The Power of the Written Word: Barriers To Journaling
“I have no time.”
This is what I’ve heard over the years; not just stated as a reason people don’t journal, but for several aspects of self-care. “I just don’t have the time to sit down and write, just write. It doesn’t accomplish anything. It’s not productive. And it’s selfish. I could be doing some many other more important things.” And so journaling, and often general self-care, once again is set on the back burner.
First you must believe!
I’ve come to realize that “I don’t have time,” is another way of saying “I don’t make time for it,” because it’s not deemed as priority. Think about all the things we do make time for: eating, sleeping, bathroom. Those are priority because we need them to survive. But now, make a list of all the daily activities in your life you make time for. What constitutes them as priority to you? Is self-care a priority for you? Do you take time to meet your own needs? Do you believe you deserve to take time for yourself to journal? Do you believe you have the right to heal? Do you believe you have the right to be happy? If so, you are more likely to either not have this barrier to journaling or are more likely to overcome it. However, if you believe your needs are not as important as everyone else’s and you spend more time doing for others, then yes this may be difficult for you. Do you take responsibility of other people’s reactions to your healing journey requiring time just for you? Then the illusion of guilt may be your biggest barrier to journaling.
After the Beliefs, Come the Boundaries
Once you believe you have the right to this type of “me time”, you’ll need to create your own space and time. This often requires the implementing of certain boundaries with yourself and with others.
Boundaries with yourself create self-discipline to begin and follow through. Like a contract you create with yourself, it’s good to decide when you will journal, whether it be a specific time of day or a reaction to particular triggers like feeling specific feelings such as anger and stress or overwhelming thoughts come to mind that distract you from your goals. You could even set a deal with yourself that you will open your little notebook in your purse or glove box whenever an idea comes to mind.
You could decide to approach your journaling path in a go-with-the-flow manner as explained in the above paragraph, or you can figure out your circadian rhythm – your 24-hour clock - to discover when you are more likely to be motivated to write. For instance, you could decide that you feel more creative when you get up with your first coffee in the morning, before the day actually gets started. When you decide, is your boundary to yourself.
Boundaries with others create that free, uninterrupted time to journal. “Go play outside for a while. Mommy is going to write for about half an hour.” Or you might just say, “Hun, when I’m in my office and the door is closed, please let me have some time. I’ll be journaling.” Twenty years ago when I was doing some freelance writing, I always wrote lying on the floor, on my stomach, across the living room carpet. I know, strange. But sometimes we can’t really choose what motivates us. My family got into the habit of ignoring me when I had my notebook on the floor with me. Boundaries are more likely to be followed when we are consistent with them. So telling your family to leave you alone when your bedroom door is closed won’t work if, even once, you give in and give them attention (for something that is not an emergency that is) during your journaling time.
I heard once on a sitcom in the 80’s about Chicago journalist, one journalist saying to another, “You know what it means when you get writer’s block?” “What?” “It means you’re a writer.” That has always stuck with me. It’s like a mantra that envelopes a multitude of thought, and yet it comes down to one thing. Writers get writer’s block, period. End of story. So if it’s so much a part of the journey, consequently all who intend to write need to have their own bag ‘o tools for just such an occasion.
Traveling a journaling journey, one might also trip into such a trap. Let’s look at some of the reasons one might develop such a frustrating block.
1. Believing journaling is a reflection on one’s writing abilities. There is a misunderstanding out there that you have to actually be a writer or at least have writing ability to do well in journaling. Actually, it’s to the contrary. It reminds me of the year I tried to learn how to play the piano by ear after years of learning by the rules of the Royal Conservatory. My brain was trained to keep me focused on the structured way of playing, the left-brained way, while playing by ear is more right-brained. It wasn’t until I watched an interview on Much Music with Larry Gowan and heard him say how different, and therefore difficult to learn music one way, and then the other, and that he himself had a lot of trouble with it. Journaling is very much the same. If you are a trained writer, you may find yourself focusing on the rules – the capitals, the periods, the commas, and the grammatical rules, etc. This hinders the flow of thought and emotion. No one is going to see this writing of yours. No one but you. So you will have to get out of your own way and tell yourself it doesn’t matter, when it comes to journaling, over and over until the critical, left-brained voice relaxes and takes a break. Just think about how people now text or tweet.
2. Trust issues. If mom, or anyone else in your past has taken it upon themselves and snooped into your diary or other personal writing pieces, then this may stick with you and cause you to become very defensive about putting your private thoughts and feelings out, on paper or on a computer, for anyone to see if they so choose to try and find it and break that sacred boundary. I totally get this. And it can be quite an obstacle to the flow of thought and emotion. A couple of suggestions are: keep your journal with you, or in your car if that works, or maybe disguise your journal as a notebook with the title on the cover being something that will repel the potential snooper, or once your write you can destroy the evidence. It’s more important to write it down than to keep it, although keeping it to review and work with at a later date is very benefit. It’s just not mandatory. We learn to work with what we’ve got.
3. A lack of belief in the value of journaling (waste of time? indicating loss of control?). We have been taught be the people around us and society in general that not being productive is a waste of time and lazy. But then there’s this skewed definition of what unproductive is. Mostly, you must be working towards making money or doing something for someone else. There must be a tangible outcome or solution to your task or activity. So, writing on a paper or in a Word document just for the sake of writing? Pointless. Meanlingless. And yes – a waste of time. If we’ve heard this just once from someone in our outer world, there’s a good chance that this message becomes a recording in our heads, creating a core belief. And the result is no inspiration to write. The responsible inner adult voice says no. Also, as we get older, we can get a little sensitive about the changes that can occur. One change we hear a lot about is our ability to keep a sharp mind. We may witness the gradual, cognitive downfall of our grandparents and parents and create a fear of this happening to us. So, when we consider journaling and see that one of the benefits of recording our agendas and making lists is helping our memory, we may want to avoid journaling, believing that we are giving in to the aging process. This is not necessarily the case. I’ve been journaling all my life and I feel that it has helped me at any age. Now that I am almost 50 years old, I don’t associate writing everything down to having memory issues I am grateful for the assistance as I am like most people and have so much to do on a daily basis. Writing it down allows me to not have to keep it all straight. I would keep me up at night. I have been keeping track in writing for this reason since I was in my 20’s, memory not included.
4. Fear of outcomes. There might be a knowing that there is something stirring, just below the conscious level that is dying to surface and be released. There also might be a knowing that journaling would do the trick. Then there’s another side of us all that like to keep us in the dark and safe, the ego. I like to say to people that the amount of fear they have towards address what’s inside is directly proportional to how it affects their everyday lives. I also say whatever cause you fear, run straight for it.
Here are some exercises you can use to help you overcome the nasty writer’s block. If you don’t have a block, these exercises are kinda fun to use for warm ups to a writing or journaling session.
10 Tips to Overcoming Writer’s Block
1. Write about what you would write about if only you didn’t feel blocked.
2. Write about what you will – at some future point – actually writer about. (You can start with a list and expand it with descriptions at a later date.)
3. Write about your ideal game plan for completing a writing project. (Maybe, “I’ll feel over the hump when I have….. “ follow with a list.)
4. Write the smallest possible segment of a larger piece. Instead of a whole story or even a paragraph, concentrate on an opening sentence or a 100-word description of someone’s hat. Working in miniature can often warm your creative juices to more writing.
5. Write a list of subjects you want to write about one of these days.
6. Write down what you think you can accomplish on your writing goal or project for today only. Don’t think beyond today, and force yourself to put down less than you think you can do.
7. Write down what you overhear other people say. Steal lines while you’re in a café or on a bus. You’ll be amazed at how lyrical some of it is. You can arrange all the lines into a poem or write some dialogue. At any rate, this tip will at least get you out of the house.
8. Write for 7 (only 7) minutes. Set a timer or an alarm and, when it rings, force yourself to stop. If you’re miserable in your writing, then you’re saved. If you’re ecstatic in your writing, so much the better. By having to quit you’ll be panting to get back soon.
9. Write in detail about every single thing you did yesterday. (Did you do any writing of any kind? Give yourself credit if you did.)
10.Write a log of every minute you spend each day on any writing. Start now. This is especially important if you are working towards a specific goal. Keeping a log might hurt at first, but think of it as giving yourself credit for every moment you spend writing when you could easily be doing something else.
Any barrier to writing begins with you. It’s all in your head. To put extra pressure on yourself or to tell yourself that there is something wrong can only increase it. Barriers to writing and journaling are normal, natural and happen all the time to even the most experienced writer and those who journal. The trick is to find the barrier breaker that works for you personally. No one else can tell you how to overcome your block. You, and only you, have the power.
Previous hubs to the Power of the Written Word series:
• Introduction to Journaling -- http://mindzntransit.hubpages.com/hub/The-Power-of-the-Written-Word
• Benefits to Journaling -- http://mindzntransit.hubpages.come/hub/The-Power-of-the-Written-Word-Benefits