“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter. And lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” —Jack London
Oscar Wilde. John Quincy Adams. Anne Frank. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Virginia Woolf. Henry David Thoreau. Marcus Aurelius. Thomas Edison. Winston Churchill. Mark Twain.
You know what all of these people have in common?
They all kept journals.
And they poured their souls into them.
To them, journaling was a form of meditation…
An opportunity for self-reflection. (Which is, you may’ve noticed, all too rare these days).
It was a way for many of them to keep from going insane.
It helped keep their egos in check, and reined in their projections.
The journal is the release valve for whatever’s slipping by unnoticed…
Rather than trying to control those wild winds…
Or wallow in their darker shades…
Leonardo da Vinci was one man who knew that healthy expression of our “darker” aspects…
Such as when, perhaps, a grieving woman offers up that grief in a beautiful song, an image, or in a few thoughtful words…
Is precisely how most beautiful works are born.
Like an ancient alchemist turning lead into gold…
Much of the “great work” is transmuting suffering and pain into things worthy of wonder.
Things which both uplift and touch something deeper.
But first, you have to sit down and allow it to be there.
Allow whatever “it” is to say its piece. And write it down.
That is, you must become the type of person who keeps a journal.
And if you do, you’ll find out soon enough:
It’s the cheapest and simplest form of therapy.
Tim Ferriss, on his blog, writes about the benefits of what author Julia Cameron calls “morning pages,” a free-form way of journaling where you just write without the critic:
“I don’t journal to ‘be productive.’ I don’t do it to find great ideas, or to put down prose I can later publish. The pages aren’t intended for anyone but me. Morning pages are, as author Julia Cameron puts it, ‘spiritual windshield wipers.’ It’s the most cost-effective therapy I’ve ever found. To quote her further…: ‘Once we get those muddy, maddening, confusing thoughts [nebulous worries, jitters, and preoccupations] on the page, we face our day with clearer eyes.'”
Writer and producer Brian Koppelman (Billions) has said that by free forming three pages in the morning, he is “priming the pump… getting the creative juices flowing in a very free way.”
Says Ryan Holiday:
“While there are plenty of people who will anecdotally swear to the benefits of journaling, the research is just as compelling. According to one study, journaling helps improve well-being after traumatic and stressful events. Similarly, a University of Arizona study showed that people were able to better recover from divorce and move forward if they journaled on the experience. Keeping a journal is also a common recommendation you hear from psychologists as well. As one said, ‘Writing something down stops things from going around and around in our heads. This puts things in perspective, it stops you from obsessing and can help us make sense of our jumble of thoughts and feelings.'”
The beauty of journaling is there’s no right or wrong way to do it.
Success and failure don’t exist in this realm.
Fear has no power here.
It wipes the pressure off.
You just do it without thinking of reaching a goal… or accomplishing anything.
(It’s a relief, really.)
The only point is to be present.
You’re not trying to go anywhere specific, or be anywhere at a specific time.
You’re not obsessed with the outcome.
You just let loose for a moment and see what comes of it.
Allow what’s “down there” to come up.
Allow yourself the opportunity to surprise yourself.
And embrace a different part of your mind… a wilder, more spontaneous place most people have all but exiled.
Even just three minutes of this can change your entire day.
It’s the best and safest form of self-medication.
And a nudge to return to those two timeless words scratched so long ago on the temple of Apollo at Delphi:
You’ll thank me later.
[Ed. note: Another way you can make 2019 more than bearable comes from colleague James Altucher: “Stop creating goals you think people want to hear. And make a promise to yourself instead. Here’s a good one: Find something that you love doing. Then find a way to make money doing it. It’s the ultimate “choose yourself” resolution! Journaling will help with this, too. But, remember: The better the inputs, the better the outputs. So feed your mind with these brilliant side-hustle ideas first.]
Managing editor, Laissez Faire Today