Where EVERYONE is a maker

Episode 5: Journaling, A Toilet for Your Brain

Journaling sounds boring, but can also bring up feelings of vulnerability. Because what if someone finds it and learns all your private thoughts? In this episode, I challenge you to reconsider the purpose of journaling and show you different ways of approaching it. This is the 21st century after all, you’re no longer limited to only pen and paper.

Instead I’ll introduce you to a few different methods for getting the trash thoughts out of your head, and show you how this practice is similar to another elimination method you’re (hopefully) already pretty good at.

Scroll down for a full episode transcript.

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Hola and welcome to The Maker Muse Podcast! I’m Paulette Erato, the Maker Muse. And today I’m asking the question, is journaling a waste of time?

Honestly, yes, I used to think so. And yet, so many of those programs like the Miracle Morning or The Artist’s Way suggest journaling as an outlet. Why is that? Because it’s effective.

It also comes with a slew of health benefits. And I’ll put a link in the show notes with resources that back this up. But here are just a few: managing anxiety, reducing stress. And it also creates an opportunity for positive self talk, and identifying negative thoughts or behavior patterns. That last one about negative thoughts, we talked about that in the very first episode. And if you haven’t listened to it yet, go back to it, (it’s called Kill Your Fear of Creativity), then come back to this one. Because knowing how to recognize and stop your negative thoughts from impacting your feelings is like super crucial. If communication is the key to success, the way we talk to OURSELVES must be absolutely paramount, right?

HOW we talk to ourselves is monumentally important to our success, both inside our artistic outlets AND in the rest of the world. And one way to train yourself to talk to yourself better, is through journaling. Because it’s a great way to give the inner critic that voice in your head that’s always scared, an outlet to have its say, and then get the hell out of your way. Because you get to evict all of that noise inside of your head. Any anxiety or stress it’s causing you just clear it out. Rid yourself of all of the uncomfortable ideas or feelings churning inside your head with a brain dump.

Think about it: you relieve your body daily, if not multiple times a day, of the junk it no longer needs, right? Like you take a shit every day, right? Your mind needs the same kind of release. And you can do that with journaling.

This isn’t a diary. And I think that’s what turns people off the most. So let’s talk about what this type of journaling actually is. It isn’t writing down your private thoughts, then leaving yourself open and vulnerable. Because like with a diary, si alguien lo encuentra, ay chingao, that would be THE WORST right? Because then somebody would have access to your private thoughts and feelings. And it would be really easy for them to weaponize that against you, right? That’s, that’s what your inner critic is probably saying right now.

But no, that isn’t actually what I’m suggesting you do. Think of this more like a toilet for your brain. You don’t need to save what you let out. You just need to flush it out of your head. Like you don’t save the toilet paper after you go to the bathroom. Right? If you consider whatever you write or let out of your head as toilet paper, then you’ll have no problem getting rid of it too.

In fact, Julia Cameron suggests this very thing in her book, The Artist’s Way. And she also recognizes that it can feel like a pointless exercise if you’ve never really done it. If you aren’t familiar, The Artist’s Way is basically a guide for a 12 week program, in which she prescribes what she calls Morning Pages every single day for three months. And she says that no one should read your Morning Pages, not even you for the first eight weeks at least. That’s two whole months of just writing stuff and throwing it away. That’s brilliant. So yeah, just get them trash thoughts out of your head, and throw them away. By the way, I’ll leave a link to The Artist’s Way in the show notes.

Okay, so let’s talk about how to journal, there’s a bunch of ways to do this. Again, it isn’t a diary. It doesn’t have to be a physical journal that you write in. Although you can do that too. I mean, there’s the physical act of writing, either by hand or by typing. But you can also do it through dictation, if you prefer talking it out. And this one is super effective for me. I sometimes use my husband as the journal where I just word vomit at him, and then I feel better. I can actually resolve my issues or whatever issue I’m throwing at him in the moment when I do that. Be careful with this one though, because if you start to abuse this method, whoever’s on the receiving end of it can get really tired of putting up with it. And it also kind of negates that privacy aspect. So you might want to stick to dictating solo, if that’s a concern.

The other option is to draw it out, or you can even punch it out. Whichever way you’re most inclined to clear those thoughts: do that. And then set aside 10 to 15 minutes to do this. That’s about how long it takes to get it would flush going. In writing, that’s about three full pages of longhand. You can start with less time, like five minutes. But this is a good goal to work up to.

One of my favorite resources for this is a website called 750 Words. And I will also leave a link to that in the show notes. It’s a very simple blank page that you can privately dump all your thoughts into. And the nice thing about this, especially if you’re like me, and you get hand cramps from writing, is you have to type it out instead. And it’ll even track your words until you hit 750. Which, in my experience, yeah, takes about 13 to 15 minutes. Plus, you can be totally anonymous. So even if the site were hacked, it wouldn’t be easily tracked back to you. So that’s worth the $5 a month. I believe you actually get a free month. But after that, it’s about $5. And that might be worth it to you.

It’ll also give you stats about your writing, like what state of mind you display and what major sense comes out. And those may not mean anything to you. And that’s okay, stats are cool. But they aren’t the metric we need to track.

Now like I mentioned, what if you don’t write? You can try dictating your thoughts instead. Like I said, I sometimes spit these things out at my husband. But you can also use a voice recorder app to say your thoughts out loud and just get them out verbally. Most phones nowadays already have a voice to text option. And so does Google Docs. What I really like about this option is you can do it anywhere. While you’re making your morning cup of coffee, on your morning commute, or while you’re literally sitting on the toilet (makes it pretty meta).

You can also draw your thoughts out. If you’re more into pictures than writing, then let that be your release: just doodle. A few quick sketches will also help expel these thoughts. They don’t have to be actual pictures, it can just be a bunch of squiggles that you make while your inner critic gets to feel heard.

Now, a really novel way of journaling is working out. I’ve never felt better than when I have a good sweat through my trash thoughts (which always seem to die before I even get done with the workout. I wonder why?). My favorite workout for this is kickboxing. Because I can imagine each of my thoughts (or better yet the person behind the thoughts) on the punching bag, and then I could just beat the shit out of them. But if you don’t have a punching bag, use a pillow. Why is this one so effective? Because not only are you sweating out the bad toxins, you’re also changing your state. And, which you already know from the happy place episode, is a super efficient way for changing your mood and mindset. Movement, it does wonders for that.

Whichever one you choose, none of these methods need to lead to an end product that’s either legible or makes any sort of sense. I’m going to quote Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way again here:

“These daily morning meanderings are not meant to be art. Or even writing…Writing is simply one of the tools. Pages are meant to be, simply, the act of moving the hand across the page and writing down whatever comes to mind. Nothing is too petty, too silly, too stupid, or too weird to be included. The morning pages are not supposed to sound smart—although sometimes
they might. Most times they won’t, and nobody will ever know except you.

This is just stream of conscious kind of stuff. And again, you don’t have to keep them. As I’ve said over and over, I suggest you don’t. This is waste product after all. That’s all it is. You’re giving your inner critic a chance to be heard so it can get all its negative crappy thoughts out of your head. You don’t need to hang on to them afterwards. You don’t keep your use toilet paper, right? So don’t worry about keeping this, throw it away. These are the trashy thoughts, they’re shit. Once it’s out, it’s gone. Can it be remanufactured? Maybe yeah, your inner critic can keep pounding away on the same drum. But each and every time you let out those trash thoughts, you’re taking away some of that potency. You’ve already started eradicating whatever it is that inner critic keeps beating on about. So let out all those thoughts and flush them down the toilet. Make room for all the good thoughts and ideas that are waiting to come out.

But can journaling also have negative side effects? In narrow instances, yeah. Just like anything, too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. And this is why I’m a fan of journaling specifically for taking the trash thoughts out of your head. Some people will tout it as a cure-all for everything that goes wrong. I’m still pretty skeptical of that. Sure if it works for you, that’s great. But it’s just one tool for doing that job. And you know what the saying about hammers and nails is, right? When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. But sometimes you don’t need a hammer, you need a screwdriver, or a wrench or I don’t know, a toe pick (shout out to the best 90 skating movie not named The Mighty Ducks).

So when is journaling not the tool for you? If it doesn’t make you feel better after, then it’s probably a hammer acting as a monkey wrench. In other words, it’s not the right tool for this job A lo mejor you’re not using it the right way. But is there a proper way to journal? While I recommend it as an avenue for letting your inner critic have a voice and making room inside your head for your hype squad, according to a few sources that may not be how you end up using it. Let me read you some sources that I’ve also linked in the show notes. This is from Psychology Today.

Quote: “sometimes, keeping a journal of your thoughts, feelings and experiences helps. But often it makes things worse. In general, it’s likely to hurt if it tries to help you quote unquote, “know yourself” in isolation, and helps if it leads to a greater understanding and behavior change in your interactions with others.”

So the key point here is that you might be journaling and getting to know a specific part of yourself, but it’s in a vacuum, it’s outside the rest of your reality. They’re suggesting don’t do that. And here’s where they saying it can have a negative effect on your behavior.

If it: makes you live too much in your head, makes you a passive observer of your life, (like thinking about how you’ll record it instead of experiencing it while it’s happening). If it makes you self obsessed, or becomes a vehicle of blame instead of solutions, or if it makes you wallow in negative things that have happened to you.

So see, this is why I’m such a proponent of getting these trash thoughts out of your head and not keeping a physical journal. Because once they’re out, you no longer need them. They were trash. If they come back, you let them out again, because they will over time become less frequent. You’re removing the negativity from your head and you’re removing the power those negative thoughts have over you. So eventually, they become powerless.

So now that you know the pros and cons of journaling, where do you start? Where do you start journaling? For some people staring at a blank page is overwhelming and almost as bad as letting your inner troll stay in your head. We don’t want that for you. So to get you started, I’ve put together a list of 25 creatively focused prompts, you can grab from the link in the shownotes. Use any of these that you’d like or come up with your own. These are like the training wheels that we talked about in a previous episode for getting into a journaling practice. There’s also journal and doodling sheets for you to use. Remember, this is a technique that it can exist in various different ways. It doesn’t just have to be words on paper. But it might also take some practice feeling natural, your inner critic might not be used to having an outlet like this. So it might actively resist letting go. That’s okay.

So once again, you don’t have to actively write these. You can doodle, you can sing, you can speak them, type them, or beat the shit out of them on a pillow. Like I suggested, start with five minutes a day, see how much better you feel. Add another minute each day until you’re up to about 15 and see if you can continue this and make it part of your daily routine. Then you can see what impact it might have for the better on those thoughts inside your head.

So here’s what I want you to take away from this episode. Number one, journaling doesn’t have to be a diary you feel vulnerable creating. Two, whatever and however you journal, the end product doesn’t have to make sense. It’s like a toilet for your brain to flush out the unhelpful or negative thoughts and ideas. And three, there is no one single way to journal. You can write or draw or sing or dance or type or sweat. You get to choose what works for you. And that’s a burrito!

Thanks for listening to The Maker Muse Podcast. I’d love if we could make this a regular thing for you and me, so please subscribe to the podcast and tell all of your family and friends about it. And I’d really appreciate it if you could rate and review it wherever you’re listening to this right now. Nos vemos!

Transcribed by otter.ai.

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