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Journaling Demystified

By Cory L. Kemp

Have you been considering journaling, but have questions about how to get started? Journaling is a wonderful way to explore your faith through prayer, reflection and personal narrative. Shared here are some of the popular questions about journaling, and the opportunity to formulate your own answers to see if journaling fits for you and your journey.

Why do people journal?

Journaling is a simple process of putting writing instrument to paper to express a thought, an idea, a belief, as it relates to your own life. Journaling can also be about creating order in one's mind, clearing out the cobwebs of a stressful time, assigning categories for life experiences worked through and shelved away from a time long past. Journaling creates a process by which we can integrate our faith with our life process, and include God in the dialogue. People journal for all kinds of reasons, including all of the above, as well as to mark an occasion they hope never to forget, a vacation of a lifetime and a lifetime well-lived. Individuals journal to connect with their souls, to enrich their conscious experience and to document the details which can slip away so easily. Mostly, people journal because they want to, and they love to.

Who journals?

Anybody who wants to journal and makes the time to do so can. Author Virginia Woolf, women journeying to settle the West in the nineteenth century, Mary Chestnut, Civil War-era Southern woman, war veterans from Revolutionary times to the present, and Anne frank, teenager killed in a World War II German concentration camp, all wrote journals which survived their writers to tell of their lives. Most of us have no intention of publishing what we write, in this lifetime or the next, so this is not a point of perfectionism or a belief that journaling is only for those who consider themselves good writers. Journaling is for anybody who wants to write, feels compelled to write, especially if only for themselves. As people in our culture become more comfortable with expressing their feelings, journaling has increased in popularity. Today you will discover journaling crossing gender and generational lines, as well as being a self-discovery /cheap therapy for many people to work through personal issues, family crisis and as part of the process of grieving. Frequently used situationally, journaling is also a life-path sounding board for those who consider doing journaling as important as their morning coffee.

What do people use to journal?

Partly, those who don't journal want to know what to write about, but they are also asking what can possible be so important as to spend money on bound books of blank pages and fancy expensive pens with your name engraved on them. What you write about are considered personal tools, while what you write with are considered practical tools. Personal tools are abundant because they are what life is made of: thoughts, feelings, ideas, experiences, everyday issues, world events, community situations, faith issues and relationships among all of these, are personal tools with which to establish, nurture and continue your journaling process. If you are happy using the cheapest pens and paper you can find, have at it. If you like pretty, bound books, fountain pens and colored markers to create companion illustrations, you will have a great time journaling too. I personally have one foot in both camps. I use bound, unlined books purchased en masse at clearance sales, and any pen that feels good moving across the paper. I am, however, not opposed to leather bound books and elegant pens if I have the financial resources and the luck to find them.

How do people journal?

Unless you already journal regularly, it is difficult to imagine squeezing one more task into your day, especially one that can feel quite daunting in its newness. Journaling is a habit like any other activity you do on a regular basis. And, like any other addition to our lives, we make the time if we are serious about wanting to do it. Frequency, length of your journaling sessions and the amount of pages you would like to journal are all up to you. Each writer is on her/his own path, and has the luxurious responsibility of choosing these ways of framing their journaling experience to create the results they want.

When do people journal?

Whenever they can. There is no right time of day to journal, although there are times that are better for you than others, perhaps different times on different days. What i believe is most important is to commit to the journaling itself, then map out when you will journal, so you don't pretend with yourself that you will get to it when time comes available. It doesn't, and you and I both know that. Be honest with yourself, look at your schedule and figure out the ways you can carve out time for yourself to do this. Maybe you are a morning person and you would do well getting up thirty minutes earlier to write a few days a week. Or perhaps your children nap at a fairly regular time and you would enjoy that as some adult time for yourself. Perhaps in the evening, when your home is settled in, is a peaceful, reflective time that suits you. Journals can also be brought on vacation to record your experiences, special events and these events as they relate to your everyday life.

Where do people journal?

Most people who ask this question cannot conceive of making space in their lives, let alone space in their homes, to create a journaling experience. Sometimes knowing the writing location helps ground a journaler, connects her/him to the place and the process. The three guiding principles here are privacy, intention and comfort. You may have plenty of desks and tables in your home, but you will need to scope out which spaces provide you with quiet and no interruptions. Choosing that spot and making it your own, perhaps with a storage space for your practical tools, will help you keep connected to this new adventure in your life. Making the space, comfortable, even if it is in a corner of the least used room in the house, with a simple chair, table, a seat cushion and a pretty candle, can give you a great boost to creating this experience for yourself. It can also be fun to take your journal to a favorite coffee shop or park to change your surroundings and to stimulate your senses.

The great gift of journaling is two fold. In creating a journaling life for yourself, you sow the abundance of life and reap its benefits for yourself ten times over. A conscious life, well-lived, is also a blessing of immeasurable worth to those around you. You simply cannot lose when you give yourself the gift of journaling.

About The Author

Cory L. Kemp

As an ordained minister I have worked in educational ministries in several congregations, as well as pastoring a congregation. My writing has focused on nonfiction essays and I have recently submitted a theological memoir for publication. My ministerial background and love of writing have combined to develop Creating Women Ministries, a website dedicated to encouraging theological dialogue, particularly among women, through workshops, journaling and personal spiritual development.


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