I am not a diary keeper. I mean, I have written diary-like stuff, many times, but I suck at keeping an actual diary. Lord knows I have tried and there is a large stack of empty journals in my cupboard to prove it. But it never became my thing; it’s just not me.
Instead, I have always written down my thoughts randomly, according to no other schedule than simple personal urge. I throw what is in my head onto scraps of paper or into electronic files. More often than not, I lose them or forget about them very soon thereafter. It is how my mind works. Thoughts and emotions fly in, thoughts and emotions fly out. But it works for me and when I manage to write them down, my thoughts fly faster and freer every time.
Did you know there is a direct relationship between writing down thoughts and feelings and your ability to manage those often confusing and painful burdens? James W. Pennebaker, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas in Austin, and his team of researchers have been studying the connection between writing and health for many years and have shown that writing has the potential of improving emotional, biological and even behavioural functioning for those who make use of this tool. In keeping secrets, or suppressing our thoughts and feelings, we cultivate physical and emotional stress. In writing it down, we release that stress and stand to gain perspective and, more importantly, we move closer to that place where trauma cannot rule our emotional house.
There is fantastic book called Writing through the Darkness by Elizabeth Maynard Schaefer, Ph.D. In it, she offers two very simple rules that I strongly recommend (there is a third, but I found it too constricting for my own practice, so I will not recommend it here):
1. Write for yourself. This is your shit, my friend, no one else has to see it. Don’t check your thoughts. Don’t hold back your words. Throw it all onto that page in raw form and embrace the experience.
2. If it feels threatening, then don’t write on it. This process should never feel threatening. Challenging? Yes. Threatening? Never.
Now I want you to go and give it a try. Dip into your supply stash – grab that pen and paper – and take the time you need to steady your thoughts. Remember to breathe deeply, breathe slowly and just write.
Photo Credit: Jenn Fryer
Jenn ‘Niffer’ Fryer is a mother, a wife and a writer, enthusiastically scribing her way through life as it continues to entertain her pen. Currently in her second year at Algonquin College’s Professional Writing program, Jennifer is actively putting her skills as a writer to positive and affecting use, both in her community and beyond.