Journal Imperfectly

Do you often feel as if you can’t turn off your mind? Are you weighed down by responsibilities or discouraged by a lack of direction? Sometimes the best thing you can do is put pen to paper. Maybe you’re intimidated by the practice of journaling. You might have this idea that it needs to be a beautiful, laid out process, but in reality, it’s messy. It’s just as chaotic as your flurry of thoughts. Releasing thoughts and ideas, no matter how raw, can be transformational in the moments you find yourself overwhelmed. You don’t need a specific structure or feel the pressure to do it “right.” If your spelling isn’t great or you’re not confident in your vocabulary, that’s okay. Just write.

Start with 20 minutes of uninterrupted, imperfect journaling. If you find it difficult to start, change your surroundings – go to your favorite coffee shop or sit outside in the fresh air. If you prefer, use simple prompts or adopt a method that you find most beneficial, such as the 5 Whys” Journal. (Write down a problem, then the word why” and provide an answer. Repeat until you’ve answered 5 whys [1]).

Work through the questions and doubts you have. Don’t be afraid to dig in to find their roots. At the end of your designated time, read through what you’ve written. Notice the things you are believing to be true. Take these thoughts captive – choose the narrative you will keep and throw out the rest. You have the freedom to decide how you’ll move forward. This process will help you re-focus on what’s important and lay aside the things that don’t align with your definition of success.

Our best stories often come through hard moments that we must take the time to sort through. It’s no wonder journaling is an ancient tradition, dating back to at least 10th century Japan [2]. In addition to helping you understand yourself better and ditch overwhelm, regularly journaling can reveal patterns and growth over time. You might be amazed at the progress you make from one year or even month to the next. Have you experienced this process personally?

19th century poet Oscar Wilde once said, There are no more than two rules for writing: having something to say, and saying it.” You certainly have something meaningful to say – even if to yourself (see my article on self-talk here). Whether processing your thoughts on paper help to affirm or to process something difficult, my hope is that you come out the other side better for it.

If you enjoyed this article, listen to my guest appearance on episode 108 on The Dream Life is Real Life podcast.


[1] The 5 Whys Technique for Getting to the Root of Problem Behavior, The Ananias Foundation
[2] The Health Benefits of Journaling by Maud Purcell, LCSW, CEAP