I do. I will admit, I am one of those people who laments the loss of cursive writing in day-to-day life. Don't get me wrong, I would never want to be without my computer, but there's just something about writing with a pen that is so freeing.
When we write by hand, we almost immediately slow down. While it’s true that our brain can process multiple streams of information at once, we can only truly devote our full attention and focus to one thing at a time (especially as we age).
Which leads me to journaling and Writing From the Heart...
WHY WRITING BY HAND IS BEST FOR JOURNALING
Writing in your journal, from your heartspace, is a completely different experience than writing, say, a blog, or a research paper.
Writing from your heart is a listening practice even more than it is a writing practice.
It’s connecting your HEART to your BRAIN to your PEN.
When you connect to what your heart is telling you, it's a near effortless exercise in taking dictation.
TRY WRITING BY HAND
Writing by hand is rhythmic. It helps calm your chattering bird brain by slowing down your thoughts so that your hand can keep up. And since studies have shown we connect to words more when we physically write them, we also process a personal problem more easily when we put it to paper.
Of course, cursive writing also brings us to the key achievement — the state of FLOW (see the next section below).
Experiment with different types of pens. Finding the combination of pen and paper that allows you to write most effortlessly will help the words to flow. Some people like the feel and the comforting sound of the fountain pen scritching across the page, others choose the path of least resistance and write with ballpoint pens that easily glides. My current favourite is very inexpensive, the PaperMate InkJoy 300 FIne Point (always fine point, NEVER medium). It has a soft grip (a saviour for me as I still tend to press too hard when I write) and the ink flows beautifully. I also love its vibrant blue ink colour. And finally, it does not retract. I have been known to take pens out of people's hands if they are clickers.
All of these pensiderations are important to my journal writing experience.
I also have a fountain pen I received as a gift, and I loved it for a long time. Perhaps I will bring it out, clean it up, and give it a try again. It calls to me from its case. (If only they made fountain pens with soft grips.)
The quality of paper you choose can also affect your writing experience. My favourite type of journal is a called the Blueline Business Notebook. It isn’t sexy or pretty, but the paper good enough is to allow the pen to glide over the page smoothly.
I like consistency in my journal writing, plus I splurged and bought a one-of-a-kind journal cover to fit the blueline notebook, so I’m committed. I also find this consistency makes it easy for me to fill a journal and move onto the next. I don’t suffer from the fear of ruining a beautiful journal with my less than perfectly profound writing.
REACHING THE ALL-IMPORTANT STATE OF FLOW
Trust me for now, read through the entire blog and you’ll find there is an out for you...
There is a scientific reason why journaling using my Writing From the Heart method — a state in which you hear what your heart has to say — happens.
You hear your heart when you reach the alpha brainwave state. This state is also known as FLOW, a term which was coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Csikszentmihalyi is best-known for his theory of FLOW and why it brings us to joy, which he wrote about in his 1990 book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.
According to Csikszentmihalyi, people are happy when they are in a state of FLOW, which he describes as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost."
FLOW happens when an increase in alpha brain waves and a decrease in higher activity beta waves results in lower brain activity. FLOW leads to a relaxed but awake state in which we are at our most receptive and creative. We can be lost in FLOW for hours, yet feel as though only minutes have passed. Songwriters, musicians, athletes, meditators — and yes, journalers — have all described a similar experience when in FLOW.
The good news is, the more you practice writing from your heart in journal writing, the quicker you will reach the state of FLOW!
SHUTTING DOWN THE INNER CRITIC
Writing longhand (cursive writing) also slows down your brain and keeps the inner critic from freezing you up, so that you can capture and write what your heart is saying to you. You also won’t be as tempted to correct your spelling, punctuation, and grammar when you are focusing on listening.
MAKE YOUR JOURNAL WRITING PRACTICE YOUR OWN
When I teach Writing From the Heart in any of my video courses, I talk about the 7 Essentials you need and the ritual of using them.
When you are comfortable with listening to your heart and easily slip into FLOW — how you choose to record what you hear may not longer matter. Yes, that includes using a computer (just make sure you shut off distractions like email, calendar, etc.).
When I first started writing from my heart, I was very strict with how I did it. I sat at a table, lit a candle, played only Baroque music, wrote only on unlined paper, wrote only for 25 minutes, and didn't allow myself any distractions. But now, opening my journal instantly puts me in the mode for sinking into FLOW. I sit on my comfy dream chaise, with my feet up, write in a lined journal, usually have a cup of coffee at hand, rarely need to light the candle, and consider myself just getting started at 25 minutes. Sometimes I sprint-write for only 10 minutes, and on occasion, I even write on my laptop [cue world-ending voice of Old Testament Angry God, hurling thunder and lightning and striking me dead].
So yes, if you truly feel more comfortable writing on a computer, do it. Just try it my way first. That’s all I ask.
THREE LAST THINGS TO CONSIDER ABOUT YOUR JOURNAL WRITING PRACTICE
Writing from the heart is just that — a practice. You never have to worry about perfecting it, because you can always use it to learn more about yourself. Resist the urge to correct your grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. It's meant to be raw and unpolished. It is a reflection of where you were in the moment you wrote it.
Consider journal writing, a practice, like meditation, and do it regularly. Flex your listening muscle. If you do it every day, it could become as important as your daily exercise regime or eating well. Consider journal writing a part of your spiritual practice. A writing meditation. When I’m finished writing, my ideal state is calm and contented emptiness.
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kathy mercure is a storyhealer, storylistener, and storyteller. Her life’s work is to gently draw stories from her students and help them unblock their writing, find their voice, and heal their lives. Her passion is to support women and men in realizing their true identity as a valued human being, claiming their passions, and speaking their truth as they become their most authentic selves. (Photo by EagleSpirit Soul Shots)