Wednesday, April 18, 2007

You Can't Journal Wrong!

Photo of my current journal

By Marlene Depler

I've lost count of my futile attempts at journaling. In my adolescent years, I started several diaries. After detailing a few monotonous days or my latest crush on some boy, I soon tossed the diary into a drawer and promptly forgot about it.
As an adult I tried numerous times to capture a portion of my life on the pages of a journal. Once again my attempts tuned into unsuccessful endeavors. For a few weeks or a few months at best, I managed to write every day. But life happened—things like having a baby or moving to another state. I missed a few days that turned into months. Eventually, I gave up—temporarily that is—until my next fitful attempt. Over time I quit trying altogether.
For many years I made no effort to journal. That is until I heard Luci Shaw say, "You can't journal wrong!"

Her statement led me to approach journaling in a new way. Keeping a journal has become a rewarding and sustainable experience. But first, I had to confront the misconceptions about journaling that had sabotaged my success.

Misconception 1: Journals must be kept the right way.

I unknowingly believed there was a right way and a wrong way to keep a journal. I just couldn't quite decide what the right way was. There were so many types of journals—travel journals, gardening journals, prayer journals, etc. What kind of a journal should I keep? What topics should I write about in my journal?
I didn't know the right formula. This belief was rooted in the black-and-white thinking that often accompanies perfectionism. The way in which a person chooses to journal is not right or wrong. It is strictly a personal choice that may change from day to day and year to year as we grow and change. We are free to include or exclude anything we choose without being rigid.
So as I began to journal once again, I often reminded myself, You can't journal wrong! Now I include anything I choose in my journal. I write observations and reflections about life or nature. I sometimes complain and sometimes I dream. Writing ideas germinate sometimes before I even realize a seed was planted.
I pen heartfelt prayers and questions for which I currently have no answers. I talk about my feelings, thoughts, and struggles. I give a voice to both joy and sorrow. Humorous things my grandchildren say and do make their way onto the page. I include meaningful quotations from books or even friends. I no longer worry about whether it is right. My journal is simply whatever I want it to be on any given day.

Misconception 2: One must journal everyday.

Another misconception I held was that I MUST write every day—no exceptions. This belief set me up for failure. It didn't allow for real life with all its uncertainties and interruptions. If I missed a few days or weeks, I gave up. Now I just return and jump right in. It's OK if a few gaps occur.
I now view my journal more like a friend or companion. Sometimes I confide in my journal more than once a day. When I have been away for a few days, I can't wait to spend time with this friend. I write when I choose to, not because I must.

Misconception 3: Entries must be error-free.

If I was to journal successfully, I needed to discard my compulsion for "error-free" entries. It may be normal to desire a certain degree of neatness, but I had to learn to live with a few misspelled words, grammatical errors, and crossed-out sentences. Of course, I attempt to write well, but if I make a few mistakes, so what? After all, I'm human! I might as well embrace my humanity and allow for some imperfection. So now, if I make some type of mistake, I draw a line through it and move on.
Discarding my tendencies toward perfectionism has made sustained journaling attainable for me. And journaling has enabled me to live and write more fully. It has become a richly satisfying experience.
For others who may be considering a whirl at journaling, I highly recommend it—that is if you are willing to give up your misconceptions—and your perfectionism. Remember, "You can't journal wrong!"

(c) Marlene Depler

To publish in any form, permission must be granted by author.


Sharon Kay said...

I have also started many journals, but would forget for a day or so and just not stick with it. I may trt again after reading your post.

smilnsigh said...

-sigh_ I too, have wanted to... And then abandoned attempts at Journaling.

I wonder. Are there non-Journaling people?

Not this kind of On Line Journaling. Oh I do this, *with a vengence.* Guess I mean, the kind which I associate with a written one. Of 'all of me.'

I'd never put 'all of me,' on the Net. I've never really wanted to put 'all of me,' even in paper form....