You Do Not Have To Journal All The Things.
The world is full of so many wonderful writing prompts and exercises, and taken all together, their sources would have us believe that journaling can help us tackle just about everything that needs doing: maximize productivity, get fit, lose weight, overcome writers’ block, overcome trauma, navigate mental and physical illness, unlock creative potential, awaken dormant psychic superpowers, find life’s purpose, express our true selves, and generally un-fuck every aspect of our fucked up lives. But here’s the thing: most of us lead complex lives with multiple interests and multiple problems. Journaling doesn’t do it for everyone, and even if it did, it doesn’t help if it takes ALL of the time for living to journal through our problems and chase our curiosities across paper.
It’s important to check the part of the achey-breaky heart that pursues journaling as a form of escapism. I don’t know about you, but my soul is a highly introverted and verbose, fuzzy little critter. My twenties were peppered with picaresque adventures, and I have had enough of that all, thanks very much. I entered my thirties tired. I could easily fritter the rest of my life away, hiding in a cozy nook, sketching and journaling about a world I refuse to interact with, and naval-gazing unto losing my own head cause it’s stuck up my belly-button.
Journaling is powerful and beneficial precisely because it’s a way of talking to ourselves and better knowing our own hearts, minds, and souls. Like any tool, it can be dangerous if approached the wrong way. Like any medicine, it can become toxic in high doses, or lose its potency if overused. La vie gregarious may be overrated. It’s wonderful to enjoy our own company and some of us need a lot of time to ourselves, to decompress and process our experiences or creative work. Different people have different thresholds for being alone with their thoughts, but almost everyone does have some limit where it stops being healthy to sit alone conversing with yourself, even if through the written word. I’m with Socrates that “the unexamined life is not worth living,” but the unlived life doesn’t lend much to examine.
I doubt many of you readers are diary-addicts to the point that it’s a problem, but I bet a fair number of you have a big cache of journaling habits and exercises on your longterm list, and it gnaws at you when you don’t get to them all. (Me too! Yes! I have that problem also.)
Journaling is one of those things like dieting and exercising that we’re told is good and necessary for us, so shame on us if we’re not doing it, or doing it enough, or doing it right. I’ve heard so many people say they feel like they should be journaling, even though they hate it, and then feel bad when they can’t or don’t want to keep it up. Yuck! Why do we do that to each other? The pressure is bad enough when you like writing. I hope my posts haven’t inspired those feelings for any of you, and if they have, I’m very sorry. I write about writing because I enjoy it and I like sharing ideas and activities about stuff I enjoy. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you if you have other interests, or other ways of learning, and you don’t want to do all those activities!
You Don’t Have To Have To Journal Any Of The Things.
It’s okay if you have writing difficulties.
It’s okay if you don’t express yourself well through writing.
It’s okay if you don’t process well or gain insights through writing.
It’s okay if you don’t have time to write.
It’s okay if you don’t fucking like it.
You don’t have to journal at all. There are other ways to get what others get out of journaling, including learning tarot. There are so many other avenues to express yourself. You’ll figure something out if you haven’t already, and don’t feel bad if other people don’t see the value in your learning methods and your media. They might not get it because they can’t do what you do well.
And if you DO enjoy writing:
It’s okay if you suck at writing. No one else has to read it. You don’t have to be good, and good is subjective anyway. (You might not suck as bad as you think, but even if you do, so what?) If you get anything out of it, keep going.
It’s okay to struggle with writing. Sometimes it’s hard to express or know yourself with clarity. Some wily thoughts are tough to pin down. Some feelings and experiences don’t have existing language to hold them. It might be up to you to build new language. Struggle is part of any balanced creative process.
It’s okay if journaling doesn’t fix your life or manifest your goals. It doesn’t have to be a panacea to be a fruitful practice.
It’s okay if you’re short on writing time. You can limit yourself to ten minutes a day with a bulleted dream journal, a quick tarot daily draw, or a little pocket notebook that you scribble shower thoughts in on your lunch break. Free time is for living. Unless writing is a big part of what you do, or you’re actively processing a lot, you probably don’t need to spend more than one or two hours a day journaling max. (Again the exact threshold is going to vary widely from person to person.)
It’s okay if your journaling practice fluctuates from season to season or day to day. Sometimes you might need to write for several hours every day, while other times you can’t find more than a few minutes. You may keep several active journals one year, and whittle it all down to one diary the next. There is no obligation to maintain the same writing needs and habits over time.
It’s okay if you’re a slow writer. It might take you a long time to gather your thoughts or you may be one of those edit-as-you-go types. Try not to compare yourself to other writers. Deadlines don’t hang over personal journaling, and quality is better than quantity, anyway. Timing won’t negate the value of everything you put to paper.
It’s okay to pick and choose exercises that appeal most to you at any given time. In fact, it’s necessary. With such a wealth of inspiring prompts in books and online, all of them likely have value to someone, but no one has time to cover all of them. Follow whatever moves you in the moment and sparks thoughts that haunt you. Prioritize what speaks to you over what works for friends, coworkers, hot gurus, etc. Try stuff out and drop what doesn’t work for you. You don’t have to stick out a serial 365 exercise if it’s clear after two weeks that it’ll take you more time and energy than it’s worth.
It’s okay not to get it all done. Even selecting the best exercises we’d love to do can land us with too much. You might picture your ideal self as keeping a tarot journal, and a dream journal, and an astrology journal, and a sketchbook, and a food journal, and a yoga journal, and a bullet journal, and a and a and a on forever. Sorry Babe-a-roo, you’re not Ghost Writer. You’re a living, breathing, non-robotic human with work to do, and people to love, and food to fix, and bathroom breaks to take. It ain’t gonna happen. You’re not a failure, or less creative or spiritual or productive than anyone else for having to pare it down. (Even Ghost Writer, a literal ghost with zero human needs whose sole means of expression was the written word could only manage a sentence or two at a time, with help from a gang of children and their super-cool necklace pens, so . . . there’s no hope for greater productivity in death?)
It’s okay to do your own thing. You can custom-tailor your own journaling practice in any way that works for you. You may not find outside exercises and prompts that speak to you. You can write your own or forego them all together. You can make like a beatnik and commit acts of stream-of-consciousness free-writing. You do not need any externally-imposed structure to maintain a solid journaling practice, including with tarot journaling. You do you.
P.S. You know I’m gonna keep throwing journaling tips and exercises at you just for kicks. I’ve got a couple articles coming up on dream journaling. Follow what grabs you, skip what doesn’t, and feel no shame!
So What Else Is New?
I’m just gonna stop giving dates for when certain posts and projects will be done! Ha! I kick ass and take names when it comes to meeting external deadlines, but with my personal projects, it feels more like they have their own agenda and I’m not privy to it. I’m just a technician operating on a need-to-know basis.
Speaking of which, The Black Ink Tarot deck is shaping up well. The paper stage of the artwork is almost done. The timeline has expanded on that project partly because, when I sat down to draft up a LWB* pamphlet, I started getting pages and pages of material on each card. Oops! I was not expecting this deck to come with a full book, but apparently it wants one, and I hope you do too! The latest plan is to finish up the art and book draft, then Kickstart sometime (hopefully) later this year. Ideally, I want this to be a full-size, printed deck on a nice, color-in-able matte stock, with a succinct LWB pamphlet, and a full, 300+ page guidebook on the side. If you want that too, you can help by telling another tarot-lover about my work today. The more eyes we get on this by crowd-funding time, the more likely it’ll all happen. And thank you!
*LWB = Little White Book, the bitty ‘lil booklets that come with most tarot decks and summarize each card in a few sentences. (I should do a tarot glossary post one of these days.)
I have to thank you all for your generous support in 2017. Thanks to a handful of blog donations and a nice little run on art in the Etsy shop (now stocked full of new prints and printable wall art), I was able to upgrade my portfolio website. That means I have space for a new Freebies section for all! Aw heck yeah e-swag! You can now download the hi-res PDF illustrations from Eight Useful Tarot Spreads. These are formatted at 8.5 x 11,” 300 dpi, to print out for your tarot journal, scrapbook, sketchbook, or grimoire.
I'll be upgrading this site, too, eventually. If you’d like to help make that happen faster, you can donate through Paypal.me, or buy something nice in the Etsy shop. Thank you all so much for helping me make more and better things!
Thanks for reading! Muchly much love!