Relaxing into Journalling

In the previous post I did about journalling I talked about how important having some structure around your journalling in the form of a format for journalling.

In that post I laid out a format that I thought was really a good way to look at journalling.  I still do, but I also see that having too rigid a set of format rules can be a bit of a problem for some users.

So, let’s look at what we want to have happen with journalling.

  1. Just do it
  2. Figure out why you might be doing it
  3. Figure out if it is doing that for you
  4. Look at how to better get what you want

Just do it

First off, most of what you need to figure out about journalling (or anything you might want to do in your life) you can’t figure out until you just start to do it.

With journalling, you can find all kinds of resources which tell you how you should do your journalling practice.  In fact there are some resources just right here about that.  There is the previous post here, and I am sure if you even look at the site as a whole, you can see some of my approach to journalling, and how it varies.

So, here is what I say, just start.  Don’t push it to happen if it is not going on for you.  Don’t let the journalling process grab you to such an extent that you really are not able to stop journalling.  For everyone, this balance will be different.

For me?  I find that sometimes I get into periods where I just can’t put my journal down, and I need to write everything in it.  And at other times, even when I want to write things, it can be so difficult to even pick up the journal.  Let alone write in it.

With this in mind, I have decided that for now, the Open Psychology Group has started with a monthly journalling meeting.  We are currently thinking that if people are journalling once a month, to maybe a few times a week, meeting on a monthly basis will be a good start in terms of being able to look at it.

As there is more interest in what we are doing, we certainly will be considering setting things up more frequently.

So sit down and just do it.

Figure out why you might be doing it

I think a lot of us get told something is a good idea, and may even end up getting told different reasons for why it is a good idea.

That’s really a great thing.  It might pull us into trying something out.  It also will not tell you why you want to do something (in this case journalling).  It might tell you why you want to start or try something, but not why you really want to do something.

So, after you have been doing some journalling for a while, you might find that you can actually answer why you want to journal, for yourself.  What it gives you personally.

So, I have been doing this on and off for I think about 25, maybe more years.  Let me look at why I want to be journalling:

  • I enjoy writing
  • Writing allows me to figure things out about what to say
  • Trying to express myself, if I haven’t thought through the subject without recently writing about it is next to impossible
  • Writing about things which bothers me, allows me to better process those things
  • Journalling can be done largely as a private process (even things like a blog) rather than a social process.
    • In cases where journalling happens where people may see it, and may comment on it, I find considering it private is actually helpful

I think that covers some basic points.  I won’t really go too deeply into any of them now.  These are my points.  They make sense to me.  It also in part explains why so many people want to “fix” my website, and why I really don’t give a darn about what they are saying, not because their suggestions are not helpful, but because their suggestions miss that for me text is what I most easily work in, and the website will change as demand changes, not to change demand.

Figure out if it is doing that for you

This is a lot more difficult, and I guess there are things which you have to look at.  The list I wrote about why I journal are the things which I actually find I do get out of writing.  But there are also things which I could look at in terms of writing journal type stuff which I might consider worth writing for:

  • It’s good for you
  • It calms you down
  • It allows you to move forward
  • It helps with growth
  • It makes you happier

And so the list goes on.  The problem with this list is it’s not actually borne out by experience.  Well, it’s not borne out by experience on a consistent basis.  If I actually aim for any of these things, pretty much with any of the work which I do, I find that I find pretty much everything ends up being “not worth doing”.

It might be worth opening up your journal on the start of your journalling journey, and just write what you hope that it will give you.  Then as you go on, write out what it actually is giving you.

Every single one of those listed items in the first list, which I said are why I am journalling, are far more complex than any of these “wishes” type things.  I think there are at least two reasons for that:

  1. Wishes simply are simpler than reality
  2. For me, thinking in terms of wishes, means thinking of things which are simple
    1. That is, a wish is a simple statement, it needs to be understood simply
    2. Wishes are based on an idealized reality

Reality is messy.  Reality is complex.  But starting from the simple, can lead to a willingness to explore the complex.

Look at how to better get what you want

Here I think I will more talk about myself, because it is the only specifics I probably can provide you.  For me, those wishes might have been helpful in terms of getting me started.

Initially, I started journalling from the idea of trying to understand something about what I thought may well be going on with me.  I wanted to see if reduced sleep lead to improved mood.  It was a simple observational system which I was hoping to guide me to some better understanding of what was going on with me.

So, I would record when I went to bed.  I would record when I got up.  With those recordings of times, I recorded a few different little things.  I tried to keep each little thing I wrote down to under about 100 words.  50 was even better.

During the day I also recorded things like if I was tired, and how my mood was.

I got obsessed.  I was writing something down, largely in secret all the time.  And I got my answers.  Or at least I thought I got my answers (I think I would probably lean towards a different interpretation now, whether that is due to a change in the patterns, or a change of how I look at these things).

After a bit of that, and finding it really wasn’t producing anything more in terms of why I did it, I simply quit.  At least for a while.

Then somehow I picked it up again.  With a combination of a friend who seemed to have similar issues, as well as the idea that it could be seen as an aid to creativity I started journalling again.  I tried to simply do the “15 minutes of free writing” type thing, but I really don’t do well with the free writing thing.

I did write for 15 minutes (sometimes longer) but if nothing was coming, nothing was written.  And if I could write for ages and ages, I didn’t limit myself to 15 minutes.

I mostly just went with it.  Looking back at what I wrote.  I can pick any item, and it looks much like any other item.  Growth?  Well nope it really wasn’t happening.  Maybe I was getting better at expressing what I was going through.  I really don’t know.

What it did do, was it got the thoughts out of my head.  Sometimes only briefly, other times, they pretty much went away for sometimes maybe even days.  That is major.

I drifted in, and I drifted out from time to time after I started to wonder just why I was journalling, and tried to understand it in terms of what I had been told the purpose was.

I was failing to accomplish what others thought I should be accomplishing through my journalling.  Eventually I dropped it again for several years.  Picking it up here and there, but mostly not doing it.

A few months back, I was talking to the leader of the #CapabilityClub, about journalling (it was a MeetUp on Journalling and Lunch which I attended remotely).  It got me starting to think of it as something which might make sense to do on a more regular basis.  So, I have been trying to do some of that, and part of it has been the simple posts here.

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