A few weeks ago I received this email (and the writer gave me permission to share it here):
I have been subscribed to your blog for a while now and I notice you talk a lot about journaling and morning pages and how valuable they are to you. While I want to believe this is true, I have so much trouble actually writing in a journal. It seems like everything I write is so mundane I can’t stand seeing what’s in my own mind! So I quit. But then I’ll want to try again, and I do it for a few days and I can’t stand what I’m writing so I quit again. What is my problem? Should I be journaling or not? I feel like it would help me connect with myself, but I don’t actually seem to like it. Any suggestions?
I wanted to share this email here because this is so, so common. I hear similar reports from my life coaching clients and have heard them from so many others when I share that I’ve been journaling regularly for more than thirty years.
First of all, whenever something becomes a “should”, we naturally develop resistance to it. So, no, you “shouldn’t” be journaling. You shouldn’t be doing anything.
There are plenty of ways to connect with yourself besides journaling and/or morning pages. Just because you hear lots of people saying how great they are doesn’t mean you have to do them. Find another way of connecting with yourself on a regular basis if journaling doesn’t speak to you. Find some way of being in your own company and noticing what you’re thinking and feeling. It doesn’t have to be journaling.
But I want to point something out here: When journaling/morning pages feel “boring” or frustrating because everything spilling out of you onto the page seems “mundane”, it may just be that you are uncomfortable with connecting with yourself.
I write tons of mundane stuff in the pages of my journals. I write about how I couldn’t decide which pair of jeans to buy, because one fit better but I liked the topstitching on the other one better. I write about how I can tell I am getting a zit and how I would have died if you told me when I was sixteen that I would still sometimes have zits in my forties. I write about how we rearranged the living room furniture and how pleased I am with how it looks.
And you know what? I enjoy writing this mundane stuff in the pages of my journal. I enjoy it because I am not trying to be “extraordinary” on the pages of my journal — my purpose there, often, is simply to keep myself company, to know the contents of my mind.
We are all capable of focusing on lots and lots of mundane stuff. And if we like who we are, if we enjoy our own company, that’s not a bad thing.
And here’s the paradox: My purpose with journaling is to keep myself company on the page, to know my own thoughts and feelings. And a lot of times, yeah, that’s pretty “mundane”. But my purpose with journaling is also to break through all that stuff, to cut a layer deeper, to get underneath it all.
If I’m really freaking out because I have a zit, if that’s really bothering me on a particular day, what’s underneath that? What am I making it mean? That underneath it all I’m still an insecure sixteen-year-old? That my body is out of control? That just when I’m feeling good, I have to be reminded of how imperfect I am?
You see what I mean? We can use the mundane in our journaling as a jumping-off point to understanding ourselves better. And that self-connection and self-understanding connects us to others — because we’re not so different from anyone else. In keeping ourselves company on the page, we realize we are in lots of good company.
When people tell me “I hate journaling because I can’t stand how mundane I am and how I wallow in my own shitty inner stuff” I want to say: Welcome to the human race. We are all mundane and we all wallow, at times, in our own shitty inner stuff. And, we are all capable of going a layer deeper, or many layers deeper, and letting that very human stuff take us to the core of who we are.
I would say to the writer of this email: There’s a reason that even though you always seem to quit journaling after a few days, you keep on wanting to try it again. You want to know yourself.
This is a very good thing. Because no one is ever going to know you as deeply as you can know yourself. Not a significant other, not a child, not a parent, not a friend. One of the huge gifts of being here on this earth is that you have the opportunity to know yourself.
People who have the desire to write, to create in any way, usually have a deep desire to know themselves. But sometimes we have a tendency to think this desire is “selfish,” because we are so mundane so much of the time. What if it turns out we’re not that extraordinary?
Give yourself a break. Let yourself be mundane. When you make room for your “ordinariness”, you will find it so much easier to allow the parts of you that are extraordinary to surface. Because we all have so much of both. We all have so much of everything within us.
A dear teacher of mine once said, “Great writing is nothing more than the truth, plainly told.” You will never see this more clearly than on the pages of your journal. But you need to stick with it for more than a few days. You need to be so loving toward the mundane contents of your mind that you see that you are not so mundane, after all.
And: Due to a scheduling conflict, I’ve pushed out the start date of the Artist’s Nest community calls one month, to Wed. Feb. 28. Want to join me on these monthly calls? You can get the call-in info (which I’ll send out approximately 24 hours before the call) by signing up for my newsletter, here!
Above images: Top, © Kasia Biel | Dreamstime Stock Photos; bottom, one of my earliest journals, with kitty.
6 thoughts on “Why it’s okay to be “boring” in your journal (+ community call date change!)”
As someone who has totally struggled with perfectionism in journal writing, this post was a breath of fresh air for me. Thank you, Jill!
One thing that has worked well for me to reign in perfectionism with morning pages is to use humbler notebooks – just the standard spiral-bounds or composition books. Some people really love to use pretty ones, and I totally see the appeal. But if I’m in a place of judging my free-form thoughts – i.e., “These aren’t “good enough” for a fancy book!” – then I won’t write in it. Picking a humbler volume helps me get started.
Likewise, it also helps me to release / recycle the pages at the end. Again, it totally works for some people to hold onto them; for me, it helps me revel in the imperfection of it all if I know I have permission to let them go. 🙂
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Caroline, so glad the post spoke to you! I’m with you on using simple notebooks — I use inexpensive spiral ones, too. That is a great suggestion that hadn’t occurred to me — “fancy” journals could certainly trigger the thought that any words that go in there need to be “special”! (I do love receiving really pretty journals as gifts, though, even though they’re not my “preferred” journals!)
Love your suggestion about recycling (releasing) the pages when you’re done, too — and what a great letting go process that could be. Great to hear from you and thanks so much for these insights! ❤
Hi Jill 🙂 A wonderful and timely post as always! I’ve just gotten back into morning pages, and as I was trying to reestablish this practice, several of the things you mention came up – the unhelpfulness of presenting it to myself as a ‘should’, and the mundaneness of much of what i write. When then happens, as I write, I write it out directly ‘wow, this is so boring, good job I’m the only one who has to read it etc etc…’ which, for me anyway, lightens it and gives me permission to laugh at myself and be silly and playful, and keep writing regardless. As for ‘should’ I’ve chosen to approach morning pages as a part of a natural personal rhythm (like a sunrise, or snowdrops coming before daffodils etc etc), rather than a ‘daily routine’. Somehow just calling it, labeling it something different makes it more enjoyable and effortless for me. Wonderful post as always Jill. Much love to you 🙂 Harula xxx
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Harula, so good to hear from you! I love your takes on this — lightening it up by giving yourself permission to laugh at yourself and be silly with it, and approaching morning pages as a natural personal rhythm (rather than a “routine”) — so lovely! I totally agree with you that labeling something in a different way can really shift our energy around it. Thank you for these excellent insights! Love to you too and hope all is well with you! ❤
Unless we can record our ordinariness we can not know who we are. Love and acceptance of self comes with the mundane. I don’t feel so alone when I recognize myself as just another human being.
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Exactly, Joan! So well said. Thanks for reading!
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