Day 17: Journal Listening

Read the first post in the series.
Day 17: Listening to your journal is a skill not a lot of people know how to do. We are used to writing, asking to be heard, seen–praying for answers. We often miss the answer when it shows up. And it will show up. That’s why we are journaling this way.

One of my answers that came when I listened to my journal. Ink on acrylic. © Quinn McDonald, 2011

For a while, all the writing is pouring out of you in an endless flow. One day, you will find yourself thinking about what you are writing–the words aren’t pouring out on their own. You are paying attention. And all of a sudden, you write something interesting. Profound. An answer to a question you had. You are now in a deep connection to your own wisdom or a wisdom greater than yourself. You have tunneled deep enough to be away from the distraction, and dug up a truth.

Truth is surprising. We recognize it and blink. Sometimes we wish it were something else. But the flash of recognition is the key. You will know. Maybe it’s not the answer you had hoped for, maybe it’s exactly what you need.

Your pen may race on, while your mind hangs on to the answer. You may not want to listen, but you will. You will be drawn back to those words, that flash of recognition. It can be an answer, a key to an answer, or simply a truth you have not believed.

And there it is, on the page in front of you. Underline it. Save it. You may have to finish your thought, your paragraph, your page, but the answer is right there.

You have created the start of a habit. A habit of writing and listening. And when you listen, you’ll find answers. You might have to write a long time to learn to trust yourself, but once you start to listen, you will hear your answers.

Quinn McDonald is a journaler who is on an exploration of creativity with a group of explorers on this blog. You can join us by clicking on the link in the top line, then starting a writing practice.

20 thoughts on “Day 17: Journal Listening

  1. I have this habit of asking out loud to the univers when I have some need for help or answers. Most times the help/answer is coming, but do I always pay attention? NO! That’s the problem for me, I may ask early in the morning and in the afternoon I may meet the right person but have forgotten about asking. I’m trying to improve.

  2. I do hate when I write and write and write, and instead of the words making some sense, they rattle around like a pile of ABCs. Didnt walk either today, 16 degrees and no car to take me somewhere warmer. The hard part of winter is having the choice of going out or not taken out of your control.

  3. Quinn,
    Yes, we need to pause and pay attention to the wisdom we hear as we write in our journals. It can be rather forthright, definitely intuitive, and sometimes obvious without our realizing it. Listening is truly a vital dimension of keeping a journal. It can truly change our lives for the better!

    I have chosen your post, Day 17: Journal Listening, for the #JournalChat Pick of the Day for all things journaling on Twitter.
    I will post a link on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, my blog and website Refresh with Dawn Herring, and in Refresh Journal, my weekly e-journal: .

    You’re welcome to join us for #JournalChat Live every Thursday at 5 EST/2 PST for all things journaling on Twitter; this week’s topic is Journaling to Know Yourself.

    Thanks again, Quinn, for giving us such super directives in our journaling practice. We must learn to listen and listen to learn.

    Be refreshed,
    Dawn Herring
    JournalWriter Freelance
    Host of #JournalChat Live and Links Edition on Twitter

  4. Not every morning, but more often than not, I go back and read one or two (or more) of my prior posts before beginning to write. It helps me orient myelf, but I also notice things I’ve written that I hadn’t noticed while writing them. Or I’ll see what I’ve written in a different light than when I wrote it. Or I’ll wonder what on earth I was thinking when I wrote it.

  5. This is a very interesting journey I’ve engaged in with you all. After getting off to a great start, five days in I did what I usually do, which is to stop. What was different was that I continued to read your posts and everyone’s comments, as well as continued to count myself one of the sojourners. But I wasn’t writing, and I wasn’t walking. I was observing myself not doing either of those things, and wondering what it would take to slip back into the groove. Today I wrote. Today I walked. Something very subtle and unnamed has shifted, and I sense it’s best not to question or look at it too deeply, but just allow its tender self to creep slowly back into my being. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll be able to continue writing and walking, but I don’t know. This time around it’s not about willpower or determination, it’s about unfurling, emerging, and blossoming. None of those can be forced but only patiently awaited. This is what I feel, this time around. Thank you again, Quinn and my fellow travelers, for all your beautiful offerings, writings, and support of creativity.

    • How beautifully you have written about the uncertainty of life! Every artist knows about that. Each time we leave the studio could be the last time. Not because of death (although that’s always a possibility), but because we might not be able to force ourselves back. And creativity is not a tube of toothpaste to be squeezed, but, as you noted, a plant to be tended. I didn’t walk this morning, I wouldn’t have at the point of a gun. But when the coaching calls were over, I took a lovely long walk along an arroyo. It was perfect. Sometimes we know more than we admit.

      • thank you Quinn ( I love to say to various people, you are my fave creative mentor /inspirer.) I haven’t started walking writing yet, am now back home after 2 weeks away on holiday so just might! I find the same sort of ‘patience / forcing things to happen ‘ is with me when I have an inspiration to doodle or colour or paint collage and no words come. The picture or abstract is all there is. …..weeks, days or even months later i will know what it is that will fit that picture or page. ….. and it is a pretty much perfect fit. I love the idea of using Fave poetry lines or song lyrics that fit my situation or mood. Thanks for all things inspiring. ANNA

  6. After reading your post today, Quinn, I decided to look back at the first few days writing of these 30 days. Today’s post on my blog, “crazy starfish conquistador” , comes from that looking back. I’m very aware that sometimes the answer is not an answer – just a deeper understanding of the puzzle (or maybe the mystery).

  7. I’ve often regarded writing as theropy Quinn. There are times when I will begin to write, and answers unfold before me. Sometimes, I didn’t even know the questions existed! There are also times when I begin to write using one train of though, and before I know it, I’ve headed off in the opposite direction, which supplies the answers to the unasked questions, yet again.

    As you say, it’s all about learning to trust yourself, to trust your instincts.

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