One of the many benefits of cultivating and sustaining a journal writing practice is that over time you begin to know and connect with yourself in a deeper way. I've maintained a journal writing practice for many years and have experienced the personal transformation that can only occur when I'm willing, to be honest, and vulnerable on the blank pages of my journal.
Below are four techniques that I use and would encourage you to try. Each one can add a new level of depth to your practice and provide opportunities for further personal growth and transformation.
Free Writing is an unstructured, narrative approach to journal writing. I enjoy this technique because it's unrestrictive and allows me to follow my thoughts and feelings wherever they lead, writing until I have nothing left to say. My free-writes can range from one to multiple pages in my journal being filled. At the conclusion of a journaling session, I immediately feel better both emotionally and physically having released my thoughts and feelings in a safe and healthy way on the page.
Discovery asks you to focus on a specific situation that you desire a deeper understanding of in order to come to some sort of resolution. To use this technique, identify a current situation that you find challenging and create a list of questions that pertain to it that you would like to explore. Next, take your questions and write each one at the top of separate pages in your journal. After setting a time limit for answering each question, write whatever immediately comes up, continuing until the allotted time ends. Repeat this technique for several days or for however long is necessary until you have come to a place of peace or resolution about your particular challenge. Some questions to consider include: What lesson can I learn from this situation? What is the most difficult part of this situation? How can this experience help me become a better person?
Perspectives - This technique challenges you to write from a different point of view. For example, if you’re having a conflict with someone over a particular issue, in your journal explore that issue from the other person's perspective by "walking in their shoes". Some questions to consider include: How might I be feeling in this situation? or What might I need in this situation in order to feel loved and supported? Being able to look at the problem from a different angle can help to ease some of the tensions that may exist and perhaps help you and the other person find some sort of compromise or resolution.
Personal Manifesto - A personal manifesto declares how you want to live your life. It reflects what you stand for, what you believe and what you value. The manifesto combines your personal principles with a call to action providing you with a roadmap for achieving your goals and dreams.
Manifestos are often written in the present tense using uplifting and positive words. You will go through several drafts when writing your manifesto before you decide on the version that authentically reflects who you are and what you envision for your life. Once your manifesto is complete, keep it in your journal or hang it up where you can refer to it daily.
To prepare to write your manifesto spend some time thinking about these different areas; relationships, money, physical, spiritual, emotional, and career/ vocation. Some questions to explore include: How do I want to be remembered? What do I believe in? What type of life do I want to live? What is most important to me?
It’s my hope that these techniques will provide you with new ways to approach your writing and help you to continue cultivating a nourishing and transformative journaling practice that you are able to sustain for years to come.
Tara C Pray is the creator of The Journal Well Project, a site dedicated to the practice of journal writing and the weekly digital Journal Zine for those who love to journal.