Twenty-five years ago, I was introduced to journaling and didn’t like it one bit. But it saved my life.

My greatest fear was that if others really knew who I was, they wouldn’t like me. Writing about my feelings was a surefire way to reveal myself. So why would I ever do something that would enable someone else to know me better?

Still, a friend kept encouraging me to write down my feelings. I was told that my feelings were valid, that they wouldn’t be used against me, that I wouldn’t be judged for my poor writing skills, and that I didn’t have to do it perfectly. Slowly I became willing to try journaling. Today writing my thoughts on paper has become an im- important and useful part of my life. Journaling provides me with an outlet to express my thoughts, share my feelings, and note observations. Ultimately journaling provides me with a way to capture my creative voice.

So what is journaling and why is it important? It’s the act of writing our thoughts on paper in one easy-to-manage notebook called a journal. It’s a tool for self-discovery. I encourage you to keep your journal handy at all times, because you never know when an important feeling or thought will surface. Our journal is a living document that we can refer to over time. It is our treasure book, filled with lessons learned, questions asked, questions answered, pictures and ideas reflected on, and the exercises done throughout our journey.

Journaling is a powerful tool for self-expression. We can be as creative as we like. Journaling gives us an opportunity to make our thoughts “real,” rather than leaving them as unexpressed musings. Journaling clarifies our perspective. Sometimes just seeing our thoughts gives us new personal insights. Once we’ve identified our feelings, the next step is to get past some of them. Journaling helps us do that. Through writing, we move into the solution by capturing important thoughts that otherwise might disappear. Often- times great ideas die a quick death because they never see the light of day.

Finally, journaling adds “texture,” or deeper dimension, to our ideas. One of my favorite classes in law school was constitutional law because it made history come alive. It added texture to historical facts. It not only made the events real but also made them interesting. You may resist journaling because you think you have nothing to say. No need to fret; many of us feel that way. All I ask you to do is make a good-faith effort. Start somewhere. This week, you’ll be given several opportunities to journal. These guided opportunities will help you write about things that you know about, feel, or are experiencing. The very act of writing is cathartic and nourishing for the soul because we release concerns that keep us emotionally blocked.

There is something magical about putting pen to paper and unlocking experiences that, in some cases, we’ve buried for years. Releasing our thoughts is often the scariest idea of all. Yet I have discovered that when left inside me, my feelings become even more frightening because there is no way to check them against reality. I play the same negative tape over and over, never giving myself a chance for a reality check.

Journaling is not about being smart, being artistic, or even making sense. It’s about putting our thoughts onto paper. It’s about writing. No one will read what you write except you, so don’t worry about editing your thoughts or your grammar. Journaling is a tool that enhances our emotional growth or recovery.

It’s an esteemable act to have the courage to put your thoughts on paper.

Francine D. Ward
Attorney-At-Law, Author, Speaker

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