“Whenever you are fed up with life, start writing: ink is the great cure for all human ills, as I have found out long ago.” C.S. Lewis
Perhaps this is an overstatement on Lewis’ part, but I think we all need to be writing, some of the time. Many of you already know this intuitively, writing things down is like a therapeutic exercise that brings peace and clarity. This post is for the reader who struggles to see the value of journaling, even if only periodically.
Maybe journaling is suitable for only certain types of morose and bookish types, but I don’t think so. Here are three ways I think pen and paper can aid us:
Journaling can assist us in cataloging our thinking and holding ourselves accountable
Journaling periodically can help us keep tabs on a variety items. Whether it’s monitoring our progress (or lack thereof) in an endeavor or tracking the development in our thinking on a topic, journaling can be a tool that helps us build the discipline of accountability into our own lives.
Journaling can promote introspection and… quiet.
On a simple level, being able to tolerate quiet is a necessary skill for human flourishing. As Matthew Crawford said: “Just as air makes respiration possible, silence, in this broader sense, is what makes it possible to think.” While it’s true that we’re all skilled multi-taskers in this age of the smartphone, how can we practice our thinking and praying without being intentional about seeking solitude and silence? Praying and thinking are activities that require practice and that can be aided by our periodic discipline of writing and journaling.
Journaling can bring clarity to our thinking
When we speak about ideas or events, we normally give ourselves the benefit of the doubt that we understand what we’re talking about. Then there’s those awkward moments when we’re asked to clarify what we mean. Or when we’re asked to explain a position fairly fundamental to our thinking and we respond like any sentient being would: “Well, I… Um…”
Writing can aid us here. When we approach a blank piece of paper, we must begin to write something in order to begin thinking. How will I vote? Remodel my home? Interpret this section of Romans? Why did I enjoy this book so much? We can say that we know how to explain this decision or describe that experience. Tell that to a blank sheet of paper. Pen and paper force you to tackle those awkward moments now, rather than later.
When we bring up writing/journaling, loads of other topics come to mind- diaries, list-making, etc. Has writing aided you in any of the areas discussed in this post? Feel free to share your story or contribute additional thoughts not included in this post. Journal skeptics- let me know how it goes!