with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Journal Writing

There is something about a blank page that seems to lock up the imagination and still the pen in hand. Writing in a journal is a challenge. Everyone has their own reason NOT to write. What is yours? Is it the challenge of expressing your inner feelings? Is it the fear of someone else reading it? Is it that you just don’t know what to write? Consider writing in your journal another life lesson. Look at your reasons for not writing in a journal. Do you usually have trouble expressing your feelings? Are you sensitive about privacy issues? Look deeper and uncover the real reasons. Then decide what to do about them.

Animated graphic of writing in a journal.In week four of her book, Life Makeovers, Cheryl Richardson shares the life lessons she’s learned and the changes in her life that come from her journal writing. For me, as a child I found that I had a friend in my diary that I could write to. I didn’t have to write pretty or properly, or even nicely. I could share all my feelings, dreams, wishes, frustrations, anything I wanted with my imaginary friend who lived in the pages of my diary. As a teenager, I couldn’t express my hormonal angst in public, but I could on paper. As my life moved into college and the busy life style we all fall into, writing for the joy of it was replaced by writing term papers, essays, reports, and all kinds of writing for work but not fun. It took many years to again find the joy in jotting down my thoughts on paper. I still battle for time to just sit and write. So I have to make an appointment for some quiet time to sit down and write every day.

When I consider the challenge of writing down my thoughts on paper, I think of the famous diaries and journals of Edison, Freud, Leonardo DaVinci, and various presidents and rulers. Some of the most famous, successful and creative people in the world’s history kept journals or diaries. Some of the not so famous people who became famous because of their diaries, like Anne Frank, changed the world in their small way by their simple words written on paper. These words bring us great insights into humanity and how these great people faced the challenges of their every day life as well as the greater challenges that changed the world. One of the most popular movies and books, "Bridget Jones’ Diary", is about 12 months in the life of a young woman and her desperate attempts to improve herself and her love life, and finally realizing at the end that "success awaits those who are content to simply be themselves." (CNN Review) While visiting the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem recently, I realized that a lot of the Dead Sea Scrolls are just journals about the little known day to day life of the people of the area. Certainly my little thoughts are of less value than those of Edison, Lincoln, and others, but we don’t know who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls and their value today is immeasurable. I may not be writing for future generations to analyze my words and lifestyle, but I am writing to help me get in touch with who I am and what I am doing with this life.

For those unaccustomed to putting their thoughts on paper, Cheryl makes the journal writing process fairly easy. Each week she offers questions in the action steps section for you to consider. Just jot the question down and the answer and you’ve done your work. If you feel like writing more, then do so. If this is really challenging for you, then consider your journal a notebook where you can jot down ideas and notes rather than rambling sentences. As you go through this process, it’s good to go back and check your notes as reminders of what you were thinking of "back then" and use your notes as a measurement of how your thinking has changed over time. For example, next year, if you again write down 25 accomplishments, it would be nice to compare it to the 25 you struggled to come up with 12 months before.

Remember, you are asking yourself to commit to this process for a short time. When you finish, you can never write in another journal if you want. For now, just give it a try and see what happens. Practice might make perfect, but it certainly does make it easier over time.

The Life Makeovers year long project has completed in Tel Aviv with Lorelle VanFossen and Ruth Alfi, but you can get involved or start your own group through the author of the book, Life Makeovers, Cheryl Richardson.

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