How To Journal Even When You Resist

Note: Janine Rudnick is the winner of Fast Fiction by Denise Jaden. Send me your mailing address and the book will be on the way! (My email is under “contact” on this blog) Congratulations, Janine!

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When you sit down to write in your journal,  after morning pages, what happens? Does peace flood into your mind, stillness settle in, and the sun rises just over the horizon of your deep inner peace? Liar. It does not.

My Inner Critic. PittPen on watercolor paper. © Quinn McDonald, 2012

My Inner Critic. PittPen on watercolor paper. © Quinn McDonald, 2012

Your head fills with yakking.  Monkey mind starts right up with the to-do list, “Right after this I need to go shopping, but before that I need to stop at the ATM and get some money, I don’t write checks anymore. Where is that checkbook? I haven’t written a check in months. You don’t need to do that anymore. I must have put the checkbook in my desk drawer, and I’ll bet it slipped back, so the desk drawer jams. Or maybe I need to wax the runners. . .” On and on goes monkey mind, hopping from topic to topic while you are seeking quiet.

More likely, your talk is not neutral, but damaging. Journaling helps the negative self talk crank up. The critic or the judge, one in a red velvet jacket and one in a powdered wig show up and start in on what isn’t right, what hasn’t been right, and why you don’t have talent, dedication or time. If they are really active, they will ask how you will ever make enough money to support yourself as an artist if you spend time writing by hand.

So now you are poised over your journal page, frozen. You try to push monkey mind and negative self-talk from your mind, but they persist. Of course they do. Instead of pushing them from your mind, sit down and listen to them. What, exactly do they have to say after the first sentence? Repetition. Endless repetition until you cave in and believe them. You will probably find that there isn’t an original though there. You’ve heard what they have to say from your parents, a mean teacher, a thoughtless sibling. Monkey mind and negative self-talk aren’t original, they are simply persistent. The more you push the thoughts away, the more they persist. Sit down and examine them, and they are not only not original, they are often spoken in voices from the past. And you are animating them. The voices in your head are yours. Your fear. Your insecurity. You make them up. And as evil parents in all the TV after-school movies say, “I brought you into the world and I can take you out.”

HeroBookThat scenario is exactly why I wrote The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal. To help you create inner heroes to take on your inner critic. But for now, here’s a quick fix: On your journal page, draw the slide bar you use to turn the sound up and down on your computer. Take your pencil, drag it down to where it’s silent and draw the bar right there. It’s a lot quieter in your head now, isn’t it?

Start writing.  .  . what is it that you don’t remember but wish you could?

Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. She writes what she knows.

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15 thoughts on “How To Journal Even When You Resist

  1. Dear Quinn,

    This is scary . . either you are inside my head or there are a lot more “me’s” out there than I realize. Your words nearly always speak to me directly. Can anyone say. “Self Matters” by Dr Phil? Those same thoughts are in the book and always need repeating. We just don’t realize how many “old scripts” we are simply replaying in our heads, and accept them without question. Quinn is right, the only way to get rid of them is to confront them and ask “Why are you here and what is your purpose?” If we listen closely, it will be revealing and sometimes upsetting whose voice we are hearing from the past that left that damaging self defeating script.

    TerryLee

  2. I borrowed your new book from the library, but sadly enough I took it back pretty much un-read. The reason was the light-colored, small print. It was just too difficult to read! Made me sad.

    • Yes, when those young people design books and us older folks try to read them, it’s often not a good match. I asked at least three times that the print be black and large enough, but my vote doesn’t count a lot in the design arena. I suggest you get the Kindle edition, because you can make the print larger.

  3. Barbie, my Inner Critic for those who haven´t had the *pleasure* to know her, totally lit up at the mention of the red velvet jacket. I think you distracted her long enough for me to write something. Thanks!

  4. Guys in wigs and other guys in red velvet jackets wandering around giving you the high hat; monkeys dashing around the grounds, evil parents looming…I think you could sell this as a movie treatment!

    • I should NOT have read this comment, now I have this wonderful movie playing in my head and of course I’m the star and director, vanquishing the guy in the velvet jacket with his army of monkeys. Monkeys are a little too close to the Wizard of Oz, I’ll have to be careful or perhaps take some artistic license there, or perhaps the ‘monkey’ can be metaphorical in that the powdered wigged one monkeys around with minds. Mmmm what soothes a monkey?

      You can see where this leads can’t you?

      And thank goodness Janine won the book, . . . now I don’t have to feel like I need to write a blockbuster first time up. I can concentrate on the movie. Pete, Quinn, want to help with the script?

      • I was going to suggest meerkats, but they’ve already been in the Madagascar movies. How about squirrels? I don’t think anybody’s used squirrels before. No, wait, the Ice Age critter is kind of a squirrel. Chihuahuas have been done…Alvin owns the chipmunk franchise…we’ll have to work on that. Meanwhile, Christopher Lee might look good in the wig, and for the poor victim whose mind this is…Tina Fey?

        • Possums! New Zealander’s have no trouble at all in dealing to them. They’re introduced (from Australia but don’t read too much into that), they’ve helped to decimate our bird-life and native trees. It’s almost patriotic to wear the fur especially now they’ve found a way to spin it in with merino wool, and what’s more they look cute with their furry tails.

          And Tina Fey? We want a real woman not some movie star whose name I had to google . . . I wouldn’t need to act, it would all be for real and what’s more I’m feisty and look great in heels if needs be.

          And in case you haven’t heard, we make bloody good movies down here.

          • That’s right, I understand you’re making a bit of a hobbit of it! Come to think of it, with Weta Digital we don’t need a real animal at all…

  5. I think that it’s also important to sometimes just acknowledge the yapping critic and then shut him up without listening. The practise I have found really useful is to stop the inner critic’s negative yapping by thinking or even saying out loud (especially if the critic is really loud in your head) a neural statement that is true. “On a sunny day the sky is blue.” Anything goes as long as it is not directly related to you or the yapping and it’s true so that the critic can’t argue against it. “Coffee is made of coffee beans.” “Horses have hoofs.” Over time you can start to make positive statements: “My friend is a great cook.” “Swimming is fun.” And then, one day, you can make positive statements about yourself and they will be true too! “I can bake excellent bread.” Maybe even “I am a hard worker.” Or “I can paint beautiful pictures.” Since you have such a long record of unarguably true statements, these, ipso facto, must be true too! Brilliant! It’s surprisingly easy to fool oneself – though it does take time and persistence.

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