Keeping a Journal Can Help Chart a Path to Your Unique Voice

Filed in Finding & Following Your Voice, The Inner Life by on December 18, 2014 • views: 1438

JournalingMy step dad just passed an important anniversary—a year ago, he went through a double knee replacement.

I remember that day well. One of the things that struck me as particularly challenging was the near endless process of medical-record-taking, from the initial registration to the consistent stream of nurses and other personnel coming in and out asking questions and scratching down responses and filing papers in the ever-expanding patient packet.

Watching my dad answer question after question over and over again, it occurred to me that there’s one thing the medical profession knows how to do—file away tons of information, whether it turns out to be useful or not.

Most of us regular folks aren’t so good at that, at least not in our everyday lives. Some people journal regularly, but most of us find little time to write down our thoughts at the end of the day.

If you’re struggling to find your voice, however—in writing or in life—journaling is one of the most powerful things you can do.

Regular Practice Helps You Get to the Good Stuff

Science has found endless benefits to keeping a journal. It can relieve stress, boost the immune system, help you resolve a problem, dissipate anger, clarify your thoughts, and help patients through therapy and post traumatic stress disorder. Medical studies have even found that it helps overweight people to double their weight loss, and cancer patients to experience fewer painful or uncomfortable symptoms.

How is journaling helpful in finding your own voice? Utmost privacy in expression. If you honor your journal writing, you use it to express your deepest feelings, and you don’t censor yourself, no matter what may come out on the page. Your journal is for your eyes only, and as long as you feel safe in that, your deepest desires and dreams will eventually start appearing on the page. It does take some time, though.

For most of us, when we first start to write a journal, we write like medical doctors. We keep track of the minutia of life, from what we ate for breakfast to whom we conversed with at the Post Office to what the weather was like to whether or not our stomachs hurt.

If you journal on a regular basis, however (once a day or three times a week), your brain starts to jump past all the basics to get to the more juicy stuff, like what you’re really angry about, what you wish from the bottom of your heart, and what changes you’d like to make in your life. These are the good things that you can really use to bring your writing to life.

Your Voice Starts to Speak to You

Through regular journaling, your inner voice starts to speak to you. Anytime you’re facing a decision, big or small, try to hear what your inner voice is saying, record it, and then see what happens. (In other words, just write down all your feelings about the situation, especially your gut feelings.)

Go on about your life, make your decision, then go back in about a month and re-read your entries. You may find the experience sort of magical, especially when you begin to see how your inner voice always guides you toward your true purpose.

“Journaling is a powerful way to gain perspective on your inner feelings…” says the Chopra Center website. “When you read what you have written, you do so from a quieter reference point inside. This inner reference is closer to your true Self, the silent witness within.”

“Journaling can help you discover things about yourself you never knew,” writes life coach and mentor Bruno Logreco. “You will start to see that there are certain characteristics of yourself that you never knew existed…You will awaken your inner self and examine yourself in a deeper way.”

Applying Journaling Skills to Your Writing

Once you’re used to a regular journaling practice, you’re likely to find that your writing comes a bit easier.

“When I journal,” says writer Kiersi Burkhart, “there’s no backpedaling or editing or thinking; I just write….the more I did it, the easier it came. Now it’s no problem to pound out a 2,000-word entry in an hour or so. The best part? That ability to write, unhindered by filter, with a distinct style and cadence, has carried over to my fiction writing. I see it improve every day.”

Just letting it rip, so to speak, on the page, can also help coax your own inner voice to start coming forward.

“When you lift the expectations and just write as who you are,”  says says content marketer Jamie Lee Wallace, “your unique voice will come out naturally.”

“Your journal is the ideal place to develop your authorial voice,” says crime fiction writer Danielle Hanna. “Not only because you write in your journal often (theoretically), but because–well, where better to express yourself the way you really want to express yourself? Nobody’s going to read your journal but you. So write the way you wanna write.”

Sometimes the blank page can feel intimidating. Even after writing for years, if we’re starting a new story, or a different type of story, we can find our fingers paralyzed.

“A journal is a wonderful resource for those moments when you are staring at a blank page or canvas and find yourself blocked or unable to remember something,” says writer Bryan Hutchinson. “Open your journal and read a few pages because there’s bound to be valuable entries which will stimulate your thoughts and memories.”

And in those times when the story seems to be flattening out, journaling can help us return to that inner place where writing comes from—the pure place from which we create.

The hospital’s attention to detail helped make sure my step dad received the right medications at the right time, reducing the risks of any adverse side effects of the surgery.

Your own records of your thoughts can do so much more.

It took the nurses less than ten minutes to fill out each form. Can you carve out that much time to discover what makes you (and your writing) tick?

Do you use journaling to encourage regular writing? Please share any tips you may have.

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Comments (4)

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  1. Chere Hagopian says:

    Great advice! I have kept a journal since I was a pretty young child, even after my little brother gave my journal to a boy I liked and had written about extensively. (That was pretty traumatic for a fifth grader.) It taught me to be a little careful in exactly which thoughts I put down, because there is always the chance that the wrong person might see it. But it’s still extremely cathartic and lots of fun! I never thought about using it for writing purposes, though. I’ll give that a try!

    • Colleen says:

      Oh dear! Nothing like little brothers to totally humiliate you, right? (ha) Hopefully he’s not around now so you can feel a little safer!

  2. Lovely article, Colleen. I was very flattered to be quoted! I’m intrigued by your website, too. What a “novel” niche to be serving! Best of luck to you.

    • Colleen says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Danielle! I enjoyed your site as well. Thanks for the great thoughts on journaling. :O)