Journaling Can Be Therapeutic

Woman Writer
Preparing to Journal

I’m a writer, but mostly in the sense that everyone is. I read years ago about cultures that do not recognize anyone as a writer, an artist, a musician…because everyone has those abilities. In these cultures, it is not a competition; everyone produces at their own level, and a huge part of the value is the self-expression, the belief that we all need to express ourselves.
Writing is easier for me than it is for some, because I was always encouraged to write. I don’t have any memory of my writing being compared favorably or unfavorably to anyone else’s, though I cannot imagine that it didn’t happen. We live in too competitive a society for that to be avoided. As far as the writing I am focused on here, there is no need or even possibility for competition.
I am talking about journaling, a form of writing in which it might even be best if you can ignore all the rules you have been taught about being a writer, whether for term papers, letters to the editor, professional journals, the novel you would like to create…all those things I have named will do best with careful attention to detail and some good proofreading. Journaling is best done without any of those precautions, because you want to get your thoughts on paper and it is not for anyone else’s eyes. How your writing may appear to someone else is irrelevant here. Don’t even stop to correct your spelling. You are hearing that last sentence from someone who prides herself on being part of the Spelling Police.
Journaling doesn’t need to be like a dairy that is kept on a daily basis; it may be used in order to get yourself through a crisis and then forgotten about. If it has served its purpose, then that was clearly a good thing. For some, it is a form of self-counseling; for others it is an adjunct to whatever other therapies you choose. Note that I say “you choose”—it can be a professional therapist, or not. But for many, journaling is very therapeutic.
We all have stories to tell, whether we tell them to others, or silently to ourselves, or put them on paper. And telling these stories helps us make sense out of our lives, our situations, often clarifying those thoughts that feel so jumbled in our heads. If you don’t want anyone else to ever see what you write, feel free to write it and then put it through a crosscut shredder. The process itself is likely to help you sort things out; you don’t need physical evidence for this journaling to serve a purpose.
I had an incident of my own several years ago, when my first marriage was floundering. I journaled sporadically, and often in the backs of notebooks for the classes I was taking at the time. At one point I stumbled on a probably two-year-old journal entry “If things don’t get better, I need to leave.” Since this entry was dated and I realized things had in fact not gotten better, seeing that I had written that two years previously really helped me to take a serious look at my reality. I would be lying to say I immediately contacted an attorney, but there was a shift in my thinking to where I could no longer pretend that things would work themselves out if only I waited long enough.
What will you discover with your own journaling? I will of course never know, because it is your own private writing. But you will, and it will likely open your mind to a fuller view of your own interior and exterior life, both the bad parts and the good. So have lots of paper on hand, or lots of memory on your phone or laptop. This could be an adventure.

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