I’m a big fan of freewrite journaling. I’ve got notebooks that I’ve filled going back to 1998. I’ve yet to read many of them. That’s OK. It is the act of writing itself that I’m discussing here.

I’ve journaled my way through many emotional lows (and highs). When I’m feeling confused, when there’s a “weight,” when I’m feeling “ADD,” lost, sad, anxious – 10 to 30 minutes of writing makes a huge difference. Not every time. But far more often than not. And I’ve been recommending writing practice to my clients for years. They report the same.

THE PRACTICE

Here’s what I have my clients do: First, choose a (preferably cheap) notebook. I like those composition books that you can get for between 1 and 2 bucks pretty much everywhere, the ones with the black and white speckles. Then choose a pen that writes well for you (not too much or too little traction on the page). Once you have chosen your notebook and pen, find some time alone, in a coffee shop, before everyone wakes up, etc. I prefer doing this in the morning rather than the afternoon. For some reason, it is like a “spiritual chiropractic” for me – it aligns my day by helping me to see what is happening inside. I often pray with my pen on paper. 

When you are in your chosen writing spot, set a timer for 15 minutes to start. Maybe even for 30. That’s my favorite. Then go. Write everything that comes up. In the beginning, it will feel awkward if you are not used to the journaling practice. I give myself permission to write things like “this is stupid. I don’t know what to write. My hand hurts. I hate writing right now.” Get it? This is the level of capture and transparency you are going for.

JOURNALING = SEEING

On a slightly “weirder” level (depending on where you’re coming from), journaling in this way will show you what you are thinking and feeling. That’s the way I look at it. There’s a branch of Philosophy that came about around the turn of the century in Germany called Phenomenology – it was an attempt to return “to the things themselves,” to get underneath cultural presuppositions and get at “what is there” in everyday experience. I view journaling as a way of doing this. Call it a lens. It is a way of seeing. 

Try it. Don’t worry about “I’m not a good writer.” Write about that, if anything. And remember: quantity first, quality follows.