Flow and the Dark Side of Journaling

A kayak near a still  lake shrouded in fogWould-be authors are often advised to practice their craft by journaling every day. This can be a helpful tool, particularly if the focus is on playing with specific writing styles or techniques. Simply recording facts, experiences, or ideas from the day, however, can quickly lead us into the “dark side of journaling.”

I was lucky with  my first book, which was a memoir, because much of the experience I was writing about had been recorded in an Internet work space at the time it happened. Later, when I went to write the book, it was all there waiting for me. It doesn’t get much better than that.

I was also aware that I would be writing a sequel one day, so I began trying to capture that same level of detail in my on-going life through journaling – and that was when the dark side began to get its hold on me. 

Journaling about our life experiences, it turns out, can have some real drawbacks. First of all, it can keep us stuck on stuff that maybe would be better let go of in the moment. What we give attention to, we give life to, and some experiences are better left to drift away than become enshrined in our records and our minds.

Conversely, there are other experiences that are best held for a while and “felt” in our bodies and hearts. Pouring these out in a journal may release them from us prematurely and perhaps short-circuit the benefits of integrating them on a physical level.

Most importantly, the attempt to capture and remember what is happening to us can keep us from living in the moment. I found myself not wanting to forget any detail that might be important for a future book and recording it in my journal instead of developing and publishing what was flowing through  me at the time.

Our memories could always be better. There will always be details we will wish we had saved. But if we are saving everything for the future, where is the flow of our lives? Where is the work – and the writing – we are doing now, in the moment, that will help someone, or inspire them, or make them laugh today?

As in all things, I think it comes down to a dynamic balance – journal some, let some go – but why not let the words and energy flow out of ourselves to others, to where they are meant to be today, for a life fully lived?


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