Guest Author - Melissa Waters
I've had the pleasure of belong to an online Yahoo Group called Christianjournaling for about a year now. I wanted to share the amazing person behind this group that has taught me how to go deeper in my journaling. This is an upbeat, encouraging group. There are weekly prompts and challenges that will help you stay on track with your journaling.
Now, let's hear from Debbie and see how journaling has changed her life.
1. How long have you been journaling?
I kept a diary - one of those pink ones with little keys - when I was in the 4th & 5th grade. But I didn't really start keeping a journal until I was married. A friend at work recommended a book called "Disciplines of a Beautiful Woman" by Ann Ortland. Ann talked about keeping a journal of your Bible reading notes. That's when I started and I've been keeping a journal for over 25 years.
2. What kinds of journals do you have?
Right now I have 3 main journals. 4 if you count my Art Journal (but I don't).
The first one is my 2 page per day Franklin dayplanner. I use the right page to record the daily events of my life. I usually do this in point form - not sentences. Every 2 or 3 days I'll sit down and catch up. This keeps a record of my business actions as well as the daily parade of events in our household.
I also have a journal for my Quiet Time. I take notes and record prayers during my Bible reading time.
In the 3rd journal I try to write morning pages most days, I keep track of my GREAT IDEAS!, goals and plans (I have 2 businesses) and I often add notes I take from teleseminars, things I print off the internet or from my email lists in this journal.
My journals are all in planner binders - 6 ring - the outside size is 8X10" - they take 5x8 sheets - I think they're called Compact size binders. For paper, I buy regular spiral bound notebooks, cut the holes off the spiral edges, hole-punch them and add them to my journals. I like the notebooks that have tabbed dividers. I use those for dividers in my journals too.
I use LOTS of paper! Once my journal is getting full, I'll remove the pages and keep them in a 2" storage binder. I use 2 of these each year. One for my calendar pages and one for my journaling pages.
I also have a journaling program on my computer (that I use sometimes...), but I really prefer to handwrite my pages. It's so relaxing to feel the movement of the pen on paper.
I'll print off the typed pages, hole punch them and add them to my paper journal.
3. How often do you journal?
I do some kind of journaling every day, but I don't write in each journal every day. I always date the entries.
4. Can you share a little bit with our readers about your Yahoo groups on Christian Journaling?
Well, the Yahoo Group Christian Journaling was started by Angie. I joined within the first couple of months. There have been a couple of other moderators over the years, but I inherited the group in the last 2 years or so. We have quite a large community with lots of people who are just starting to journal. There are many who have been journaling longer than I have. When Angie formed the group in July 2001, there were no other Christian Journaling email lists. The archives are still all up, so we have quite a treasure chest of posts and prompts - tons of information in those last 6 years. You can join the list here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ChristianJournaling/
We try to post writing prompts - which are questions, quotes or Bible verses that you can write your thoughts about when you don't know what to write! Writing prompts give you a jumping off point to get that pen moving. We talk about all the different kinds of journal books, pens and all the extra stuff we stick in our journals. Some people are very creative and add their own art to their journals. Others use rubber stamps, stickers and put other momentos in their journals. It's really fun to read about how others do it - and try some new things yourself to keep your journalling experience fresh. We have recommended books about journaling that we have found to be good and we have talked about them on the list together at different points along the way. We share the details of our days - and some of us have become quite good friends over the years of sharing about our lives, our churches, our families and all the daily trials we all go through. If you post something on the list, that's journaling too - so you can print it off and put it in your journal.
5. Do you have a website?
I'm working on a website. The address is www.christianjournaling.ca I'm hoping it will be up in January 2007. I also will be writing a monthly newsletter that you will be able to subscribe to on the website. The newsletter is called "The Journal Keeper." The newsletter, articles, writing prompts and an online journaling course or two will be on the website.
6. I understand you teach an art journaling course, can you tell me a little bit more about this?
I do teach an online course in Art Journaling. I also refer to it as my Artist's Sketchbook course - because I teach Decorative Painting (folk art, tole) I developed this course to help people to develop their own designs, or to take their art/drawing experience to another level. Most Decorative Artists trace other people's designs and they were wanting to learn how to draw and develop their own style. I was inspired to develop the course by reading and collecting books by Cathy Johnson, Hannah Hinchman, Marjolein Bastin, Clare Lesley Walker and Claudia Nice They are all nature artists - outdoor people and they used their art sketchbooks to record their daily hikes in field and forest, with words and with their own drawings. You can look the names up on the web and find some of their art work.
One thing I noticed was that many of their sketches weren't GREAT works of art, they were simple little drawings just like what I was capable of at the time.
There are 12 lessons in 6 weeks. The lessons walk you through basic drawing lessons, learning how to draw and shade shapes, animals, flowers, landscapes etc. We also talk a great deal about Creativity - making YOUR book all about what YOU like and using it to set Art goals for yourself. We share our favorite artists websites etc.
There's no way you can "complete" all the lessons in the 6 weeks, you just pick one or two exercises to try and later on you can come back and keep adding more to your sketchbook. Hopefully, with my course, you'll never run out of ideas of what to put in your Artist's Journal/Sketchbook again!
In my own Artist's Journal, I write notes about what I'm learning about my art, goals of things I want to do with my art business, I practice drawing from photos or pictures that I collect off the internet or from magazines. I use my own photos to design my own paintings and I draw things I see around me and write notes about what was going on in my day. Some people do "grid drawings" where they sketch a little picture or cartoon each day. Lots of people add watercolour glazes to their pages and do some collage work in their art journal. Whatever you're IN to you can put in your artists' journal. You can write for a free sample lesson if you like at email@example.com
7. Why is journaling important to you?
Journaling is important to me because..... OH! there are so many reasons!
A) I love to keep a record of what my family is doing each day - I still have 2 boys at home and 1 married - and I love to re-read my journals from when they were children. It brings back memories of those days just as if it happened yesterday! There are lots of things I would have forgotten about those precious years that have past if I hadn't recorded some of the moments in my journal. I get to keep LOTS more memories than I normally wouldn't have if I had just relied on my brain!
B) I love to keep track of what God is teaching me as I read His Word day by day. Journaling is how God talks to me. I write down a verse that jumps off the page at me - I hear God's still small voice in my spirit and I write down what He says. I often write down prayers and have looked back and seen some neat answers! I have recorded thoughts when I made really hard decisions and years later I go back and reread and find out why I did what I did - and it makes sense all over again. I've also been able to look back and see how "stupid" I was sometimes - and how much I've grown in my understanding of myself, and of other people and I can see how I've changed - or not!
C) Journaling is relaxing. I love the quietness and solitude. I love to discover what it is I 'm actually thinking and why I'm feeling the way I'm feeling. Journaling helps you to think on paper. As you write, more thoughts come and you make new discoveries all the time. I've been able to share some of those discoveries with friends along the way to encourage them in their situations too.
D) Journaling has helped me work out some very big hurts I have had in my life. I spill my guts on the page and then I don't spill all over everyone else as much! I write about the hurt and the disappointments. Usually I address those kinds of entries to God - as prayers - and before long, the Holy Spirit guides my thinking so I start remembering Bible passages that deal with similar situations. I find guidance that way. to know how to handle that situation in my life. If I'm mad about something, I write about it before I talk to the person. I get all my reasoning worked out so I don't just blast them - I have become calmer and I can articulate my thoughts a lot better after I've done the verbal garbage thing on paper.
There are LOTS of other reasons, but these are the main reasons I have stuck with journaling over the years.
8. What are your other hobbies?
Well, I read a ton of books - my husband says I inhale them. I paint - I teach painting classes in my home studio. I play the piano and teach a few students. I love to downhill ski, I love walks in the woods.
9. One of the main questions writers ask about is discipline. Do you think discipline is important in journaling and could you provide a few tips on improving one's journaling discipline?
Discipline... most of us think that's a nasty word but I like to think of it as forming good habits (hopefully pleasant) in my life as opposed to having bad habits (that can WRECK my life) The easiest way to get rid of a bad habit is to replace it with a good habit. If we listen to what we tell ourselves, and make sure we are telling ourself positive things instead of repeating negative thoughts over and over, this helps us to develop the good habits we want in our life. Example: Instead of saying to yourself; "Journaling is hard - I'm no good at it" say " I love to journal. It makes me feel relaxed and cozy when I curl up in my favorite chair for a few minutes to collect my thoughts. I will love to read my journals in the future so I can remember today forever." Paint a wonderful picture in your mind and tell yourself about it often. That helps you to form that good habit :-)
Tips for developing the good and pleasant habit of journaling...
1) Keep your journal out and visible - handy to you. My binders aren't splashed with the word JOURNAL on them. Only I know what's in them. I have several of them in my kitchen/diningroom/office area and to my knowledge my kids and husband have not been the least bit interested in what I've been scribbling in them all these years! That may not be the case in your life. If you can find a shelf to keep your journal on where it will be very handy for you to see it and grab it when you have a spare minute the visible reminder helps you to remember to write.
2) Write often enough that you make it a habit. 21 days they say. It doesn't have to be pages and pages each day - just a bit of writing a day will add up quickly. Pretty soon you will actually MISS your writing time if you skip it.
3) Put on some pleasant music, light a candle, have your favorite drink. Make it a pleasant and soul-satisfying part of your day. Get a special pen (or lots of special pens in multicolours!) and a pretty notebook - or make your pages pretty and creative in some way. Have a good time and treat yourself to this time of soul reflection and relaxation.
4) Read some good books that inspire you. Join a journaling group that can keep you motivated. Subscribe to some writing newsletters. Talk a friend into journaling and get together at the coffee shop to talk about your questions and experiences together.
5) Don't kick yourself when you're down! When you miss a day, just pick up the pen and write today's date on the top of a new page and start again. This is a life-long good and enjoyable habit you are cultivating, not a daily chore to be endured - so it doesn't matter if you miss some days or even some weeks. (You will regret it though if you don't write for a long time!!! I promise you that!)
10. We would love for you to share some journaling tips with us today that has impacted your journaling?
Tips for improving your journaling
1) Details details details. Take time to describe more. Use smell, touch, taste, hearing and seeing words. Write more and write longer if you can. Take your time to describe what happened. In 25 years, you will only be able to remember the simplest recollection unless you capture those moments on paper now. My grandpa wrote every day in a diary but his entries were so short I find myself wishing I could ask him more details. It's fascinating to see how life changes over the years!
2) If you're going through a bad spell of hurt, or grief or anger, don't let it be the ONLY thing you write about. Use writing prompts to write about other subjects that interest you or people in your life that you DO have a good relationship with. Write about good and positive things to balance out all the negative entries. At the very least record all the things you did each day during this time- a "bed-to-bed" list - so that in looking back you will be able to see that there were some parts of life that were good - it wasn't all sad and sorrowful!
3) From time to time list all the things you are grateful for in your life - and why.
4) Don't throw out your memories. Put them away for a very long time, keep them under lock and key if need be, but don't throw them away. Keep your journals and re-read them years later. You'll be VERY glad you did! I promise!
Here are some of the books Debbie mentioned in her awesome interview: