Back to the Beginning

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.