When I was in the sixth grade I was given a diary for Christmas.
You know the kind: red simulated alligator skin with a gold lock and tiny gold key. It was a five-year diary — only room for a line or two about a day’s events. So I could cram in more info, I began to write smaller.
By the time I reached high school I was journaling in blank books, one for each year. I wrote down entire scenes from my real life, complete with who said what — dialogue.
Today I can recall how satisfied — and in control? — I felt once everything was completely logged in. It felt powerful to be able to look back to a certain day and have a detailed record of a painful or happy event.
I have come to believe that this journaling was a form of creative therapy.
It grew beyond the recreation of scenes and dialogue into organized lines describing how I felt about what was happening around me and to me.
I believe that taking the time to think about how you feel about something and committing the words to paper creates a kind of clarity, ability to accept, or a letting go of feelings that might otherwise churn around inside you, waiting to explode.
An insight and understanding not possible any other way.
That little red five-year diary provided some interesting insights during some personal therapy I did in the 1980s.
Unfortunately my journals from high school and the five years of my first marriage suffered a darker fate.
When the marriage ended in an angry divorce, the husband, who had never read my journals, stole them from me to use as “blackmail.”
Now it’s not like my writings revealed that I robbed a bank or killed somebody. It was more a robbery of my personal creative side that made me feel exposed and vulnerable and violated.
When I got them back from his lawyer, I vowed no one else would ever use my feelings against me again. I burned eight books of writing, and did not journal again for decades.
What I write in little books today is more satisfying. I add little drawings and I record ideas. Some are based on scenes I’ve witnessed, people I’ve met with interesting characteristics, or what if’s.
The what if’s are the most fun—they can lead to ideas for entire manuscripts.
I find something therapeutic in getting these observations and ideas down on paper.
The artist in me is attracted to colorful, hand-made books, some of which I make myself. Always having one with me, so that I’m ready when that great idea strikes, makes me feel creative and productive.
For me, there’s a satisfaction in having put paintbrush or pen to paper that can’t be achieved any other way.
I try to do this every day, even if it’s only for five minutes, so that I can feel good about myself when tackling all the other things in a day that are demanded of me.
It’s taken me years to discover that this is my therapy, the thing that has the most meaning in my creative life.
PS. I wrote a book on this, Art Improv 101: How to Create a Personal Art Journal. You can learn more about it and buy it HERE.