Last year, when clearing out my loft (more about decluttering here), I came across a stash of my teenage diaries. From the age of nine, for many years, I wrote a diary entry every night. Reading them now, I think it’s safe to say that even in the unlikely event of me becoming the most famous woman in Britain, no-one would ever publish these diaries. In great detail they describe what I did at school, what I ate, and who was on Top of the Pops. (For similar subject matter, but written brilliantly, you could try My Mad Fat Diary by Rachael Earl instead).
It surprised me, reading these diaries decades later, how little emotion was in them. I considered them highly private at the time, and felt that I was expressing myself and pouring my inner soul onto the paper. But not a sign of a feeling could I find 30 years on.
Now things are very different - I find writing a powerful way of working out what I think or feel, or of getting thoughts down on paper to stop them going endlessly round my head. For a few months I did The Artists Way, which involves the practice of morning pages - a form of free writing where you switch your ‘editor’/censor/inner critic right off, don't worry about spelling or grammar, and just let the words flow out in a stream of consciousness. At times I've found I don’t even know what’s going to come from my pen, it’s coming from a part of me that my conscious mind hasn’t recognised yet. Julia Cameron describes this as finding "our own quiet centre".
I find it difficult to make time to write during the day, so last thing at night is still my favourite time. Or in the middle of the night if I can’t sleep, when I go downstairs for a cup of soothing tea and my journal keeps me company. Then it feels good to be the only person awake in a quiet house. And it still surprises me what comes out in my writing - insights, ideas, realisations, even occasional poems which just seem to pop up unexpectedly. Not something I would ever show anyone else, but a way to express something complex that might not work in prose.
Anne Frank wrote “Paper has more patience than people.” And Kathleen Adams describes her journal as "the 79 cent therapist", saying her cheap exercise book is there for her 24 hours a day, and has never taken a holiday! For me, writing doesn't replace coaching, but it certainly offers another non-judgemental listening space which helps me explore what's going on.
49 Ways to Write Yourself Well by Jackee Holder contains brilliant practical writing exercises encouraging you to express how you feel, and then feel better about things. www.jackeeholder.com
The Artists Way - a Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron is a book, a creativity course and a way of life! http://juliacameronlive.com