A Writer's Constant Companion and Compass

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I’m an avid journaler. For the past thirty years, my notebook has been my constant companion and compass. I’d be lost without it. For journaling within its pages allows me to “HEAR” THE VOICES—inner and outer, past and present—speaking into my life, to determine if their words help, heal, or hinder me. It allows me to slow down, rest, consider, become aware, find my true path, rhythm, and peace.

 

Stuck on Mute

I didn’t used to be that way. While growing up, I’d buy a one-year diary with a colorful cartoonish character on its cover, and begin filling the page on January 1. But after the first few weeks of penciled chronicling, my entries became sporadic at best. And soon fell away altogether.

As I matured, grew in knowledge and experience, as my life became more involved in those of others, and in the world at large, I found myself becoming TOTALLY DEAF to my own voice. Muted by the minutiae of life, silenced by the hurly-burly of meeting everyday needs, lost in the deafening din of Internet information, the words of my life were passing me by and the clues they revealed, unread and untended.

 

Finding the Still Small Voice

To find direction, awareness, and clarity, to reconnect with that “still small voice” that speaks to us at our deepest level, I took up a journal once again. I began writing in spurts and starts, sometimes missing days on end. But always I came back to its blank pages, my hand itching to wield a pen. For journaling allowed me to take up the pieces of my life—my thoughts, my knowledge, my experiences—spill them onto the page, and meld those once disjointed parts into a creative whole, into something good. It allowed me to differentiate my own voice from the fearful, false voices that no longer served me, to bring out the one true voice that bespoke of courage and meaning. And through the process of allowing my eyes to see, my ears to hear, and my heart to trust, my MOUTH OPENED. I began sharing my stories with others in an attempt to help them sort through the minutiae and voices in their own lives.

 

Call to the Journey

I invite you to join me on this journey of awakening. To make your journal your constant companion and compass. And to do it the old-fashioned way. To move away from the draining and befuddling digital-blue light of electronic devices and step into the energizing and clarifying physical-white light of a simple paper-filled notebook.

To many a journaler, pen and paper are preferable because each person’s handwriting is like a fingerprint, unique to that individual, and yet changes from day to day, from mood to mood, giving one clues as to what is happening within and without. But for now, don’t worry about your handwriting. The point is TO WRITE. To open up your eyes, ears, and heart so that your mouth is given the words to the story you were born to tell.

The journal you choose is totally up to you. There’s a great selection out there. And you may go through several different notebooks before you find the one that really fits you. But no matter what size, shape, or color you select, the idea is to have it always by your side.

In A Book of One’s Own, Thomas Mallon writes about Henry David Thoreau’s journaling: “Since thought begets thought so quickly in him, and since to defer recording an insight can be to let it expire like a dream we forget the next morning, the journal’s immediate and constant availability is its greatest attribute.”     

So, go. Find a notebook and pen that fit you. And take them everywhere. (Personally, I use Mead’s Cambridge Business Notebooks, college-ruled, 7 x 4 3/8 inches with a thick cardboard back, which allows me the convenience of taking it wherever I go and writing wherever I am. Its cover sports a personal cell-phone photo. My pen of choice is a blue Pilot Precise Rolling Ball—like a fountain pen without the mess.)

 

Follow the Clue

Fellow journeyers, TAKE HOLD of your life, voice, thoughts, purpose, dreams, path, notebook, and pen. Take time to journal. And “trust that out of that will come the pattern, the clue that can be followed” (Jean Rhys, novelist).

See you next time for one writer’s progress. Until then, share your comments below—including, if you are so moved, your experiences with journaling or the specs of what journal and pen fit you. Write on!