7 effective ways to begin a journal page
When I open my journal to a blank, white page, I sometimes experience a moment of uncertainty where I don’t know quite where to begin. I often start by simply writing about what is going on in the moment and hope it will lead me elsewhere. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, I can end up going around in circles or staying close to the surface longer than I’d like. It’s not very satisfying. I have therefore, over the years, found 7 reliable ways of entering into the process, 7 doors which allow me to go further into enquiry sooner, thereby allowing me to connect more easily to my inner world and to what really nourishes me.
Here I offer a brief overview which is described in more detail in my book The New Creative Journal: Connect with Yourself Through Art and Writing. The book also includes a variety of other suggestions to explore.
The Present Moment: I simply close my eyes, take a few deep breaths and imagine that a door opens onto my felt experience. I begin by exploring what arises and try to capture it on the page: a vague sensation, an emotion, or what I’m experiencing in the present moment.
The Body: Our bodies are alive and vibrant: they capture all kinds of information which is relayed through sensations (pleasant or unpleasant), symptoms, illness or bursts of energy. By bringing my attention back to the body, it reduces mental chatter. I often begin by simply releasing my stress onto the page, by drawing a sensation, or by doing a quick body scan, etc.
Daily Life: Any current event is good fodder for exploration, like what’s going on in my life, with my family, or in society at large. Any of these subjects can provide an entry point, especially if I don’t restrict myself only to writing, but focus on connecting to how I feel about these events. I find that exploring challenges and difficulties is particularly rewarding since they often have much to teach us.
Nature: Nature nurtures, informs and re-energizes us. It can also be an excellent dialogue partner. I enjoy strolling in nature with my journal, writing beneath a tree, sketching what I see around me, or simply drawing the view from my window. I give nature a voice. I confide in it and listen carefully for answers.
Symbols and Metaphors: When we create in our journals, we enter directly into the world of metaphor. If I draw an emotion, I symbolize it using shapes and colours. If I glue an image to my page that I associate with a topic, I’m using the language of comparison. These non-verbal languages often bypass rational thought and can lead us very far!
State of Relaxation: When I relax my focus in order to be fully present, it often provides spontaneous and unexpected insight. I do this with a simple relaxation technique, a visualization, or by taking a few deep breaths. This approach can lead me to the heart of the matter more quickly than through writing alone.
Dreams: Sometimes referred to as The Royal Road to the Unconscious – dreams, the snippet of a dream or even a fleeting feeling upon waking, can open a door to richer information than can be provided by the rational mind alone. I love starting my day by giving shape to the sliver of a dream. It often provides much valuable information.
The next time you open your journal to a blank page, try opening one of these doors to see if they lead you further into exploration than might happen if you were using a more conventional practice. The morning I wrote this article, I chose the metaphor of the door. I found an image that corresponded to how I was feeling in the moment and I transformed it following my inspiration. As I looked more closely at the image, I realized that I had missed several details. I was astonished by the depth of its message that I received. In choosing to use a metaphor, I discovered an insight I would not have arrived at otherwise.
I wish you many meaningful explorations into your inner world!