“The only way to start is just to start – take the plunge.” With these words, I started keeping a journal ten years ago this spring.
I’d had a diary when I was a girl, one of those pink books with the gilt edges and cheap metal lock. But I was too afraid of my parents reading it – or worse yet, my younger brother – to write about anything more controversial than the weather.
Then ten years ago, when I was in my mid-forties, I felt increasingly dissatisfied with my life. My family relationships were fine, and I had a good job, but I wanted more. I wanted to write.
“I’ve been pondering how to begin the task of writing,” I told myself in that first journal entry, “and it occurred to me that there is no reason to wait for an auspicious moment. It is the flow that matters, and in the flow perhaps a few kernels of truth emerge.”
How little did I know how accurate those words were, or much truth would emerge in the pages I have written in the last decade!
The blank pages intimidated me, as did the fear of someone else reading what I wrote. But I persevered. My journal evolved from a paragraph or two dashed off a few times a month, written in secret and hidden from family, to two full pages written almost every day of the year. I’m now on my 30th volume, each with 168 pages covered in my cramped handwriting.
My journal saw me through four bosses and three jobs in my last five years of work. And it has helped me through my first five years of “retirement” as I struggled to find a new work/life balance between writing, mediation and consulting assignments, and volunteer and family obligations. (I still don’t have that balance right.) I’ve written about my son’s maturation from college until he turned thirty this past winter, and my daughter’s development from high school through college, law school, and her first two jobs. I’ve lamented my grandmother’s death and chronicled the growing elder care needs of parents and in-laws.
The journal allows me the introspection and reflection I crave. I examine my life in all its aspects. Am I spending my time how I want? What is getting in the way of me developing the life I desire? What can I do differently? What do family and friends and organizations need from me, and what am I willing and able to give? I engage in far more self-assessment and goal-setting now than I ever did in my annual performance reviews at work.
And whenever my novels and short stories and essays are not going well, I can still say to myself, “I’m a writer.” After all, I write two pages every day.
I’m brave enough now to write in my journal openly. My husband walks through the room as I write. “J-E-R-K,” he teases, “That’s how to spell my name.” But he’d probably be disappointed to know how rarely I write about him in my journal. It’s all about me.
Are you afraid to get started with journaling? Two books I found helpful are “The Artist Way,” by Julia Cameron, and “Writing Down the Bones,” by Natalie Goldberg. (Julia Cameron says to write three “morning pages” every day. I write small, so I’ve only required two pages of myself.)
Make the commitment to write, and then, take the plunge!
P.S. Last week I posted about “jumping off;” this week about “taking the plunge.” Is there a message about my life in that synchronicity? A good question to ponder in my journal.