Picking up the Pen

The notebook I used to journal in last/this year. I bought it about two years earlier. The words on the cover spoke to me!

I’m writing a lot at the moment, obviously. I’m finding that it really helps me untangle things in my head and make more sense of them. I know myself fairly well today, but there is always more to learn and sometimes, just writing something down, gives me a completely different perspective on it.

Towards the end of last year into the beginning of this year I did a good 4 to 5 months of journaling. It wasn’t something I wanted to do, or something I was even remotely excited about starting. I did it for a research project I was conducting as part of my final year on the counselling course I was taking.

“Heuristic research – a way of engaging in scientific search through methods and processes aimed at discovery; a way of self-inquiry and dialogue with others aimed at finding the underlying meanings of important human experiences”.

Basically… looking at yourself!

Have you ever, really, looked at yourself?

If so, how often do you do it? Do you take regular inventory? Or have you just done it the once?

If you can answer yes to the regular part, how rigorous is that inventory that you take? How honest are you actually being, when it comes to yourself?

I don’t know the answers to those questions for you. I do however know mine. And I can honestly say I have truly looked at myself with that rigour and honesty… twice!

Once about 4/5 years ago, which resulted in me making some huge changes in my life and lifestyle. And once during this research project last year where I looked at how much had I actually changed compared to who I was back then. Despite changing a few major things, I realised that I still had a hell of a long way to go and this process helped me to unearth some of those deep, hidden, avoided and ignored feelings and behaviours that I wasn’t ready to look at the first time round.

It started with journaling. If I’m honest with you, it ended with journaling too as it really did “all come out in the wash”. But I had to read everything I had written as a whole, a few times, to understand the journey I had been on.

For the purpose of this article details aren’t important. But know that I learnt something huge about myself, which I knew was always there, but ignored for a long time out of fear. Seeing my inner-most self, written down on that paper, showed me a distinguishable fact about myself that I could no longer ignore. And once I understood and accepted it, it really wasn’t that scary.

Today, in 2020, mental health is everywhere. Some people think it has become a craze, and to some extent it probably has. But every cry for attention, or plea for help, has something, and often many things behind it at the root. With social media enabling you to compare yourselves to others from the second you open your eyes it’s hard to escape the inner turmoil you can have daily over whether you’re good enough or not.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I compare myself to others, I never look for the positives… something else which came out of the journaling I did.

We are encouraged to talk more. Open up about our feelings. Tell somebody. Check in with people. And all of that is amazing and does work to some degree. Talking therapy very much works. I wouldn’t have decided to dedicate 4/5 years of my life and a good few grand to training in it if I didn’t believe in that.

But there is another, almost lost art form, which can help to… the practice of putting pen to paper. Ironically I’m typing this. And all of the blogs I have written so far have had a fantastic impact on how I feel despite being typed. But in an age where we type on laptops or devices far more than we actually write on paper, it is worth going back to the foundation of how we were initially taught to express our feelings.

Whatever your views are on schools and education, I’m fairly experienced in this department and from what I’ve seen (over the last decade) teachers, for the most part, do the best they can to ensure children develop basic skills that can benefit them for the rest of their lives. Forget all the extra stuff people claim not to need, being able to read and write is a true gift in itself!

There is something almost magical about picking up the pen, putting it to paper and letting your hand be free. It takes time and consistency like anything. If you only write for 10 minutes you probably won’t uncover a great deal. But if you build it up to the point where you can go for an hour you will be amazed by what comes out. Your thoughts go crazy and your hand struggles to keep up but it’s worth the process, honestly.

Try not to think too much about what you want to write about, unless you have something in mind you want to explore. I’ve found that when letting my hand move freely on the page, is when I’ve received the most from it.

As I said earlier, when I first thought about journaling I had two reactions, “I’m not doing that!” and “I don’t have time for that”.

Like most things, you have time when you make it a priority. The Netflix series will still be there next month (actually it might not but you’ll get over it). You can have a lie in tomorrow. Get up earlier and journal today. Small adjustments like that have a way of making far more “spare” time than you actually think.

Some people prefer doing it in the morning when their head is clear or clearer. I enjoy writing in the morning as I feel it’s when I’m at my most creative however when I was journaling last year I did the majority of mine at night, before bed, as that was the only time I had. But I got it done. And I found that when I gave myself more time to do it, I got a lot more out of it.

Now before I finish, I have to be honest and say I haven’t actually done any journaling since then (April). But I have been writing these, and since launching the blog I’ve averaged more than one a week. So I’ve been writing a fair bit. However I think I’m going to buy a new book and pick up the pen again.

If you haven’t tried it before, it’s well worth giving it a go.

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