I don’t know how many years ago it was that I picked up a copy of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, but that was my first introduction to the idea of daily journaling. I have used Morning Pages off and on to help me process my thoughts during difficult times in my life, to help me figure out what I wanted to do with my life, to try to root out the source of a depression or malaise. When things were going well, I was less likely to journal. When things were horrible, I would write and write and write, trying to make sense of the worlds inside and outside my head.
When I worked in a halfway house for people transitioning from the psychiatric ward to (hopefully) independent living, the residents were encouraged to journal as a way to safely and constructively process negative feelings and work through difficult moods and mental states. When I later worked at a halfway house for parolees and probationers, I would tell them that a journal is like a cheap, portable shrink. I also encouraged them to journal, although I followed that up with the offer of access to the shredder as privacy is really non-existent when there are six grown men in bunk beds in what had formerly been a somewhat roomy hotel room.
Last summer, I started journaling on a daily basis, as the beginning of a daily writing ritual, and a few weeks ago, I opened up Julia’s book to again read and work through the twelve weeks of exercises. Although I had remembered that she recommended Morning Pages on a daily basis, three pages of longhand, I had forgotten that it should be done quickly, as a stream-of-consciousness sort of brain dump, kinda like clearing out the cobwebs from the long night. When I remember that I’m supposed to be writing S-O-C, without really thinking or lifting up my pen at all, I find that things I hadn’t thought through fully come out in surprising ways, my pen moving along before I have a chance to mentally edit what will appear on the page. And it usually takes less than 20 minutes, even with the addition of affirmations (more on that later) at the end of the entry.