My Story: I was introduced to journaling at a young age, my mother was an avid artist, reader and writer, I guess she passed her love of those pursuits onto me. Being an only child and not having many children my own age around me to play with, I tended to turn inward for entertainment and solace. I loved expressing my creativity, it was my escape, I would write, read, paint, draw... anything that made me feel less alone and more alive. As a child, we also had an extended family member living with us who could be mentally and physically abusive. When most kids avoided being sent to their rooms, being sent to mine was actually a relief, I could hide away journaling.
As I got older my journaling fell by the wayside in favour of going to college, focusing on a career, getting married, basically becoming what I had pictured as being a “proper adult”. I turned my back on that creative kid and moved forward as a fairly ambitious woman ready to make her mark on the world.
Finding Myself Amid Chaos
In my late twenties, I went through my first big setback, my ex-husband and I divorced. I left my home with very few belongings, spent weekends staying with my parents in the suburbs and often “sofa surfed” on girlfriends’ couches during the week while working in the city. Although my job was going well and I had fabulous supportive friends and family, I felt alone, my life was a mess and I felt as though I was living in a strange limbo. This uncertainty started me journaling again and I rediscovered that same passion for writing that I had as a child. Journaling daily also became a gateway for me, I loved journaling but wanted more, I wanted to write fiction. While browsing a bookstore I came across the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and it changed my life. I read it cover-to-cover about a dozen times and I followed the program religiously. In particular, I got into doing morning pages, which are three hand-written, uncensored pages done first thing every morning. These were perhaps what helped me the most with healing and self-actualization. My creative life began to bloom, however once again, when life became busy my free time was more about writing fiction and I let my journaling practice slide.
Making it a Necessity
Fast forward to my thirties, I met and married a wonderful and very creative man. I had a busy life, going to school part-time, working part-time as a writer and editor as well as working a full-time social services position. I developed health issues and although I tried to keep juggling the different aspects of my life, eventually everything took its toll and I was forced to leave my full-time job. Feeling very ill I decided to try working from home by continuing my part-time writing and editing job. I figured if I was going to be home, I was going to work doing something I loved but when I had more bad days than good it often became overwhelming. Along with my health challenges, came depression as well as anxiety and once again I felt it necessary to reinvent myself. I turned to journaling for the third time and haven't looked back. I began doing my morning pages again and by nurturing my creative side I developed the courage to branch out and follow different creative avenues.
Although for a few years I was fortunate enough to be able to work at home as a writer, editor and artist, something was still missing...I missed helping others. My education, as well as my work experience, had always been about trying to make a difference to improve people's lives. I knew I couldn’t go back to my old life but wondered if perhaps I could help others find their creative way. I had already been writing regular columns on the healing power of creativity for “Suite 101” and “The Examiner” (unfortunately both are now defunct). I had worked with a creativity coach in the past and decided that is what I wanted to do. I took a coaching course, eventually receiving my coaching diploma and took it a step further by taking courses in art therapy. I am now a creativity coach running an online coaching practice at www.IgniteYourCreativity.net. I still write on my blogs www.BelindaWitzenhausen.com, as an active partner at www.ProfessorOwlsBookCorner.com and write book reviews at www.bohoandbookish.wordpress.com. I have also been working on an urban fantasy/historical novel to be released later this year. None of my creative successes would have been possible had I not ventured back into journaling. Journaling helped me figure out what it was I wanted to do, set the goals to make it happen and helped me put my life in perspective when life got hectic.
What Works for Me
Although I still do my three morning pages where I vent, check in and daydream, I keep a second daily journal where I focus on my goals and ask myself the following questions:
- What do I want my life to look like in (a month, a year, five years)?
Seems like a simple question but often when life throws you a curve ball or perhaps you’ve outgrown your initial vision, you have to reassess your plans.
- What small step can I do today to get me closer to where I want to be?
You’ve heard the old saying ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’? Neither were most people's dreams, unless you’re discovered by higher-ups for your talent, which although possible, isn’t what happens for most people. It takes time to learn your craft, tons of hard work and a great deal of perseverance. Here is where I brainstorm ideas, keep track of my progress and set goals on how to move forward.
And the third and perhaps one of the most important things I ask myself is...
- What ten things am I grateful for today?
It’s amazing how your mindset changes when you stop taking what you have for granted and realize how lucky you truly are. Yes, some days it may seem like a challenge but when you learn to appreciate any progress you’ve made, those who have supported you and what/whom you have in your corner, you tend to bring positive people and experiences into your life.
In my second journal I also decorate, draw and brainstorm in the margins of the pages. Journaling has now become a permanent part of my life... it’s essential to my mental and physical health and I can’t see myself ever abandoning the practice again.
Belinda (McGrath) Witzenhausen is a Writer, Creativity Coach, Artist, Student, Bookworm, History Geek, Armchair Archaeologist, Amateur Photographer, Coffee Connoisseur & Hubby’s Grossly Underpaid Bass Roadie.
I have always enjoyed helping others, as well as being creative. Both my education and work history have revolved around social services, counselling, art therapy, coaching and expressing my creativity be it through writing, art or photography.