Always I carry with me a blank book; a journal. It’s my Everything Book. Part diary, part sketchbook, part notebook, my journal is my brain center. It’s where I jot down things I want to remember–quotes, addresses, book titles, appointments, songs, directions. It’s where I document my travels and where, when I have a few extra moments, I sometimes draw. And, more than all of that, my journals are where I write what’s on my mind.
For thirty years I’ve been confiding in and prattling on to these pages, pouring out my heart and chronicling, dreaming. Venting. Usually in the morning, first thing, with my tea, before doing much of anything else. Julia Cameron would be proud of me, for she suggests we all spend time each morning writing our “morning pages”: three pages of putting down whatever is on our mind, getting it OFF our minds so that we can get on with our work, our Art.
And I’ve been doing that.
But you know, it’s funny: I hardly ever read back through what I write. The notations, yes; the quotes, yes; but rarely the “journaling.”
Then sometime late last fall I read somewhere an article that was about setting and achieving goals. The writer keeps a yearly journal—or at least a working notebook of his goals—and at the end of each year, he reads back through the year’s pages to remind himself of his goals and achievements, and see what remains undone and what he might carry forward into the new year.
That struck me as an interesting idea, and so shortly into the new year I decided to do just that.
And here’s what I discovered:
What a whiner I am!
Jeez-Louise! If for every time that I started my day with 20 – 30 minutes of venting about “not having enough time to paint” and instead I had simply PAINTED, I would have done A LOT MORE PAINTING.
Me Me Me Me Me! My journal writing just seemed so……. Self. Centered. So….. EGOIC. So filled with whining drivel.
Rather than release my anxieties and frustrations, it almost seemed to harbor them; to fester them. I couldn’t help but feel like rather than serving to help me let go of my anxieties, these pages were inviting me to keep them alive.
When every thought absorbs your attention completely,
when you are so identified with the voice in your head and the emotions
that accompany it that you lose yourself in every thought and every emotion,
then you are totally….in the grip of the ego.
— Eckhart Tolle
This was one of those sledge-hammer-to-the-head wake-up-call-moments.
I decided: No. More Journaling!
Or at least, no more sitting down and writing to C O M P L A I N.
No more starting my day with bitching to myself and whining about this or that.
Instead, start the day painting.
And if I want to write down my thoughts with pen and paper, write a letter to a friend instead. Reach out and use that writing time to nurture meaningful and thoughtful connections with others; enough with writing to My Self!
That was three months ago.
Wouldn’t you know it but my painting time has increased hugely this year.
And so has my letter-writing.