I have never kept a journal.  I once had a diary, but I destroyed it after my mother read it.  I was 15, and I’d written how much I hated her.  It would be 20 years before I wrote anything personal on a piece of paper again.

And I still don’t keep a diary or a journal, but I want to.

The Strahov Monastery Library


I spent yesterday afternoon in a journal writing seminar with Phyllis Theroux, author of THE JOURNAL KEEPER.  She explained that the main reason people stop keeping a journal is because it isn’t nourishing them:  journaling becomes a chore, or the journal itself has become a place to complain, a place to avoid.

“Make your journal a place to keep the light,” she said, “not a place to hide your darkness.  Make it a place where you search for solutions regardless of whether you find them.”

Phyllis spends 45 minutes or so in quite contemplation every morning.  Sometimes she writes 3 pages, sometimes one paragraph, and some mornings she might just sit and stare or draw a picture.  The goal is not to be obligated; the goal is to allow a space for the quiet.  She often reads a poem to start.  “Reading a great poet is like a sharp spade that digs into your subconscious thoughts.”  This is one of her favorites.

Mary Oliver “The Journey”

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.


Do you keep a journal?