Protecting what you write
Last month Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book “Big Magic” was released into the world. I’ve been reading it and got to see her as part of her book tour in Boston. It was awesome!
It’s no surprise then that I’ve been thinking a lot about magic.
Magic can happen when you keep a journal.
The process of working through the thoughts in your mind and feelings in your heart is a magical process. And it takes time. But when you give it the time, and you’re open to the magic that can happen, your life can start to change.
You can clear a path for focused thinking and action based on what your heart really wants and you can live a more fulfilling and joyful life.
These are big promises, I know.
I also know that it is totally possible to write your story the way you want it to be in your journal, and then for that story to become your reality.
But, there is one little caveat that needs to be addressed. One thorn in the toe that can limit the journaling experience and keep you from reaching your full potential.
The fear that another person will read it.
You might not call it fear. You may think of it as concern or caution.
You may think that by not writing the truth of your experience on the page you are protecting someone you love from finding out something about you, or information that reflects how you feel about them, that could really hurt them or cause pain.
And for this I applaud you. Being concerned about what others think and feel is a beautiful thing. If we have to fear something, then for goodness sake, let it be the fear that we might cause another person pain and then work hard to protect that person.
But, what about you?
The story that you’re keeping in, the experiences that you’ve had, the feelings and thoughts that course through your body and are dying to come out, have to be put somewhere. And the sacred, healing process of journal writing is a perfect place for them to go.
This is something that comes up with every single one of my clients who want to keep a journal. Pages and pages of journaling can happen that are sugarcoated.
Or a story is danced around.
A tale is told in facts only, devoid of feeling or reflection.
And usually when this happens, its because there is a voice in the back of our minds that is saying “what if someone finds this? What if they read it? And what if they hate me for it?”
Better to keep what we really think and feel locked up tight and held inside.
I did this. There was at least a five year period of my journal writing life (and I’ve been journaling for 26 years now), that I was so concerned about what my journal would look like to other people that I only wrote down happy things.
I was terrified of what someone would think if they were to find and look through my journal of doom and gloom, my wonderings about what other people were thinking, and the retellings of all the bad things that happened in my life, that I refused to write them down.
Guess what happened?
At the end of that five year period, I was the heaviest I’ve ever been, I barely wrote in my journal at all because the task of keeping it all upbeat and happy was exhausting, and I had very few feelings of sincere satisfaction.
Basically, I carried around any misery I experienced in my own personal torch that was always burning and never in any danger of dying out. Because I carried it with me and never dumped it out on the page.
And extremely unhealthy.
Once I realized what was happening, I was able to come up with a solution to my problem. (FYI there is another layer to this story, and it has to do with letting someone else read my journal – I don’t recommend this. Ever. At least, not while you are still on this planet.)
My solution was to put a love letter at the start of my journal. The love letter is intended to catch the attention of any person who picks up my journal on purpose or accident.
This letter explains what they might find in the pages of my journal and gently warns him or her to proceed with caution.
I call it a Journal Protection Plan.
Would you like to see it? You can grab a free copy by entering your name and email in the field to the right and you’ll receive your own Journal Protection Plan.
Guess what happened when I took steps to put a warning label on the inside cover of my journal?
I let go of the need to keep it happy.
I started writing whatever I wanted, however I wanted to. I stopped worrying about what others might think.
Because you know what?
Our journals are not for other people.
They are for us. They are sacred places for us to explore, to dive deep, to learn about life, and to experience the joy of reflecting on our lessons.
The one exception to this is the recording you do with the intention of sharing with others. And even for that, I recommend that you first write it uncensored. Then edit it, if necessary, and share it with the world.
So many writers have wisely said that sometimes you just have to write what you have to write. That the process demands it.
And that just because you commit something to paper does not guarantee in any way that it will ever get published, printed, or shared.
The same is true for your journal writing experience. You are under no obligation to share this. And when you put a note in the very front of your personal, sacred exploratory writing, you are telling the world to stop.
You claim this space for yourself. Your own personal flag is here and if someone finds your journal and wants to proceed he or she better do so carefully. No apology needs to be offered for anything in your pages. And its not because you don’t love the person who finds your journal.
It’s because you do love them. But you love you too.
Go forth and journal – and use those pages to be and explore who you really are.
Prompt for today: How do you feel about the idea of someone else reading your journal? Do you think it would ever be okay?
Like this article? Please feel free to use it on your own blog or newsletter. I simply ask that you please include this blurb:Sara Marchessault is a coach, writer, and mom who helps busy women use journaling to create more space in their life for being productive without feeling overwhelmed. To learn more about Sara and her work in the world, please visit joyfulbydesign.com or saramarchessault.com.