3. Thinking on paper

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed today and a tweet from Baron Fig caught my eye.


The question made me think whether I journal or not when I’m stressed out. The answer I came up with is no, no I don’t. The types of people who I envision journaling to combat stress either fall into the category of angst-ridden pre-teen or anonymous blogger. I’m wrong of course, as I’m sure there are all sorts of journaling types.

The next question I asked myself was, “why do I journal?” The reason I use a journal now compared to when I began journaling is quite different. When I began, my journal was more of a sketchbook, and I used it to visually explore drawing techniques, methods and materials to make me a better artist. As I’ve grown older, my journaling has become less visual and more descriptive. My current journaling goal is to rationalize my ideas rather than visualize them. The common thread that has stayed consistent between old me vs. new me is how I continue to use my journal as a therapeutic tool, internal conversation starter and a training ground to evolve my creative process.

Journaling as Therapy

Taking time to record my thoughts and ideas on paper is incredibly therapeutic. The hand cannot work as fast as the brain, so there is an element of time introduced to the transcription process. As I’m writing down my thoughts, there is an internal dialogue I’m having with myself during the time it takes to write each word that are constructing my ideas. During these microseconds, my ideas evolve in real time to become stronger and as I continue writing each word, I slide into a flow state, which pulls me out of reality and into my head, where time slows down and the Universe becomes quiet.

Journaling as Conversation

The world is full of so many competing stimuli, it’s hard to stay focused and think straight at times. It’s not uncommon for me to consult my journal when I need to make an important decision in the midst of external chaos happening around me. The process of converting abstract thoughts into written ideas and visual cues is usually what triggers me into action. I like to combine my written thoughts with sketches, figures, icons, flow charts, and categorizing information as a way to see more information on a page and less in my mind. I call the process “thinking on paper”. I’ve found that this strategy takes a lot of guess work out of my decision making and gives me more control of each scenario. It’s a good way to stay in touch with the intuitive self and the analytical self simultaneously, and help process the shifting prioritization of opinions, interests, duties and desires.

Journaling as a Training Ground

Writing my ideas on paper gives them permanence in the world, and instantly makes me responsible for them. They are a direct reflection of who I am, so I want to make them as awesome and engaging as possible. In rationalizing my thoughts on paper, I’ve created a training ground to develop new ways to communicate and express myself. Just as a bodybuilder lifts weights to sculpt and train their muscles, I use journaling to sculpt and train my personality and self-identity. I write everyday and little by little I feel improved and see improvement in my creativity, conversation, collaboration, listening skills, empathy and overall engagement with the world around me.

It’s an addicting compulsion I’ve cultivated. Every second that I have to dwell on an idea without writing it down makes its potency dilute and dilute until finally my brain convinces me that it’s not worth remembering.

I have a notebook and a pen in every room in my home. Having a blank page and a pen available at any moment is like unblinkingly looking for shooting stars in the night sky—you will never miss the moment you’ve been waiting for because ideas—like shooting stars—appear vividly, then disappear forever.

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