Mari's Journal Writing Power Blog

Creating an Inner Pantheon of Wise Advisers

Posted by Mari L. McCarthy on Wed, Apr 22, 2015 @ 08:30 AM

The first album I ever bought was “Crimson and Clover” (1969) by Tommy James and the Shondells. I remember being upset when the record got scratched. That gave new meaning to the lyric “crimson and clover, over and over.” Most of the thoughts that cause me trouble in life replay over and over like a lyric on a scratched record. The needle of my mind can get stuck in a bad groove.


As a psychologist, I spend a good part of my days helping people with their version of the broken record. Cognitive therapy is all about realizing the connection between how we think and how we feel. The idea is to catch ourselves thinking self-critical, catastrophic, fearful, or depressive thoughts and change them into more adaptive thoughts. Many people, though, struggle to come up with better thoughts.


A few years ago, coming out of a down period spurred by trying to help people in a particularly tragic situation, I decided to give in to my lifelong love of quotations. Four four years I perused tens of thousands of quotations online, looking for the ones that lit up a new circuit in my brain and made me want to read them over and over. I wrote brief reflective essays on each quote I deemed a “keeper.”


What I didn’t realize until I was well into the project was that I was creating an inner pantheon of wise advisers. Why try to come up with my own healthier thoughts in every situation when I can have Plato, Emerson, Mother Teresa, Rainer Maria Rilke and many others available as personal consultants? Why struggle out of a cognitive rut myself when the preserved words of so many wise women and men can help hoist me out?


Now when self-criticism shows up, Buddha is there to remind me that “You, as much as anyone in the entire universe, are deserving of your love and compassion.” When I doubt my choice to spend half of my work time on writing projects, I hear Anthony Rapp’s counsel: “There is only one of you in all of time. Fearlessly be yourself.” When I wonder if I really need to meditate daily, Helen Tworkov whispers to me: “If the mind can get still enough, something sacred will be revealed.” When I feel the familiar tug of materialism, the 2500-hundred-year-old words of Diogenes help me regain my spiritual footing: “Happiness is not what you have, but who you are.”


Toward the end of the four years, I spent a few days writing an appendix with a brief biography of each of the hundreds of people whose words I wrote about in The Inconceivable Surprise of Living: Sustaining Wisdom for Spiritual People Trying to Be Human. I noticed as I reviewed the lives of my inner advisors that I was filling up with sadness. Most of these people who have become like friends to me have been dead for scores, hundreds, or thousands of years! Their words, however, come to us across the years in the only form of time travel yet known.
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The Truth About Keeping a Personal Journal

Posted by Mari L. McCarthy on Tue, Apr 21, 2015 @ 08:30 AM

Sometimes to see how far you have come, you need to see where you have been. More than that, you need to evoke at least some of the feelings of moments lived when reviewing them later on in a journal. Keeping a journal helps to mark moments of progress as well as regression. A journal also helps you recognize patterns that lead to successes and failures. However, recording memories in a journal needs to be more than just a list of facts. Your life is a complicated tapestry of colors and textures, and how it really looks is only revealed when you can see every thread in its weave. Here are some tips for keeping an honest journal of your life.

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Topics: creative journal writing

Journal Writing For Love Junkies

Posted by Mari L. McCarthy on Wed, Apr 15, 2015 @ 08:30 AM

Are you looking for a special person in your life?

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Topics: writing therapy, personal journal, journal wriring,

From Law School to Home School

Posted by Mari L. McCarthy on Tue, Apr 14, 2015 @ 08:30 AM

By Scott Keen

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Topics: scar of the downers, scott keen,

The Fun Part of Revision

Posted by Mari L. McCarthy on Wed, Apr 08, 2015 @ 08:30 AM

By Karen Mann, guest blogger

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Journaling to Capture the Flavor of Your Travels

Posted by Mari L. McCarthy on Tue, Apr 07, 2015 @ 08:30 AM

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Topics: journaling, journal, travel

Free “Taking Care of the Caregiver” Series Starts Today – with CreateWriteNow!

Posted by Mari L. McCarthy on Mon, Apr 06, 2015 @ 10:29 AM

I am thrilled to be partnering with Reflect • Relate • Renew – an online magazine for caregivers of relatives who have a mental illness – to give a presentation about journaling as part of the free Taking Care of the Caregiver Teleseminar Series.

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Journaling: I Now Sing in Public Every Chance I Get

Posted by Mari L. McCarthy on Wed, Apr 01, 2015 @ 12:01 PM

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Topics: journaling, lady with a song

Journal Writing: Old and New

Posted by Mari L. McCarthy on Tue, Mar 31, 2015 @ 08:30 AM

Out with the old… Last year was a rough year.  It seemed my house was in a constant state of upheaval.  Everything from teen drama to work drama and school drama to medical drama.  There was something for everyone – lots of negative thoughts, lots of anger, lots of frustration.  In August, I left my job.  It was The Great Cleansing, to quit that job.  I was overwhelmed, burned out, and angry.  Leaving felt a lot like getting a divorce (done it, know what it feels like).  Leaving also cost me a seven-year friendship.  That was a shocker, and I was overflowing with hurt.  The crazy thing was that everyone I talked to, including my husband and children, all thought I looked better, sounded better, seemed more relaxed.  On the inside, I was brimming with negative. 

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Topics: journaling, 27 Day Journaling Challenge

The Nonfiction Book Proposal Demystified: It’s a Business Plan

Posted by Mari L. McCarthy on Mon, Mar 30, 2015 @ 08:30 AM

About a year ago, I was celebrating 2 years of doing daily ambidextrous Morning Pages when a universal message appeared in them one day saying, “it’s time to share your story.” What, me write a book? How to start? What to do? Well, setting goals worked well for every other aspect of my life so I came up with my book’s (Thinking With My Heart: A Journaler’s Journey of Self-Compassion, Harmony and Healing) goals:

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Topics: nonfiction book proposal,, book business plan

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