Turning to Pen and Paper
By Zadra Rose Ibañez
If one were to ask me that, I would have several answers—take deep breaths, go for a walk, or listen to music, for example—but the answer that would describe the tactic that is first and most effective for me would be, “Journal about the situation.”
My good friend’s father is a very wise, very prominent businessman. One piece of advice I will always remember from him is, “If you are mad, write a letter. Don’t mail it. Put it in your desk drawer and sleep on it. If you are still mad the next day, then you can mail it, but usually by then, you won’t want to.”
Writing things down is a way to get situations and feelings out and to express them, to see them in a new light. The very act of writing is cathartic. In an article in the New York Times, Mary Gordon says:
Writing by hand is laborious, and that is why typewriters were invented. But I believe that the labor has virtue, because of its very physicality. For one thing it involves flesh, blood and the thingness of pen and paper, those anchors that remind us that, however thoroughly we lose ourselves in the vortex of our invention, we inhabit a corporeal world.
There are many ways to journal; travel-writing, write on a topic, describe yesterday, scribble thoughts of your future goals, aspirations, hopes and fears. One of the most effective ways for me to journal is free-writing. One example of this is the Morning Pages, made popular by Julia Cameron in her seminal book, The Artist’s Way (1992). In it, she says, “Put simply, the morning pages are three pages of longhand writing, strictly steam-of-consciousness: ‘Oh, god, another morning. I have NOTHING to say. I need to wash the curtains. Did I get my laundry yesterday? Blah-blah-blah…’”
Cameron assures us, “There is no wrong way to do morning pages. These daily morning meanderings are not meant to be art. Or even writing. I stress that point to reassure the nonwriters…Pages are meant to be, simply, the act of moving the hand across the page and writing down whatever comes to mind. Nothing is too petty, too silly, too stupid, or too weird to be included.”
One key to getting the most out of Morning Pages is that they do not need to “sound smart”, and they are not meant to be read. By anyone. Including you. You shouldn’t read them yourself for at least two months, if ever. The point is to get the thoughts out, not to analyze them.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a writer or a carpenter, there is something useful in journaling. As Brenda Ueland said, “writing is talking, thinking, on paper. And the more impulsive and immediate the writing the closer it is to the thinking, which it should be….It has shown me more and more what I am – what to discard in myself and what to respect and love” (If You Want to Write, 1938).
So, as a method of meditation or stress-management or introspection, I invite you to write. As Julia says, “Just write three pages, and stick them into an envelope. Or write three pages in a spiral notebook and don’t leaf back through. Just write three pages…and write three more pages the next day.” And please, let me know as it helps you create peace in your day.
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This post is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page November Blog Hop on Gifted Self-Care. Check out all of the other great blogs participating in Hoagies’ November Blog Hop!