We caught up with Certified Journaling Instructor, Dawn Purcell to chat about the powers of journaling and how she helps people to harness their writing to help them emotionally, physically and professionally.
What is journaling, for those who haven’t come across it before?
Journaling is the process of exploring your inner and outer world. Exploring your logos and mythos. What I mean by that, is you may use your journal to chronicle the day to day events that occur, and this is exploring the logical, the practical – the facts, if you like. But exploring your mythos means exploring how you fit into the world around you, a deeper exploration of self, examining your reaction to events, etc.
Can it have a positive influence on people who have never journalled before?
It’s always amazing to me how some people are initially so resistant, but when they ‘try it’; when they take that first step, the effects are almost instant. Even in a few minutes of writing, people can reach a deeper level of awareness that surprises them and leaves them wanting to do it again.
What are the benefits?
Oh my gosh. So many! It can help to heal your relationships, keep you focused on tasks, get to the heart of what you’re meant for in this world, your purpose, get to the heart of what you really want and what you really need (which are often 2 different things), help you with mind-set issues overcoming blocks, igniting your creativity.
It also has the wonderful effect of de-stressing you. You have to stop and slow down when you write. The health benefits of writing are well researched, documented and acknowledged by medical professionals. It has even been found to help reduce physical pain from those that suffer with chronic pain.
The list really does go on. If there is ANYTHING that you have an issue with in your life, any area – even sex – then journaling can help you through it; help you to change direction or ride the wave – whatever you need to do to come out of it the other side. To come out of it a calmer, happier, more joyful and fulfilled person.
As a tool for self-healing, and as lifelong companion and friend, it is unsurpassed.
How can it help people who write for a living?
In all honestly, as a writer, if you’re not keeping a journal you’re missing out on what is the best well of ideas and inspiration you’ll ever have for your content.
It can help you get to the heart of what you really WANT to write about, for a start. It can give you clarity. This goes for any kind of writing – blogging, fiction, non-fiction, memoir, etc. You can explore things first in your journal. Let it pour out of you, without worrying about content. You can ask yourself questions and answer them in your journal – or ask someone else questions in your journal, and allow them to answer through you.
For fiction authors in particular, this is great. They can write journal entries from a character’s point of view, for example. This really helps to find the characters ‘voice’. They can also ask their characters questions and have a dialogue with their characters in their journal. The possibilities are endless.
You can envisage landscapes of your story in your journal. Journaling to music really helps with this. Get lost in your world!
It helps with structure too – again, this goes for fiction and non-fiction, arranging chapters; also planning blog posts, etc. Your journal naturally doubles as a planner as you switch from left brain to right brain (although I do recommend once you have done the journaling, THEN transfer your tasks into an actual planner). Planners do not work as effectively unless the ‘inner’ work has been done first. Until you do that, you could be planning something that isn’t something you actually WANT to do in the first place. Your journaling will help you get to the heart of it.
As a writer, it also helps with mindset, too. Those feelings of wanting to give up, or not being good enough, or ‘my story is going no-where’ etc. It helps you to keep going, it will unlock your magic if you let it.
It’s also a fab place for writing down all of your observations of people you see or meet, or observations of places; all of which provide rich content for stories (again, fiction or non-fiction); and of course – it exercises your writing muscle!
Please tell us about a little bit about your experience of journaling. How does writing make you feel?
Journaling – more than anything – has really helped me on my entrepreneurial journey as well as in my writing life. It keeps me focused, empowered. It never gets bored of hearing me! I find it very fun and joyful now.
There used to be a huge fear for me of what might come up, what might come out. But now, I know that nothing is going to come out that I’m not ready to deal with. It just won’t. Your pen knows.
Since I’ve learnt a ton of journaling techniques, too, it’s so much fun. I never thought I could get so much out of it as I do.
I started a form of journaling when I was 9. I write poems. A lot of them. I definitely am no ‘poet’ – but that’s the beauty of journaling, it doesn’t have to be perfect, it becomes what it’s meant to me, it serves you like nothing else can, it embraces the imperfections in your expression, and understands them regardless.
It’s a fantastically cathartic outlet for me, and really ignites my creativity.
Free writing is one of my favourite things to do. Just write – about anything – don’t think, just let it flow. Keep going until you cannot write anymore, until you feel something has been released, until something is shifted. Then you can focus on other, more practical things once that emotional knot in your stomach has gone.
For this reason, it’s helped me dramatically to get things ‘done’. Writing things out for 15 mins clears the fog and leaves me so much clearer on what needs to be done.
Research has found that journaling for 15 mins at the beginning of every day makes you WAY more productive in your business and work – and life. I have found this to be the case for me.
More than anything, though, I love the idea of someone eventually, in 100’s of years, maybe reading my journals and learning something from them. Or maybe wondering who I am, what I looked like, etc. Ha-ha. The idea of my inner world living on, and people gaining some wisdom or insight or whatever from my ramblings is a lovely thing to me. I honestly am so over the fear of anyone reading my journals!
Is journaling something that’s an alternative to say counselling?
I am in no way removing the need for a counsellor if that’s what someone needs, and that would be for a GP to decide, and of course the individual. There are some brilliant and skilled counsellors out there.
However, I will say that MANY of our anxieties, worries, things that make us scared or sad, can absolutely be worked through in your journal. Your journal takes the energy from them, allows you to look at them from a different perspective or objectively. The therapeutic benefits of journaling are very well documented,
A journal can rapidly get you connected to your soul, spirit, God, the Angels, the cosmos, a higher power – whatever it is for YOU; and that is the most powerful thing that you can possibly do for your mental health. Connection to self and soul is everything.
There are also lots of good books out there about how to use journaling as therapy. It really is the best self-healing tool! As I said though, traditional counselling and therapy has its place, and if I felt a client needed that, I would certainly refer them.
Is it important to read back what you’ve written or is it more about letting it out onto the page?
Both! The initial outlet on to the page can indeed be a ‘free write’ – so just putting pen to paper and writing whatever comes up, uncensored. Or, it can be a structured piece of writing, using a journal prompt or specific journaling technique, for example.
But whatever or however you write, reading it back is the single most important thing that you can do. There are not many rules to journaling, but if there were, for me, this would be the top one (another one is to date every entry).
The thing is, if we want to use our journal as a personal development tool, we have to decipher what it is trying to tell us – what’s the learning? Only by reading back what you’ve written can you then step back to make sense of it. I suggest leaving a few moments between the writing of it and reading it back. But once you read it back, you can spot patterns occurring. Ask yourself ‘what do I notice?’ ‘Is there anything surprising here?’
Only by reading back can you then decide what your NEXT ACTION is. It’s not just about feeling good or better in the moment. It’s about moving forward, with your journal as your guide.
Is it important to journal every day?
I often get asked this question, and I honestly think it depends on what you’re going through at the time.
For example, if you are dealing with something particularly challenging in your life, or you generally have a lot on your plate or are in transition, then journaling every day is highly recommended until you come out of it the other side. It can help to keep your mindset focused, remember gratitude, stay connected to what matters and be aware of your feelings the whole time and stay present in your life without sinking down the rabbit hole!
However, if life is going great and fabulous, you may only feel the urge to write once or twice a week – which is fine, too! In those entries, you can reflect on the goodness and the gratitude for the present and action plan for your future. It’s great to action plan whilst your energy is high, because then your plans are aspirational and big (as opposed to trying to plan, for example, when you are feeling ‘hopeless’ or have a very low mood).
So, to answer the question, no, it is not essential to do it every day. Great benefits can be reaped even from doing it once a week!
What is your role in this process?
Believe it or not, many people have a lot of fear or resistance when it comes to journaling, and they often don’t know where to start. So, I help them to really kick start that practice. And I help people by introducing them to over 20 different journaling techniques. This helps their journal practice to go deeper than they may have done before. The techniques are fun, creative and allow different perspective to be had on whatever issue is being addressed at the time. They can really be adapted to suit every situation!
I combine these techniques with life coaching, so in the session I’d ask them to journal, and then the sharing of what has been written takes place. We reflect on the learning, the message, and I help them to move forward not only with their journal practice, but with whatever the journaling has brought up for them. A key role of mine is showing them how the techniques can be adapted for every situation time and time again.
I also work with creative writers, helping them to use their journal to really fuel their creative work, connect with their characters, explore storylines and even create a good sense of place and landscape.
It really is about creating a lifelong journaling practice that is joyful and fulfilling; one that is whatever you need it to be!
You can join Dawn along with 21 other writing experts on her FREE upcoming online event - ‘The Power of Writing: Discover and share your gifts by developing a powerful and purposeful writing practice’.
The event is for anyone who wants to write in any form – journaling, fiction, non-fiction, memoir, blogging, etc.
So, grab your journals and notepads and get stuck into this fab content that will really help you to develop a writing life!
Access the event here: www.thepowerofwritingsummit.com
Dawn Purcell is author of young adult fantasy fiction and is currently working on her first novel. After finally caving in to her love of myth, fairy-tale and movies, Dawn now helps other creative writers to use these elements to really fuel their creative writing in a process called Mythic Journaling. She also offers Soul Script, a one to one journal coaching programme for creative writers, and also intensive journal coaching sessions that are transformative, deep, and suitable for everybody.
Dawn also works with Entrepreneurs on through her 6 pillars of journaling coaching programme.
She holds a BSc in psychology and has taught the psychology of health and wellbeing for 10 years. She holds a teaching qualification, an MA in Creative Writing and is Certified Journaling Instructor. She lives with her soul mate and has three feisty children. Dawn is pretty sure that she is descended from Vikings.
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