Journal Writing – 3 Steps to Deepen Your Practice

Almost any kind of writing, can be considered spiritual if, through it, spiritual issues are raised. It is in this way that regular journal writing can, like yoga, prayer, or meditation, enhance your spiritual growth. Following the three steps outlined in this article will help you to dig deeper into your subconscious, become more aware of how emotions affect you physically, and expand your level of self-knowledge.

Begin by writing for 10 minutes without stopping. This is a common journaling technique which has many names; I like to call it “Writing the Stream.” By that, I mean you are writing whatever comes into your mind, however trivial, however significant. If you are using pen or pencil and paper, do not let your pen lift from the page. Keep writing. If you are using a computer, do not let your fingers stop moving on the keyboard. Write, write, write.

As you are writing:

1) Pay attention to feelings of resistance.

If you are writing something about which you feel even slightly resistant, make note of it, by marking your writing in some way (an asterisk or mark in the margin of your paper, for example). Resistance can take many forms: anger, peevishness, restlessness, or a sudden lack of focus.

It could be about something big, like a change of management at work, or tension between you and your husband or wife. Or, it could be something small, like you have a dentist appointment or need to do the shopping – normal everyday things – and you notice that you’re really resisting thinking about it, or doing it.

Keep writing. You can write about the resistance you feel, or you can write about something else until your 10 minutes are up. When you’ve completed 10 minutes of writing, go back and review that section in your journal where you first noticed the feeling of resistance.

2) Close your eyes and focus on where in your body those feelings reside.

If you’ve never done this before, it might seem strange to think about feelings residing in your body. But if you do this, I can assure you, you’ll be able to locate that feeling of resistance. It might, for example, be a knot in your belly, a lump in your throat, a constriction in your chest, or an ache in your lower back. Once you’ve located that feeling in your body, keep your focus there. Go as deeply into that feeling as you can. Then…

3) Ask that part of your body/feeling, “Of what are you afraid?” Wait and listen for the answer. You probably won’t hear an actual “voice,” but you will get an answer, via an image or thought that comes to you. It may even be a memory or story. Write it down. When you have written down the fear, ask, “What do you need in order to feel cared for?” And again,wait for an answer. Write it down.

Look at what you’ve written, and decide if you are willing to provide that caring action for yourself. If you are, close your eyes again, and make a commitment to that resistance/fear that it will be cared for, and ask it if it’s willing to relax and let you move forward. You may need to extend the conversation and even negotiate a little.

As much as possible, write about the process. You may or may not be able to release the feelings of resistance, but I can bet that this process will bring you more fully in touch with yourself and help you to work through situations and feelings in your life with greater clarity and consciousness.

Writing Process Rule #2 – Dangerous Writing

The writing process is a method used to complete a well-organized, creative, and publishable paper. There are adaptations for certain genres and forms, and five basic steps that should be taken in order to complete a well-rounded paper. This article will explain why you should not go through the steps in exact order, and how to accomplish this task.

One of the reasons why the writing process was developed was to help the majority of students understand how to create a paper and to explain the steps that were involved in this mysterious process. Authors were interviewed and their work habits were examined in order to come to this understanding. This format is effective, but most well-known authors don’t follow it exactly the way that it is prescribed. The reason for this is that there are exceptions to most writing formats, genres, and styles, as in life there are exceptions to most rules. The majority of students can now write effective essays and reports after extensive training and practice. Generally, they all look and sound the same, with minor variations. In order to emulate an accomplished writer, their style and inspirational genius needs to be captured and understood.  

Dangerous Writing

Due to the historical development of writing in American schools, it should come as no surprise that what is good for the masses may not be good for the individual. It was upon these roots of individual opportunity that America was founded. You, as an individual, should feel free to go beyond the boundaries that are set in front of you. It is in this self-actualization that the true writer is born. When this theory is applied to the writing process, you will be empowered to use all the tools at your disposal. If a stage of the writing process needs to be revisited or ignored to some extent, and it benefits you or the text, then so be it. If a writing stage needs to be redeveloped and returned to, and the final product is that more stunning and revelatory, then make it so. If you are inspired to jump ahead and write a few paragraphs of text and then return to the earlier stage, then for the good of story let it happen.  

Skipping on Steps

While walking down the stairs may not be terribly exciting, it could be! We are taught at an early age to be cautious and predictable while walking down the stairs, to respect them and fear them, that it is not profitable to be “unique” or “different” at those moments. But that is what is taught, not what could be, or maybe, what should be. So it is with the writing stages. Students are taught to follow the steps, but you as a writer need to explore and test your abilities and understandings, not just rely on a formulaic writing plan. In order to write dangerously, you must experiment and do what is not planned, but don’t abandon the potential and usefulness of the writing stages just because you think that writers should rebel.  

Common Steps to Skip While Writing

The brainstorm or organizer may be skipped…Inspiration comes to the writer at times beyond our control. At those times we need to drop everything we’re doing, and use it. If you are taking a shower, walking the dog, making dinner, or any mundane task, stop, run to the keyboard, and start typing. Usually at times like these a concept, image, or paragraph comes to mind. Skip to the rough draft and let it loose. This is dangerous writing because you are breaking conventional rules, but it’s unique and creative because you are accessing your genius, unlike the other 10,000 writers who stay where they are and continue taking a shower, walking the dog, or making dinner.  

The rough draft may have pieces already finished or half way completed. It many look like a checkerboard of thoughts. That’s acceptable during the writing process.  

The rough draft may be skipped…When you sit down to write with your organizer and brainstorm page in front of you, it’s important to “get in the zone.” When writing the rough draft, all of your analytical and creative skills must coalesce and guide you into writing. Make sure that the environment is conductive to this effort. There should be plenty of distraction-free time on your agenda, little noise, and all your paperwork placed out before you. If at any time during the rough draft stage your pen (or keyboard) lights on fire and you find your thoughts turning in other directions with an eloquence that comes from the gods, follow it. Let it guide you where it wants to go. This may be a side topic, a random excursion, an incoherent collection of ideas, or a well-formed draft on a dissimilar topic. You can always return to the original draft later, or even scrap it! The key is to be ready for inspiration when it comes and let it guide you when it knocks on your door.  

Another common step to skip is more metaphysical in nature. Time and space are relative to a degree, so by altering time, our space (steps) can be reduced. How many times have you started a paper, plodded through the writing steps, and pushed out a final copy right on time? Didn’t it feel wonderful? Of course not. Why the hurry? Poetry by nature is the true soul of all creative writing. Poets take years to finish one poem. They aren’t spending thousands of hours on it, but are forming the words into a declarative sculpture. Their attention to every single word is exhausting to the common person. But due to their loving care, the poem turns into a work of art. Our prose must follow the same path. Place it on the shelf for a year. What’s your hurry! Most writers will work like a machine and jettison their products out to the publisher on a regular schedule. This is imitating the student-teacher relationship. In order to write dangerously, you must skip steps of the writing process when there is the potential for greater yields.   

There are other minor ways in which to skip steps of the writing process, but the reason for skipping remains the same: to follow your genius, or inspiration. In all likelihood, you will return at some point to your regular work and continue where you left off. But your writing will have improved for your current text and your overall ability will have benefited from the experience.    

Copyright 2009