I currently have nearly 230,000 words in my journal.
Much of my journal focuses on the loss of my face. As a teenager, I suffered second- and third- degree burns to my face and arms due to an accidental encounter with sulfuric acid. I wrote to make sense of what had happened to me, to fully flesh out my feelings, and to come to grips with the pain I was feeling both inside and out. I fought for each word, compiling each letter even when I hardly knew what to say to describe my experience. I wrote because I didn’t know what else to do. I wrote because I felt as if my life depended on it.
Regardless of the reason for journaling, it is an activity that requires determination. Here is how I approach journaling, which I hope will help you in your own journaling experiences.
1: Write Consistently
Journaling is only as helpful as the effort put into it. Consistency is key. Following a normal schedule can help convert journaling from a casual hobby to a consistent habit. For me, my most successful breakthroughs occurred when I wrote in my journal nearly every day. Even if nothing consequential had occurred that day, I wrote it down.
The act of writing can jog feelings and memories that are otherwise far from conscious thought. Some of my own journal entries begin blandly, before veering towards impactful discoveries about myself or the world around me. Getting into a consistent rhythm is key because it allows for the free flow of ideas, and a pattern of healthfully processing emotions.
So, even if you don’t feel like writing, try writing a few lines each day. It helps to even write at the same time every day. I often write at night, but I’ve heard others say that they love writing in the morning. Whatever your preference, pick a time and stick to it. This simple act will pay dividends as you progress through your writing journey.
2: Write Candidly
It is important to be honest in your journal writing. After all, your journal is your personal record of your life. You can say whatever you want and articulate your true, inner feelings. Censoring yourself will diminish the power of journaling. Be honest in your writing—no matter how harsh it can be. This will help ensure that your true experience is reflected.
Journaling can give us the distance needed to parse through thoughts and feelings, while serving as a balm for wounds. Honesty is the only way to truly come to terms with the pain of our pasts. Inauthentic writing will not help achieve that goal.
If you are worried about someone finding your writing, make sure you password protect your computer. Or, if you prefer to handwrite your journal, keep it in a locked drawer so no one can stumble upon it. Ultimately, your journal is for you. Unlike social media, there is no pressure to post the prettiest pictures or write sanitized, congratulatory posts. Make sure your journal reflects unvarnished thoughts, no matter how harsh or unpleasant they might be.
3: Write Courageously
Journaling can be hard, especially if you are writing about traumatic experiences. I remember many nights where the act of writing about my own trauma brought back nightmares and even some insomnia. Yet the act of writing proved cathartic, and helped me come to terms with my experience. Journaling sometimes felt a bit like an experience I had after one of my facial surgeries. Once, after surgery, the doctor instructed me to use one finger to reach into my mouth while placing another finger on the outside of my face. While I did that, he told me to vigorously rub the scar directly under my nose. At first, this was really painful. Yet, over time, the pain receded as the scar tissue was broken up.
It is the same with writing. Journaling can help breakup the emotional scar tissue we might be experiencing as a result of pain. Keep going, even if you encounter some discomfort along the way. The short-term discomfort will give way to long-term gain.
4: Write Confidently
The act of keeping your journal private frees you from others’ criticism. But sometimes, journaling can incite self-criticism. We might criticize ourselves for not writing well enough or for harboring certain thoughts or feelings. It’s important to give yourself a pass when recording your inner thoughts.
Remember, you don’t have to write perfectly. These thoughts aren’t intended for public consumption. You get to write how you want, when you want, and what you want. You can write freely and securely, knowing that the words recorded are an important part of your journey.
Journaling offers the freedom to be who we are when no one else is around. Quiet any negative self-talk or inner doubts, and keep on writing—even if grammatical mistakes or uncomfortable thoughts make their way into your journal.
To beginners, journaling may seem like a waste of time. Or, it may seem like more trouble than it’s worth. But I can tell you from personal experience that it is extremely valuable to record our thoughts. Journaling helped me overcome some of the most traumatic moments of my life, and was a key component of transforming the pain of the past into triumph in the present.
You never know what your journal can become. I helped turn my journals into a memoir, which I just published this year. Writing in a journal can be scary—but it is incredibly rewarding. Start recording your thoughts today. You never know where it might lead.
Author bio: Samuel Moore-Sobel is the author of Can You See My Scars? His book is available for purchase through Mascot Books and on Amazon. To learn more about the author, visit www.samuelmoore-sobel.com