• West Cork Literary Festival 2021

My Journaling Journey by Sandra Harris

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wreck this journal

Sandra Harris

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MY JOURNALING JOURNEY: THE STORY SO FAR.

I started journaling in November 2020, without really knowing too much about it, because I really wanted to write words in a notebook with a pen again, after years of typing my work on my laptop. I actually had a real yearning for using a pen and paper again.

So I found an unused notebook in a local second-hand bookshop that I liked the look of, and bought it for this exact purpose. I didn’t realise at first that the journal was part of a series by a lady called Keri Smith, entitled WRECK THIS JOURNAL.

The idea is that you find inner freedom and creativity by following the journal’s prompts to do mad things to it, like rolling it down a hill, bringing it into the shower with you, poking holes in it with a pencil and even punching the pages, after first dipping your fist in something. Sweet Jesus.

I knew I’d do none of these wacky, sadistic things to the poor, poor journal. I’d write things in it and carry it around with me and record my thoughts, dreams, hopes and fears in it like you’re supposed to in a journal, although any journal writer will tell you that you can write absolutely anything you want to in a journal. Your journal, your rules. Have it YOUR way, as they used to say at Burger King. Some people even draw or doodle in theirs, if it feels right, but I’m strictly a wordsmith.

I’ve been a fervent diary-keeper for the last sixteen years, since my youngest child was born and all of a sudden I needed once more to keep track of things like vaccinations, doctor-and-hospital visits and a load of different baby milestones.

But a diary differs from a journal in that it’s a record of events that have happened to you. A journal can be a record of how you feel about these events and what they mean to you. A journal can be a tool, just one of the many tools we can use in search of a meaningful life. (Note to self: Wine and cake are not real tools…!)

I googled what kind of things you can write in a journal. You can keep a gratitude journal, writing down every day what things you’re grateful for. This practice can definitely promote well-being and feelings of happiness, optimism and positivity. Whether it’s a delicious dinner or finding a fiver in an old coat pocket (preferably your own coat, but whatever!), we’ll all have at least one thing to be grateful about every day.

You can journal to find solutions to problems, or just to rant a bit if you have no other outlet. You can use your journal for self-growth and knowledge about self by writing about your talents and skills, your strengths and weaknesses, areas in which you’re doing really well or areas in which you could use a little improvement and, let’s face it, nobody’s perfect, lol.

Like Richard Branson, you can use a journal to write down lists or your career goals. I’ve started using mine to write down my writing goals for the near future. Even if I don’t stick to the plan, writing down my goals helps to crystallise them for me in my mind and helps me to remember them.

You can also look up journal prompts on the Internet. I’ve done this a couple of times and ended up answering questions like, what is enough for you, and if you had a magic wand, what changes would you make in your life? Prompts are an endless source of things to write about, and you can buy books of them too if you prefer that to googling.

Here’s some stuff I’ve written about in my own journal since November, and some questions I’ve tried to answer there: my dreams (the dreams I have while I’m sleeping, not my goals); my writing resolutions for 2021 (I’ve broken ’em all already!); thirty things that make me happy (that was a good one!); what does a Wednesday mean to me?

If the world ended at midnight tonight, how would I spend the rest of the day; some movie quotes I like and identify with; how am I currently sabotaging my goals (sneaky but very clever!); and finally, I wrote a detailed account of my second child’s birth from sixteen years ago because I realised that, although the story had passed into oral legend in the family, there was no written account of it anywhere. So now it’s in my journal! (My daughter, my oldest child, is adamant that she in particular will never read this account but hey, my job was just to document the birth, not find readers for it…!)

I intend to fill some of the journal pages (the really dark-coloured ones that I can’t write on because I wouldn’t be able to see my writing) with photos of my kids and hamsters, and my daughter, who adores stationery, has bought me some stickers of random girlie things like shoes and handbags to jazzy up the book, so it ought to be worthy of display in a museum or art gallery by the time I’m finished with it, lol.

One last thought. Is my newly-adopted practice of journaling distracting me from my Work In Progress and my actual novel writing? Oh, absolutely! One hundred million percent yes. I haven’t written so much as a chapter since I began journaling.

I’ll definitely have to address this situation at some point in the near future, but for now I’m up to my ears in glitter, coloured marker pens and glue-on sparkles and I’m having a ball wholeheartedly embracing my inner child-artist, so long may it continue. Ahem…

By Sandra Harris. ©

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