Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why I journal

I just spent an hour with my friend and fellow journal writer, @DawnHerring chatting about journaling #JournalChat. Dawn hosts these Twitter chats every Thursday at two o’clock Pacific time. I hadn’t participated for the last few weeks, so it was good to be back today. The topic was Take Action. Before I get into that here’s a bit about my journaling history.

When I was in grade school I had one of those little leather (or faux leather) bound diaries that had a tiny key. Mine was a 5-year diary so I wrote down in teeny script my daily events. I think my parents must have thrown it out when they sold our house and moved to California because I never saw it again after I went away to college.

I journaled in fits and starts over the next forty years or so. I kept a journal when we lived in the South Pacific during the seventies, and some of those journal entries became a magazine article about our island adventures.

However, I began journaling regularly when my son Paul was diagnosed as bipolar in 1993 and after his suicide in September 1999. Writing became my therapy. It became a habit, and as it turned out, writing through my grief totally turned my life around. My journal entries during that period became the basis for my memoir Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide.

The page was always ready for my tears, my rants, my sorrow, my complaints, and my thoughts and ideas. And it still is. I journal regularly – at least every other day – usually on the days I don’t blog.

Also, I used to journal in long hand in a notebook. Now  I use the computer – the notebook went by the wayside after I left one on an airplane. The computer gives me the ability to have complete privacy – the key to honest and truthful journaling. I keep my journal entries in a password-protected locked document file.

Getting back to the Take Action journaling topic. It’s designed for us to take power and move from thinking into living and doing - not just waiting for things to happen to us. I like to make lists while I’m journaling. I regularly write down what I’ve accomplished in the past week or so, and I write down what I have to do in the next few days. This gives me a chance to revisit what commitments I’ve made, and which I should or shouldn’t be doing. Since I’m the one who’s made the commitment, I get to decide whether or not to weed some of them out. Of course I have to consider my accountability as well. Having an action journal holds me accountable – even if I’m only accountable to myself. However, an action can be as simple as writing something down and considering what I have written.

Of course there are other ways to journal, and I plan to go into some of them in the future. In the meantime it suffices to say that I find journaling very rewarding. And I love having a little group I can share with about the different ways to accomplish it.