I recently returned to journaling. Many years ago I used to journal a lot, but fell away from it for reasons I don’t remember. At the end of last year, I was drawn back to regular journaling, and discovered some of the great online resources are now there to help. My aim in doing Mari’s 27-day program was chiefly to re-establish the discipline of putting pen to paper every single day, and also to explore some aspects of my life that I might otherwise not even think of doing.
27 isn’t carved in stone
I took 34 days to complete the 27-day program. On one very busy day I gave myself permission to wait till the next day to tackle a particularly intense (for me) topic. At two other points I took a couple of days to write about stuff which came up in daily life before returning to the set program. But I wrote something every day, even if it wasn’t from the workbook.
I devoted two days each to two of the 27 topics. Once, I spent so long writing on one of the sidebar prompts that there was no time left for the main exercise, which I did the next day. And my final exercise, a review of everything written so far, also took two days. 27 is good - 34 is good too!
The topics aren’t carved in stone either
The daily exercises are there to serve, not to enslave. I changed some of them around a bit. For example, I couldn’t do Day 24, journaling outside in nature – not in sub-zero Ottawa in January! Too dark even to observe nature through the window, I wrote about something else instead.
Other topics didn’t work for me. Using a random word from a dictionary, for example: I tried, but after half a page I scribbled, ‘This doesn’t interest me in the slightest - here’s what I really want to write about…’ and continued on another topic. I didn’t remember any dreams on the ‘record-your-dreams’ day – so I journaled about something else that was on my mind. I got over my initial worries about doing the exercises “properly”, and got comfortable with the idea that writing about anything real is more important than sticking strictly to the given exercise. As Mari says, just WriteOn!
Don’t presume to know what will come out
On first seeing some of the writing exercises I thought, ‘Ah, I know where that will lead…’- but in reality, it led to something quite different. I thought that spending a whole session journaling about my physical health would feel indulgent. It didn’t, it felt responsible. I thought my Inner Critic would be just a whiner – but he has moments of humor too. And my Inner Coach – hey, she’s sassy! I’m so glad to get to know her!
Every day is not a peak moment
There were lots of days with insights, aha moments, or surprises – but there were days that were ‘just ordinary’ too. That’s okay. Every moment can’t be a peak moment, by definition. Journaling is a tool, not a magic wand.
Where to from here?
I need to learn more about reviewing my journal writing. What spills onto the page includes a wealth of wisdom from within, sometimes better noticed on re-reading. But how often should I review? when? how not to forget my insights, but integrate them into my life? These are part of the journey that lies ahead. I look forward to exploring more. It’s good to be back!
Eleanor is a Cistercian nun from Ireland, currently studying at St Paul University, Ottawa. She loves monastic life, diving into good books, exploring Ottawa, and making hand-crocheted christening shawls.