WHY JOIN A JOURNAL GROUP?
Our “Write to Heal” group has eight members ranging in age from late 50s to late 70s. Most have met weekly for almost eight years. Currently, all are women, but we have had men from time to time. People joined as seasoned journalers or new explorers of using therapeutic writing to learn about their inner selves.
Some only journal when attending. Others do Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages, or something between daily journaling or only when in the group. The longtime journalers expect to learn new journaling techniques. Beginners hope to find an approach that is comfortable for them as we explore possible myths about journaling that have been holding them back. Some of these include whether they must write every day or write in an eloquent and creative style, or fill a whole page. They learn solutions for fear of writing their truths because it might overwhelm them, or someone may discover it.
DO YOU FOLLOW A PARTICULAR FORMAT?
We always start with a few moments of silence. A check-in follows. As the group has bonded over time, people reveal more and more of the issues in their lives. They are also free to just pass. Gratitude writing for 10 minutes follows.
For the first four years, I would then give handouts with prompts from a variety of sources and explore many different journaling techniques. The last few years we have incorporated focusing on a book that includes many suggestions for journaling around a specific theme. These have included Scribing the Soul by Kathleen Adams, Reclaiming the Wild Soul by Mary Reynolds Thompson, The Intuitive Way by Penney Peirce, Writing Through Transitions: A Guide for Transforming Life Changes by Leia Francisco, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again by Julia Cameron and A Buddhist Journal: GUIDED PRACTICES FOR WRITERS AND MEDITATORS by Beth Jacobs. We can focus on a book for weeks or months at a time and always end with a closing celebration.
IS THERE A COMMOM EXPERIENCE PEOPLE IN THE GROUP HAVE?
SURPRISE AND GRATITUDE, as indicated in the comments below.
“I never cease to be surprised by journal prompts that access the spot in me I didn’t know was there.”
“A surprising outcome is discovering helpful insights.”
“The group has changed me into using journaling as a therapeutic tool to get thoughts out of my psyche that I didn’t know were there.”
“Prior to doing “The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, I had not experienced the power I had to create my own reality. Journaling has peeled away layers of interests, experiences and talents that were unknown to me.”
“I feel free to share honestly about my life. I learned from the other participants how they are challenged in growing in their lives.”
“I have enjoyed the deeply moving experience of non-dominant hand writing and working with the inner child. This and various other techniques of self-exploration have elevated my worldview and enhanced my quality of life.”
“Creativity is heightened, and worries diminished.”
“I feel inspired and fulfilled when I am there.”
“I can focus on gratitude and deeper issues and have growth in my spiritual life.”
“Sharing in the group is safe both because of the confidentiality and because they are not part of my life where I am functioning in a particular role. When I am in the group, I can lay bare my fears.”
One of our members summed up what is a common experience when she said of our group “…differ in life experience in many ways but who share a commitment to honest inner work and sharing this with others. This has helped revive and energize my own inner work and helped me feel so very supported and so very much not alone as a human, a woman, and a committed journal writer.”
WHAT HAS THE EXPERIENCE BEEN LIKE FOR YOU AS FACILITATOR?
While I have facilitated several journal groups over the years, none has lasted this long, shared so freely and bonded as deeply. I feel that the workshops offer not only a chance for each participant to grow and heal, but the creation of a “community” that enriches us all by fostering authenticity, trust, support.
Although I had journaled for decades before offering these workshops, staying on my toes to keep things forever fresh for this weekly group has added new techniques to my own journaling. It has also connected me to the amazing community of journal facilitators.
This particular group also inspired me to start a different kind of writing group. Early in our history, some mentioned that they’d like to turn the raw material in their journals into more creative writing. I offered to do a weekly group to help those interested make that leap. Another weekly group was formed and all these years later we’re going strong (with one of the original members) have produced an anthology of our writing, and are working on a second one.
WHAT WOULD YOU ADVISE THOSE WHO WANT TO JOURNAL OR BE IN A JOURNAL GROUP?
The only rule is AUTHENTICITY. You merely need the intention to heal yourself by owning your truths. Lois Guarnino captured the challenge and gift of journaling in a way I quote often. In her book called Writing Your Authentic Self, she speaks to the “paradox of journal writing” when she says, “While it’s true that your journal is a safe place where you can cover any topic and not worry about the world pointing fingers, you may end up pointing the finger at yourself. You may learn things in your journal that make you want to grow and change: this means your inner journey is progressing.” I urge my students to let the finger pointing begin, one word at a time. A group is a fertile place to gather that courage, even if it’s a group of two.
JOURNAL GROUP (see photo)
Sandra Borror (missing)
Carolyn Murdic (missing)
Facilitator: Joan Leof (missing)
Author bio: Joan Leof created “Write to Heal” where she facilitates journal workshops for groups and individuals. She has written a memoir called Fatal If Swallowed: Reclaiming Creativity and Hope Along the Uncharted Path and compiled 20 of her published essays in Matryoshka: Uncovering Your Many Selves Through Writing.