I am super excited to see Jamie Ridler launch her do-good initiative project, Give A Girl A Journal. When she tentatively started to mention several months ago, a project in which we can join to give girls journals I was ‘HELL YES’ from the start.
This project is simple. We can nominate a girl to receive a journal, or sponsor a journal to be given to a girl. Jamie will take care of the rest. Girl gets journal, girl gets the safe space to explore who she really is.
I fully and utterly support this project because journaling has been such a healing process to me. Without it, I would still be the angry, hurt, defensive person with a whole lot of unresolved issues. Journaling gave me the space to explore these issues and figure out ways to deal with them my way. It gave me a way to manage my Bipolar, ADHD and Dyslexia. Without it, I would’ve never got my PhD.
If you have experienced the benefit of journaling in your life, and can afford $20, please take this opportunity to forward that gift to a girl who is yet to discover journaling.
Find out more at Give A Girl A Journal. Give a Girl a Journal is a do-good initiative of Jamie Ridler Studios. I do not receive any financial benefit from sharing this project, I just whole heartedly believe that this is a project young girls need.
After a one-month break from journaling, I picked up my pen again yesterday to continue with my journaling practice. I sat down at my desk in Tokyo and started to write my three pages of Morning Pages. I had assumed that this was going to be like any other Morning Pages, just a brain dump of mundane things. I was totally wrong.
What happened in that first page was this. There was a situation that was frustrating me that morning. It wasn’t a big situation, or even a situation at all. But what came out on the page was a whole lot of anger I was not expecting. Venom might be the accurate word for it. So much more anger, resentment and frustration than it was even conceivable to me.
Over the last few years of regularly doing Morning Practice, I had been able to release the little stresses that comes in our everyday lives by writing a little ranty paragraph about each of them on a daily basis. I rant then let go. However, after a whole month away from this practice, I realised I had built up a many pockets of negative emotions that had nowhere to go but inside me for a whole month. Now that I was journaling again, the whole lot just came out in one go.
That first page was so uncomfortable to write. I would stop after each hateful line and be in the shock of having written something so mean. I would guilt myself on what a person I am for even thinking of such an awful line, let alone have the audacity to write it down. I would put down my pen in order to just walk away from this horrible experience. I would have to stretch out muscles that had started to cramp up from the emotional discomfort.
Pain of Starting to Journal
Thankfully, I knew I must keep writing all these shameful thoughts, so that they were out of my system. I knew this was my release mechanism and that I don’t really truly mean what I write. I am not a bad person. I am just frustrated with something and writing them down is my healthy way of releasing this energy. Better in a journal than at a real person.
But what if you don’t know that? What if you don’t yet have the experience in journaling to deeply know to ‘trust the system’? What if you have built up a life-time of anger, fear, frustration and resentment with no way of releasing it before now? Well, that is a deep, dark, scary place indeed.
One of the biggest challenges I hear from people who are starting out in journaling is that they find it so hard because of all the negativity that comes up. Good, hardworking, dedicated people who want to really commit to journaling soon find themselves knee-deep in this deep dark place. There’s no quick relief either. Past wounds and scars keep coming up and those are all that seem to come up. Happy memories and inspiring goals seem so far away. Every time they bravely show up to the page, more endless god-awful pain and suffering is all that show up.
I know this pain. I’ve totally been there. I’ve failed to learn to journal so many times because of this dark space where you need to get all that pain out, but you are nowhere near healing. A place where all you can write is all that stuff you were sure you had dealt with already and didn’t want to deal with it. The hopelessness you feel because ‘enjoying journaling’ seems so far away. This isn’t fun. This is serious emotional pain and you really don’t have the time to keep putting yourself through it. You have a house to run, jobs to go to and kids to keep alive.
If, at the time, someone had said to me ‘oh you just have to keep writing, it’ll get better’, I think I would’ve punched them in the face (in my mind only, of course). That’s not what you need to hear when you are faced with the most cutting of ghosts from your past. I don’t have a quick cure – you do have to write through the pain. What I can share though are things that helped me get through that initial painful stage of stepping into journaling.
After many failed attempt to regularly journal, I finally managed to get into it four years ago. The thing I can attribute to making it happen for me was being on an on-line journaling course (Susannah Conway’s Journal Your Life course, no affiliation). It was the kind of journaling course that wasn’t about digging up the painful past and leaving you in it. Yes it did do some digging from the past, but it managed to always bringing towards something positive about your future. What’s more, majority of the course focused on the you now and the future and not so much on the past. It was more about getting to know who you are now, and who you want to become.
I think being on this course was what helped me get through that initial dark stage of journaling. Yes I was still writing some very painful stuff and a whole lot of ugly in my morning pages. They were so sad and depressing to write about. I filled two whole Moleskine notebooks with the painful stuff. However, after the highly uncomfortable Morning Pages were written, I would turn to the course and starting working on that day’s prompt. It would get me to take a break from the past and focus on what I wanted for myself now.
After that course ended, I started another online course (this one unfortunately is no longer available) that was about digging deep to find what I wanted to really do in my work. How perfect! The two courses together, totally 12 weeks of daily positive support, helped me tremendously in getting me through the initial painful stage of getting into regular journaling.
It’s All About the Balance
I do think in journaling we need to do both – look into our past, and into our future. You look only into your past and there’s no room to take what you learn from them into somewhere useful. Look only into the future and you won’t ever find out that future never seem to happen. It makes sense that if you only have painful, negative, experiences in your journal, you are quickly going to get sick of journaling. In order for us to journal continuously, it’s important to tend to the balance of our experience within our journal.
Of course it doesn’t have to be a course. It could be an inspirational book that you can dip into each day to bring more lightness, love and future-focused look to your journaling. Our hearts need the balance of the painful past and the fertile future. Here are some of the things I use to bring the future-focused positive influence into my journaling. (I have no financial affiliations with any of them, they are courses and books that has just helped me so much.)
Art books of my favourite artists – helps me focus on what I want to create.
The books and courses that will help you will be different for each person. Have fun and start gathering an army of supporters that will help pick you up when journaling gets tough going. Try referring to them and working on those for each day that you journal about something painful. Tender the balance of your journaling experience.
If you’ve been following me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, you know I’ve been sharing journaling prompts every day in 2015. They are deeply thought-provoking prompts that dig deep into what you really want. I’ll be doing it again in 2016. This time, we are going to be focusing even more on nurturing your creative happiness.
The journaling prompts will:
Learn to trust your creative energy
Find activities and people that truly nourish you
Let go of old rules that no longer serve you
Explore new inspirations and interests
Discover new talents, gain new skills and share them with the world
I’ll be sharing brand new prompts again in 2016, every day for the whole year. However, if you would like to have all the journal prompts in one go, in one place, all before we even hit 2016 and in an easy-to-print format, the Digital Journaling Prompt Sheets are perfect for you! This is also a great offer for those of you who live in USA, Canada, Australia, Asia, etc. since there is no shipping cost.
You’ll get PDF files will the whole year’s journaling prompts for you to print at home. You get each month’s journaling prompts on one sheet. You can glue them in your journal or punch holes and put them in your Filofax so that they are always easy to find.
The Digital Journaling Prompts Sheets include:
366 journaling prompts
On 12 monthly sheets (total of 12 sheets, printed on six A4-sheets)
Choice of two sizes – A5 size and Traveler Regular size
A5 size is suitable for most A5 notebooks (Moleskine large, Leuchtturm Medium, Filofax A5, etc.)
Instant download – you get the PDF file to print at home as soon as you buy it.
Here are videos showing you how to print and cut the two different sizes:
The Digital Journaling Prompt Sheets will go on sale on 1st December 2015 at £10 each (approximately $16 US). If you’d like a quick line to let you know when it goes on sale, sign up to the Journaling Sage mailing list below.
How to pick the perfect journal. Ah, the eternal search and the eternal question. Will we ever find the one journal that will make us happy? Will this one be the right one or will that one be Mr Journal-Right?
Well you know me, I like a much more practical approach to things. I firmly believe that there are much more important questions we could be asking ourselves when we are browsing for a new journal, rather than whether it should have a softcover or a hardcover.
The questions are these: Which notebook will I love filling? Which notebook will I love once it is filled with my things?
One of the biggest blocker to journaling I hear is that people feel like the act of writing in a journal is actively ruining their journal. When I ask them what kind of notebook they use, invariably, they will pull out their gorgeous, beautiful and expensive notebook that they fell in love with in a bookshop one day.
Now, we’ve all been there haven’t we? We wander around a stationery shop, cooing and stroking the beautiful, expensive and impressive notebooks. We swoon over them and fall in love with them. We buy them even though they are a bit more than what we wanted to spend, because you have to pay more for something so beautiful. I’ve so been there. So many times.
We fall in love with blank notebooks exactly as they are, beautifully wrapped with hundreds of untainted pages. We see the blank notebooks as being in a perfect state, beautiful as it is, nothing needs to be added.
The problem is, this is setting yourself up to fail! If you have something in your hand that is perfect as is, you’d obviously want to keep it perfect, right? If you have something perfect, anything that you do to it, you will see it as an act of ruining its perfection. So it is totally understandable that when we take those puppies home, crack them open, and put your own handwriting on them we see it as ruining the notebook.
The great news is, we can avoid setting ourselves up to fail simply by changing our mindset when we go to buy a new journal. Instead of asking ‘which notebook do I love?’, ask yourself ‘Which notebook will I love filling? Which notebook will I love once it is filled with my things?’
Which notebook can you see yourself enjoying putting your own touches to, stick stuff into and fill it with your words? Which notebook would enjoy you customising it by covering the covers with your own designs, washi tapes, paper and collage? Which notebook will you feel comfortable in using lots of different coloured pens? Which notebook will you not mind writing just a few words on a page and then move onto the next? Which notebook will you feel comfortable writing your todos and shopping lists as well as the profoundly beautiful words you have insides you?
It might be that you buy something with a plainer cover for you to decorate or doodle on. It might be that you buy a cheaper notebook so you feel less pressure to be perfect. It might be that you buy one with a fun cheeky slogan on the cover than the one with beautiful delicate cover.
Which notebook will I love filling? Which notebook will I love once it is filled with my things?
Asking these questions shifts the focus of your notebook hunt from finding perfection to finding something that you can collaborate with to make it perfect. One you tell yourself that it does not want to be touched by you, and the other is dying for you to dive in there and get playing. You get to enjoy making something more beautiful because you put yourself inside it. I think that’s a much more healthy and meaningful relationship with notebooks.
In my second video, I share my top tips on how to make indexing your journals easier.
We all know indexing our journals is a good idea, but it seems like a such a huge task. On the other hand, indexing makes your journals searchable. So, as always, I figured out some time-saving tips to make this process a bit easier.
Making tasks easier and quicker to do is my favourite topic so I had a lot of fun making this video. If you have any tips on how to make indexing your journals easier, please share them in the comments section!
This is a Public Service Announcement for all those of you who have a large collection of unused notebooks. This is my collection of unused notebooks. Yes I have two whole bookshelves of brand spanking new notebooks that haven’t been touched since the day I bought them. Please show this to your husbands and boyfriends and say ‘see, my collection is not nearly as bad as this woman’s!’
I am showing you my collection so that you no longer feel bad about having a pile of unused notebooks. No one should be. They are just notebooks. It’s not like you are hoarding something that is going to go off in the next week.
Besides, they are not unused notebooks. ‘Unused’ has such a negative connotation, like you are already committed to not using them – and that’s not the case is it? You are fully intending on using them and that’s what counts. These notebooks are just waiting for me to get around to using them. They are looking forward to it. So let’s call them ‘waiting to be used’ notebooks instead.
Honestly, there are so much guilt surrounding journaling already, we don’t need to guilt-trip ourselves further every time we look at our ‘waiting to be used’ notebooks. We should be delighted that we have so many choices when we come to pick our next journal. We should look at the notebooks and have fun imagining what we will put in them.
If, however, you do still feel that you have too many and they are starting to make you feel overwhelmed, maybe the following exercise will help you. Figure out how many notebooks you normally go through in a year. Then look at how many ‘waiting to be used’ notebooks you have in stock. You can roughly estimate how many years it will take to use your stock up. Are you happy with how many years it will take to use up your collection? How many year’s worth of notebooks would be less overwhelming? If you have way more than you are comfortable with, then maybe you’ll feel better to gift some of your journals to your friends.
For example, the very top shelf in the photo you see holds the notebooks I have filled this year. So from that I can work out I have roughly two years’ worth of stock (totally not counting any new ones I will buy in the future…) I am absolutely okay with having two years’s worth of stock. I felt less overwhelmed about how many notebooks I have because I now know I can use them up in just a couple of years. So no giving away my notebooks to my friends (sorry my dear friends, but phew!)
That’s the thing about people who journal. We grow notebooks like house plants. It’s just part of who we are.
It’s been one month since we have returned home from a year and half of travelling around the world. I thought it was going to be hard to get settled back down into ‘normal’ life again, how wrong was I!
I am LOVING being back at home. I am loving being back in Edinburgh. I am loving staying in one place and nesting. I think it helps that it’s September and I naturally want to start nesting come autumn. One of the things I discovered about myself in our travelling was that I need autumn. Last year, we spent all of autumn season in warmer countries and never really went through autumn. I felt totally off-kilter because I missed out on autumn. I intensely missed seeing the leaves turn into rich yellows and vivid reds.
Life at home has been surprisingly busy. It’s good to be busy rather than have too much time and start missing being on the move. There has been a lot of changes to our lives at home this month, all good and very exciting.
My own studio
The first thing we did when we got home was to convert the living room into my studio, proper. I am in love with this room. I get up at 5:30am each day to write, but when I get to be in THIS room, I don’t mind. I feel at home most when I am surrounded by bookcases. It’s lovely to have all my filled journals out on bookshelves too. There is something so inspiring about seeing all your filled journals. It inspires me to write even more.
A bigger journal
A nice side effect of not having to live out of a 30 litre backpack is that I can choose to use bigger things! I’ve gone from writing in my small pocket journals to writing in A5 notebooks again. The first one I cracked open was this limited edition Leuchtturm1917 in gold (you can still get them online). This notebook is beautiful. I love Leuchtturms above all other notebooks, but the gold and silver editions are extra special. It has two bookmark ribbons, which are both gold themed and much thicker than the normal versions. Even the address box at the front and the labels are in gold. It’s simply gorgeous.
Going back to the bigger notebook size has been a welcomed change. You can develop ideas in more details. I can keep more information in one notebook. They feel amazing to flip through the filled pages because there’s just so much more of your work in it.
Reunited with my notebooks
As you know, I bought a lot of notebooks on our Europe trip this summer. I’d been posting them from each city to a dear friend of mine who had kindly kept countless parcels for me. It was a beautiful trip down memory lane to be united with them once again. As I opened each parcel, I stroked each notebook and talked with my husband about which shop we went to buy each notebook.
I was also reunited with my travel journals and travel scrapbooks. My favourite is absolutely the purple Italian Il Papiro gorgeousness of a notebook that I filled with stuff from Florence and Venice. I leafed through each page carefully, stroking sugar bags and postcards I collected.
Starting up a business
The biggest change since we’ve returned home is that both James and I are starting up businesses. We are each starting up a separate and very different businesses, but it has been wonderful to go through the process together. It’s not so scary when there are two of you doing it.
I’m going to dive in and take my passion for journaling as far as I can go. I am filled with ideas and it’s time I trust them and make them come to life. It’s exciting, it’s scary, but I am brave and I accept the challenge! First thing I will be doing is opening up an Etsy shop, in late October. I will keep you updated on its progress.
Now that we are staying in one place, I’m finally able to join Postcrossing. It’s a site where you can send postcards to people, and a bunch of different people send you postcards. As an introvert needing a lot of time by myself and find friendships hard work, this model works well for me. I love that I can send and receive postcards, without the pressure of having to maintain penpal friendships.
So far, I’ve sent 11 postcards and received 1 postcard. It’s very enjoyable to spend the time finding a postcard that would be perfect for each person from my out-of-control collection of postcards. I’ve so far send postcards to USA, Russia, Germany, Portugal, China, Poland, Finland, Czech Republic, Belarus, and Netherland.
Postcrossing has a different energy to when I write my daily postcards to my mum. With my mum, what I write to her is more important than what image postcard I send her. It’s also about writing something to her everyday to let her know that I am thinking about her even if she is on the other side of the world. With Postcrossing, what postcard image you send to the person is much more important, and what you write is less important. It’s a quick hi to someone, just once, for the joy of sending postcards.
It’s been a hectic month, but I am so happy to be back home and doing all this. It’s a huge change from our travelling, but it feels just as nourishing, scary and exciting. I guess that means we finished our travelling at the right time. I am really grateful for that.
What have you been up to this month? What big changes are in motion for you?
Morning Pages requires huge commitment and dedication to start and keep doing. It’s a lot of work to get up an hour early and sit down to write three pages by hand every morning. So it’s natural to want all that effort to make you feel better. You want it to make you feel better straight away after you’ve invested so much into it.
Unfortunately, for many people, Morning Pages doesn’t make them feel better straight away. In fact, it can sometimes make you feel downright miserable. Or at least make them feel worse than they did before they started writing the Morning Pages and really put a negative spin on their whole morning.
Are these people doing Morning Pages wrong? Is Morning Pages not working for them? No. What is true however, is that wanting instant uplift of mood is the wrong thing to seek in Morning Pages.
Morning Pages have never claimed to be therapy. Morning Pages have never claimed to make you feel better straight away. What it claims to do is give you a garbage dumping space for your mind so you can gain the space to create beautiful things. A space where you can empty your mind on a daily basis so all that clutter can just sit aside and let your creativity have some much needed space.
Let me ask you a question. Do you think having to walk through a garbage dumping ground would make you feel instantly better afterwards? No. You feel gross, you feel sick, you feel down for having to wade through all that rotting garbage. However, you do feel better by the time you get home, and you start appreciating how beautifully un-stinky your home is, and how great it looks without rotting food everywhere. Morning Pages is a bit like that.
In Morning Pages, we must dig up the dirt that is cluttering our brain. Dare I say, dirt and garbage that we have been holding onto because it’s easier to hold onto garbage than give birth to what our creativity wants us to create. Letting those garbage bags go isn’t easy. We have to face the fact that we have been holding onto these hurts, anger and frustrations in our mind. When all those things comes out on the page, it can make us feel pretty horrible. It’s easy to feel like I am a bad person because I’ve filled the whole three pages with rants about how someone has annoyed me. It also means I will have to go and make that thing I’ve been avoiding making all this time. These two things are not the ingredients for feeling instantly uplifted, but they are the crucial ingredients in gaining creative happiness.
How then, can we have a better relationship with Morning Pages so that we don’t feel it’s doing us more damage than good? How best to let our mind clutter out without the act ruining our morning? How can we walk through a garbage heap without the stink getting onto our clothes? I think there are two things we can do.
It’s all temporary
Trust that this discomfort is temporary. When you feel uncomfortable after writing your Morning pages, don’t fight it. It’s okay. What you are feeling, and what you are going through is a natural result of letting all that clutter out of your head. Don’t get angry at you or anything else for feeling this discomfort. Trust that this is normal, nothing unexpected (and it really is normal), and quit beating yourself up about having these feelings.
Gently remind yourself that this discomfort is temporary and that you won’t feel like this forever. That you feeling the anger, sadness, frustration or any other negative emotions is not a reflection on you, your life, or your creativity. It’s just a necessary part of making more room for your creativity.
Ask a question
Dumping all our mind clutter alone won’t make you feel better. In their session with clients, counsellors and personal coaches let their client talk all about what is bothering them. Then they ask a very critical series of questions:
How does it make you feel?
What do you need?
What do you need to do to feel better about this?
These questions are incredibly helpful in gently guiding your mind from the negative emotions associated to the situation, to something that is empowering and positive. You feel in control, and there is something you can do. Or you realise there is nothing you can do so there’s no point in holding on to this issue right now. Either way, you get to let go of the negative emotions, and feel a whole lot better.
Next time you are feeling the Morning Pages dragging you down, or you are sick of writing about negative things, ask one of the questions and see what your mind lets you know. It might not make you feel brilliant on the first go, but if you are persistent at asking these questions when you want to change up the mood, you will soon find Morning Pages to be a place where you can solve issues, rather than just talk about them.
We are back on the road and this time we are travelling around Europe for two and half months. The big question while I was packing for the trip was ‘what journaling set up should I have on the trip?’ In my head, I had imagined I’d be so inspired by the travelling, I was going to fill journal after journal. I wanted the things I see on this trip influence my upcoming book. So of course I packed my Moleskine softcover large notebook, as well as my travel favourite, a Leuchttrum pocket notebook.
It’s been 10 days since we left home, and I have to be honest. I haven’t touched the large Moleskine. I forgot the cardinal rule of travelling – if you are not out seeing something, you are probably recovering from having seen something! No energy to sit and write page after every page of the most inspired stuff.
That’s not to say I was okay about me not touching the large notebook. Oh the guilt was huge. Wasn’t I suppose to be noting everything I see and creeating beautiful prose? Wasn’t I suppose to have filled a notebook by now?
I realised the flaw to my plan. When you go from sitting at home, at your big desk, to being on the move constantly, staying in hotels, a large notebook was just not practical. Often, trains and planes have tables just big enough to hold your coffee, let alone a notebook. When there’s no desk in the room you are staying at, your thigh has to fit your notebook.
What has worked so much better under these new set of circumstances is the pocket size notebook. It’s small enough for me to write in it in the little pockets of time you get when you are travelling – at train stations, cafes, the hotel room bed. Another thing that has been working well are postcards. I love sending them to friends and family anyway, letting them know what we have been up to each day. That’s journaling, right?
It was hard to let go of what had been working for me previously. It was so easy to tell myself that the old method worked before, so if I just try harder, it’ll work for me again. No. My lifestyle or ‘journaling circumstances’ have changed, and my journaling was crying out to change with it. I was getting in the way of my own journaling needs. So it was time to pack the large notebook off home, and dedicate my time to the little guy and a bunch of postcard, writing what I can, when I can, wherever I am. It’s taken a load (read: guilt) off my mind, and I am enjoying journaling again.