Journaling To Heal

This last Tuesday was our first class in a three part workshop series taught by Anna Paige, a local writer here in Billings. I have much admired Anna's way with words and have been following her blog Pen & Paige. So I was a little nervous to reach out and ask her if she'd consider developing a class for Better To Gather.  Happily she seemed excited by the idea and we made time to meet and daydream up a curriculum. The first class was a little bit of magic just a hand-full of bright women in our small and cozy space talking about the books and poems that had shaped their lives and minds. 

Followed by a mini-craft crash course allowing each lady to customize her own pocket sized journal with a word or phrase that would encourage her to write. These were pounded onto metal plate and carefully stitched into the leather bound journals for each writer. (pictured above) each one completely unique and personal. What would inspire you to write? Here's what inspired us: Fearless, Wanderer, Truth is stranger than fiction, Be Brave & Just Begin, Seek the Amorist, & Breathe. 

Well armed to begin writing we moved on to discussion. Anna had some great encouragement and insights into how journaling can be a key to being healthier. She passed out our first assignment and we each got to work with an initial twenty minutes of free-writing. Here are her helpful do's and don'ts culled from: Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives, by Louise A. DeSalvo. These tips are great for mindful journal writers seeking catharsis and change through writing practice:

Do's:
- write twenty minutes a day. If you feel overwhelmed, try to break it up or work toward 20 minutes sessions. Try different times of day to determine what works best for you.
- Write in a private, safe, comfortable environment.
- Write about issues you're currently living with, something you're thinking of or dreaming about constantly, an unresolved trauma, for instance.
- Write about your joys and pleasures, too.
- Write about what happened. Write how you feel about what happened, and why you feel that way. Try to link events with feelings.
- Try to write detailed, vivid, emotionally compelling narratives. Don't worry about correctness, about grammar, or punctuation.
- This is writing for you. It is okay not to share it with anyone. If you choose to keep your writing, safegaurd it.
- Expect, initially, that in writing in this way you will have complex and appropriately difficult feelings. Make sure you get support if you need it.

Don'ts:

- Don't use  your writing as a substitute for taking action.
- Don't become overly intellectual.
- Don't use writing as a way of complaining. Use it, instead to discover how and why you feel as you do. Simply complaining and venting will probably make you feel worse.
- Don't use your writing to become overly self-absorbed. Over-analyzing everything is counter productive.
- Don't use writing as a substitute for therapy or medical care.

We all left excited to begin discovering what we might uncover about ourselves inside of our journals. Personally I am interested to see how I might progress forward in my life simply by writing more. If you missed out on this class you shouldn't let that stop you from starting your own journal and following the talented, Anna here!