Back to Journaling Basics 8

In every discipline and art form, it’s important to practice the fundamentals in order to keep them sharp. Years ago, I was a competitive ballroom dancer; yet, no matter how skilled or accomplished I became, my accomplishments were all built on the solid foundation of the fundamentals of each step: the precise placements of heel and toe, the arch of the back, the position of hands and elbows and neck and head.

In the same way, no matter what an accomplished journaler I consider myself to be, I find that it’s important to rekindle my beginner’s mind and approach journal writing from a fresh point of view, exploring its form again as though I haven’t been doing it for so many years.  This is also a way of breaking out of a sense of staleness or stuckness in my writing.

What do I mean by the basics of journaling?

  • Grab a notebook and favorite pen, or perhaps your laptop, and find a quiet corner, somewhere you feel safe to contemplate and write and where you will not be interrupted.

    For some, a “quiet” corner means going to a coffee shop where there is the constant white noise and hum of conversation. Personally, I like to find a comfortable chair — my rocking chair in my office — or when the weather is mild I like to sit outdoors on the back patio so I can feel the day.
  • Ease into writing by describing where you are and what is going on around you.

    As I write this post, I am on vacation on the Pacific coast of Mexico. This morning, I began: “It’s cloudy this morning and too cool to sit on the balcony sipping my coffee as I have for the last few days. So I’m sitting at the little glass breakfast table just inside the balcony door, which is open and through which a breeze gently glides. The sound of the waves is muffled and there are not as many construction sounds as yesterday. Also, there are fewer fishing boats, or they are farther out to sea. Do the fish stay farther out when it’s cloudy? Or perhaps they sense a turn of weather that we do not.”
  • Follow the natural meanderings of your mind.

    Notice how writing my observations about what was going on around me led to questions. I went on to write about what I thought might be going on at home, and the realization that because I had not had access to the Internet I was unaware of current events — and that lack of connection was actually creating a sense of space and peace in my life. I was, it seemed, experiencing a vacation from too much connection.
  • Explore your feelings.

    Why, I wondered, did I feel such a sense of freedom as a result of this lack of connection? Exploring this feeling on the page led me to the realization that as wonderful as being able to be connected is, the constant flow of email and social media and news becomes, for me, a demanding of have-to read, have-to respond, have-to have-to. Without this constand demand, I felt lighter, freer. I knew I wouldn’t want to be disconnected forever, but I learned (re-learned) through my journaling that it’s important for me to take intentional breaks now and then.
  • Allow natural pauses. Lift your eyes from the page now and then. Tune into your senses, observe what is going on around you from the point of view of sights, sounds, smells, and physical sensations.

    As you know if you have been reading WritingThroughLife for any length of time, I am a proponent of Freewriting and writing prompts as means of getting your writing juices flowing. I am also in favor of allowing yourself to be unfocused, letting the mind and heart wander, writing fragments and images as they come to you. In this way you may uncover the unexpected.
  • Stop when you feel complete.

    Sometimes I pause, unsure what to write next, but I don’t feel satisfied somehow. I don’t feel complete. It seems as though there is still something to be said, even though I don’t know what it is. When this happens, keep writing, even if it is only about not knowing what it is you need to say or writing about the very need to write. Tune into the sensations in your body. They may help whatever it is that needs expression to bubble to the surface.

The basics of journal writing are simple, straightforward, intuitive, and effective.

Because journaling is such an individual kind of writing art (and yes, I believe it’s a kind of art) I’m curious: Do these journaling basics work for you? Where is your quiet corner? How do you know when your journaling session is complete?


photo by ARACELOTA via Compfight

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8 thoughts on “Back to Journaling Basics

  • patsy ann taylor

    Thank you for the reminder that we are all beginners every time we start something new. Freewriting is one of my favorite ways to jumpstart a new project. Often this method can open up fresh avenues for a piece that has me stalled.

  • Sharon Lippincott

    Thank you for the reminder of the space that comes from unplugging. As I carry on (online and email!) conversations with peers, I’m discovering an epidemic of burnout building from so much social media, constant email bombardments and the need to keep up with each other’s sites and work. We need to RETREAT! Perhaps a cyber-fast once or twice a month. Maybe a Sabbath of turning off the toys.

    Okay. You’ve got me going here. I found my topic for the day. Hope you enjoy your time down below.

    • Amber Lea Starfire

      Sharon, thanks for your comment. I’m back in the thick of things, and love the idea of a cyber-fast! At least once a month. I remember once (this was a few years ago), I unplugged every electrical device in my house, including the refrigerator and all the clocks, and just sat in the silence for 2 hours. I was amazed by how omnipresent the hum and click of electricity had become, and how quiet my home was without it. That’s very similar to what I feel when I disconnect from the Internet for a day: the absence of the constant background noise, leaves space for contemplation and restoration.