When I was in high school, I always wanted to be a journal writer. In movies and television shows, I always felt more connected to the characters who were writing about their lives than those who weren’t. Maybe all along I knew that writing was the path that I was meant to follow. In high school and even through college, I wasn’t able to consistently journal, my book shelves filled with half empty journals that were left by the wayside. Now that I am consistently journalling, I really do understand why all along I wanted to be this person.
Writing consistently in a journal is hard work. I takes patience for the days that nothing really comes to you and a gag for the times when it does flow and your inner editor won’t shut up. I have been journalling almost every day (NaNoWriMo presented some difficulties for me) for almost a year. My husband will tell you, I am a much nicer person because I am journalling. My journal is my private thinking space, but I never really felt like I was tapping into its full potential until I picked up Creative Journal Writing: The Art and Heart of Reflection by Stephanie Dowrick. This book focuses on getting past the idea that a journal is only a place to record the day to day. Filled with prompts, advice from other writers, excerpts from her own journal and from the journals of others, and an outlook that opens up new possibilities for the average journal writer, this book is one that I am definitely glad that I picked up.
Some of my favorite things that I have ever written in my journal happened while responding to some of the prompts that this book contained. Memories that I didn’t even know I had, like watching my mom hand make all of the ornaments for our Christmas tree out of styrofoam balls, sequins, beads, and tiny pins. I reflected on a choice that I made to censor what I was reading by keeping it a secret and what that meant about my convictions. It took me days to work through all of my thoughts about freedom in my head and in my journal. Before this book, my journal writing was focused mostly on writing about my day or some interesting event or even reflecting seriously on something of significance. After this book, journal writing became about an experience of learning, of finding, and of remembering. Yes, I still want to remember the day to day occurrences, but I also want to remember the stuff that has already passed.
While this book did allow me more creative freedom and an avenue for reflection, there were some down sides. Sometimes the prompts came so closely together that I didn’t feel like I had enough breathing room or explanation. I really love to read about writing, so when it was one prompt after another, I got tired of reading the prompts that I wasn’t going to be able to write to that day. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the book needed a little more balance between narrative and prompts. The book also says that you should begin each prompt by describing where you are and what you are doing. Nine times out of ten, I’m in my sun colored office, sitting at my light blue librarian’s desk waiting for inspiration to strike. That seemed redundant, and no matter how many times I changed the descriptor of the desk (robin’s egg, sky, azure) it was still light blue and it was still my everyday writing desk. I know what you are thinking, you didn’t have to do that. True, I didn’t have to do that, but I’m a pretty solid rule-follower, so I felt obligated.
Pros and cons aside, I’m really glad that I picked up this book. Opening up my journal to more than just writing the day-to-day has helped me to become an even more reflective person. I love when memories strike and I now feel that I have the freedom to explore those memories in my journal. If you are looking for inspiration and maybe even some encouragement, I recommend giving this book a chance.