As an 18 year old sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin I took a Creative Writing class and we were required to begin keeping a journal.
At the end of the semester, the other students each brought in a lovely journal to show the professor they’d fulfilled the requirements. I brought in a large box containing more than twenty volumes overflowing with the entire history of my life up until that point in time!
In the many years since then I have rarely missed even a day of journaling.
I spend anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour or more writing in my journal each day. Just as swimmers put in their daily “miles” to build and maintain a foundation for swimming just a few laps in competition, I’ve often viewed daily journaling as my “miles” and these “miles” have provided a solid foundation for all the creative/healing work I’ve done since then.
Because I am so accustomed to translating my thoughts, ideas and feelings into written words every single day, words never scare or daunt me in any way. I have written novels, feature-length screenplays and even been a professional comedy writer for a popular, long-running comedy troupe here in Austin, TX—and never once in my life have I experienced Writer’s Block or anything remotely like it!
(I mean, why would I experience Writer’s Block?! I already write down all sorts of words every single day. Anything deliberately Creative I might do is simply more words…and no big deal!)
Sometimes I write about the most mundane things in the world, such as what I want for my birthday or which girl I should ask out on a date. Sometimes I write about the most profound things in the world, such as my spiritual beliefs and the ultimate goal in life. But always I write about anything and I write about everything.
I routinely use my journals to write about my creative projects before I really begin working on them. My journal is the place where the original ideas are born and shaped and changed before they begin emerging into the world in a more polished form.
For a long period in my life I did all my “creative writing” directly on a computer. But because of my tendency to continuously go back and rewrite and edit and polish what I’m working on before I even reach the end, about a decade ago I set aside the computer and I now write the complete First Draft of anything I am creating directly on paper, in a separate journal.
So, when I’m actively creating something, I carry around two journals. In one I write about what I’m writing. (“Hey, what if I changed the Hero in my story to a Heroine…that would totally shake the entire story up, right?”! “What if I incorporated even more cellular biology into my smoking-cessation program?”) and in the other journal I actually write whatever I am writing. (“It was a dark and stormy night…”)
Only once I’ve completely finished the First Draft of my project do I type it all into a computer, creating a Second Draft as I go along.
Another great value of writing the First Draft of anything in a journal is the physicality of it. Writing with a real pen on real paper—leaving a trail of ink behind you—forges a connection between you and the world that is sadly missing in our increasingly digital age.
At a certain point in my life I made a long, slow transition from being primarily a creative artist who, frankly, didn’t earn enough to survive and into the next chapter of my life as a healer and Hypnotist. That transition came about entirely because of my journal—for it was there, on paper, that I explored where I’d gone in my life and where I wanted to go. For weeks and months and longer I considered various plans, ideas and options about how and what I wanted to contribute to the world.
Because it was my own personal journal, no career option was too crazy. (“Wouldn’t it be cool to make XXX adult movies of Shakespeare’s plays that weren’t modernizations but used the original language?!” “What’s the maximum age to join the Astronaut Training Program?”)
As I began to realize that what I really wanted was to change the world…one person at a time, my destination became increasingly obvious. I had already trained, years earlier, in Hypnosis and the related art of NeuroLinguistic Programming, but never really did anything with that knowledge until I began exploring it again in my journals.
As I got back into hypnosis and expanded my research and training in areas related to the mind and body, I increasingly came to understand that we manifest our problems in the world by telling stories about them.
It’s not so much that we smoke cigarettes, but that we constantly tell ourselves a Story about how we are Smokers and cannot quit.
It’s not so much the chronic Hip/Neck/Back pain…but the Story we tell ourselves (and, perhaps more importantly, the Story we tell others!)about our Hip/Neck/Back pain!
Ultimately I came to believe that the Story we tell ourselves about our problems IS the problem!
In my hypnosis work, a large part of what I do is simply helping people imagine a completely different Story in their life…and/or help them vividly imagine a Happy Ending to their current story.
By keeping a journal, YOU have the same opportunity, every time you pickup a pen, to change and rewrite the story of your life! As Aristotle said, “Art shouldn’t be about what is, but what could be or what should be.”
In the same way, while it’s certainly therapeutic to use your journal for an Info Dump where you can let go of all the petty annoyances of the day, it is also a unique forum for you to imagine what you really want in your life and to write and even rewrite the story of your life in any way you desire!
This article's author is John McLean. Based in Austin, TX, John is a hypnotist, healer and daily journaler. He is the creator of the Last Smoke Break smoking-cessation program, as well as a revolutionary new approach to physical healing called Neuro-Sexual Healing. You can learn more about John McLean @ www.LastSmokeBreak.com.