Journaling without structure can become a repetitive exercise in which you continuously find yourself circling the same issues over and over, skimming over emotions, and sticking with the superficial. It can become stale, unsatisfying, unproductive. By unproductive, I mean that we’re not getting as much out of it as we could.
In my case, I notice that when I only freewrite for days or weeks at a time, my journal pages tend to become full of concerns, complaints, and fears. I call these my “moaning pages.” Though whining into my journal has a positive function — it takes the worries from my mind and moves them onto the page — those pages don’t accurately represent what is really going on in my life.
Reading back through those journal entries, I always wish I had provided more context for all that moaning, and that I had examined more closely the reasons for my fears or feelings of helplessness. My journaling provided an emotional catharsis, but it did not help me understand the underlying message to myself about why I needed to write that stuff.
When (not if, because it happens to everyone at one point or another), you find yourself wanting to get more out of your journal, try the following techniques. The first method can be done in any amount of time available, though 20-30 minutes is ideal. Done in one sitting, the second technique can take about 30-60 minutes; however, you can also break it down into 10-minute “chunks” and complete it over a period of days.
- Proprioceptive Writing. This method taps into your emotions and intuition while you are writing, allowing you to connect more deeply with Self. “Proprioceptive Writing,” a method popularized by Linda Trichter Metcalfe and Tobin Simon in the early 2000’s, is similar to freewriting, with one important difference: you tune into your inner voice and reflect upon the meaning of your thoughts as they are written.
Begin by writing your thoughts exactly as you hear them, as if they were spoken aloud. When your thoughts wander, go with them. (This is the part that is similar to freewriting.) As you write, “listen” to the thoughts, and whenever a word or phrase catches your attention, ask the question: What do I mean by [word or phrase]? Then write what you hear in response.
For example, I used this method in the second paragraph of this post, when I wrote, “By unproductive, I mean …”Proprioceptive writing explores and clarifies your thinking, brings you in touch with yourself, and helps you to reveal underlying emotions.
- Cluster, freewrite, reflect. The first step of this technique involves creating a cluster of associated words and phrases that spring from a central word or phrase. When you’re done clustering, freewrite using the words, images, and concepts from your cluster. (For complete directions, read my post on Creative Clustering).
Now, go deeper by asking questions about what you’ve written. For example: in what ways are the images metaphors for your life, and how do they bring a deeper understanding to the lens through which you perceive life? What emotional thread runs through the center of the phrases and the writing? What does this emotional thread reveal? Continue asking questions and writing the answers as they come to you.
These two methods, when practiced on a regular basis, will help you get more out of your journal writing.
If you would like to learn more about ways to deepen your journal writing within a structured and supportive environment, sign up for my FREE Journaling 101 email course and join my year-round 30 Days to Deeper Journaling online class.