This post is a result of an email from a reader. Nigel Burns mentioned in his email that he struggled to get his inner censor to shut up. I promised to write a post about it because this is an important topic. Nigel is not the only one, nor is he in the minority for having this issue.
Getting your inner censor to shut up is essential for all kinds of creative projects, at least for long enough to get the first draft done. But for journaling, it’s imperative. Journaling is about self-expression. It doesn’t matter whether you are discovering yourself, or have all the answers. It doesn’t matter if you are journaling only for yourself, or to pass it down to your children. Without honesty, without the freedom to express yourself as you wish, you may as well not bother keeping a journal.
If you keep shutting up your inner voice that wants to say something that makes you feel uncomfortable, then you are repressing who you are. If you shy away from writing something because you fear someone else might read it then you are taking away a powerful aspect of journaling. In doing so, you are giving voice and power to your inner censor. That is precisely what you don’t want to do. You don’t want to keep feeding that little devil. It has its uses, but not in journaling, and not any time you are creating a piece of art.
Here are four exercises to get your Inner Censor to shut up:
Timed writing: this is the exercise made famous by Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. It’s very simple. You just set a timer – usually for minimum 10 minutes – and just write. That’s all. The key is to keep writing, as fast as possible, and not stop at all. Your challenge is to just put down the words. That means, you are not looking at what you are writing, you are not editing, you are not correcting your spelling mistakes. Just keep writing until the time runs out.
Talk to your Inner Censor: Yes, talk to it. Have a dialogue, on the page. Write as if you are writing a script between yourself and your Inner Censor. Ask it, what’s the problem? Keep the dialogue moving. Maybe it will be a banter, or maybe it will be a sob story. Take it seriously. Whether it turns out to be one of those uncomfortable conversations you would rather avoid, or the most enlightening one, keep talking until there is clearly nothing more left to say.
Have a schedule: Make a journaling schedule, and stick to it. For example, your goal maybe to write two pages everyday. In that case, you just keep writing, you keep going until those words are on the page. You tell your Inner Censor that once you two pages are done, it has permission to disturb you. Keep the promise. Once those two pages are done, if you want to, go back and edit or review your writing. The important thing is that you are able to get the words out in the first place.
Decide what journaling means to you: This is important. Why are you journaling? What are you attempting to get out of this experience? What this experience means to you? This is your motivation behind honesty. This is your motivation for letting go of all doubts and fears that hold you back from opening up. These journals are for you, and no one else. If you can’t manage the guts to be free with yourself, be completely honest, then how do you expect to live your life being yourself? Keep reminding yourself of that.