Empty space on paper is an invitation to me. I call myself a writer, although I’ve never published a book. I just love to express and create with words. (This is not surprising coming from someone who read the dictionary like a novel as a child.) I’ve written poems, short stories, blogs, lesson plans, training materials, and my loved ones frequently receive old-fashioned, hand-written letters on the most unique and beautiful papers and cards I can find. But one of my favorite writing pastimes is journaling.
I have probably hoarded too many journals, picking them up whenever I find a unique cover, to save for a time when I have a new occasion to write or need a special gift for someone. I sometimes read through old journals and I’m reminded of a different version of myself, perhaps more naïve, in my younger years. I have journals that cover time periods, specific events, records of animals I’ve taken care of, and family stories. One of my very favorite assignments in grad school was to write something every day for an entire semester. I love having this glimpse into the daily life of my then twelve year old son: the day we found a dead hawk in the woods, the time he won the social studies fair, or an evening with family from out of town. These are cherished memories now, recorded to pass on.
The spoken word is fleeting. The written word is immortal. And it can be healing as well. I’ve found journaling to be an effective tool when I need to sort through feelings, especially when I suffered from depression and anxiety after my brother’s death. I could scribble my heart’s thoughts and feel heard, even if no one read it but me. Writing is an outlet for joy, and also an outlet for pain. When I read through my journals now that I wrote during that painful time, it helps me realize how much I’ve healed in the past 8 years!
The times that I put pen to paper and CAN’T write are the times I know I’m not well. It is my chosen path of expression, and vital to my mental health. I can also identify my moods by my penmanship: I think I would be a handwriting analyst’s nightmare! I have a different style of writing depending on my mood. It matters not what it looks like, but what I am able to express with the ink. If you’ve never journaled, pick up a Bic and try it – no pressure – no need for calligraphy or straight lines! Start with how you feel, and let the words flow like the ink with which they are written.