gave me a notepad, nothing fancy or pretty, probably one she used to make grocery lists and told me to write down my nightmare, rip it from the pad, ball it up and throw it out of my room and out of my head. Since I felt like I was living in the throes of a bad dream that wouldn’t let up, I decided to give my mom’s old idea a try and low and behold, it worked. This seemed to unblock my mind, and goodness knows I had plenty of pretty notebooks at the ready to rip up! After a few weeks of clearing the mechanism, so to speak, I decided my journals were too precious, and my thoughts were too important to just rip up and toss away. I decided to find a way to organize my mind and to preserve my feelings. While searching for journals I stumbled upon a book, The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, and it was a balm for my soul. If you’re looking for a way to unblock your creative mojo, re-ignite your love of writing, or just clear your mind, I can not recommend it strongly enough. The gist of it is writing your morning pages. Every morning, before you do anything else (except coffee, I always write my morning pages over coffee) write. Just for you, write, only three journal pages, that’s it. My favorite journal is the Eccolo World Traveler. It’s an 8×10 size, so my three pages are long and glorious. Apparently, I have a lot on my mind. If 8×10 feels too daunting, scale it down to a lovely 5×7 size. Make a date for yourself, put it on your calendar, set an alarm, whatever it takes, just write. It could start off as gibberish, a literal stream of consciousness. Random thoughts on the scene out your window, the smell of your coffee, the headache from too much wine the night before, whatever crosses your mind for three pages. Eventually, it’ll turn into so much more, just for your eyes. You will be amazed at how good you’ll feel once you complete it. You’re only writing for yourself, there’s no right or wrong way, no judgments, no critique, no grammar police, no direction or prompt, just a promise to yourself to start your morning quietly, with a pen and paper. It will feel strange and silly in the beginning, but if you commit to it, stick to it each and every morning, three simple pages, it will feel so gloriously beautiful you’ll kick yourself for not starting sooner. It’s the simplest way I’ve found to truly, quickly, cheaply, take time for myself. I’m going to take a few minutes to drink my coffee anyway each morning, adding the experience of scribbling in a journal is an easy thing to include. It starts your day with an accomplishment, you’re fulfilling a promise to be kind to yourself each morning. You literally hit the ground running with a checkmark on your cram-packed todo list. Who wouldn’t want to start their day with a win like that? I turn the big 5-0 next week. My birthday will mark my six month anniversary of daily morning pages. In all of my fifty years, I’ve never had a clearer mind and a happier heart than I do right now. My creative energy is off the charts. I credit a lot of that on self-care that started with returning to journaling.
I’m looking forward to more great things to come. Bring on the next 50 and more morning pages.