Looking Back on the Journey

I opened the book with mixed feelings as I pulled it at random off the top shelf, hooking my finger on the frayed edge of its spine. Inside were pages of handwritten entries under dated headings. Neatness varied, the colour alternating between black and blue with the odd foray into red or green. At times the continuous writing broke into a list or poem – Becoming an astronaut isn’t rocket science – began one entry.

My journals go back years. They hang out at the back of my spare room wardrobe like pigeon-toed teenage girls along the wall at a school disco, wondering if they’ll ever be asked out. This was the day their luck changed, as I started to fulfil my intention to re-read them. I’m still going through the process.

I’ve been surprised at how an emotion of over twenty years ago can be re-kindled as I read the passion poured out in words on the page. Yet alongside this feeling-memory I recognise that this is  not my experience now: that time of agonised transition when I wrote – I feel I am at a doorway – is past. Life has moved on.

Reading with the perspective of hindsight, I can see how chapters of my story have resolved: Some hopes were unmet but other fears unrealised; some goals have been achieved and some aims completed; some assumptions were… .well just assumptions. And in some cases, there were new factors to come into play unforeseen at the time of writing. I also recognise similar themes and concerns cropping up – areas important to me that I want to pay attention to and keep in mind, or  aspects of my personal psychological landscape that have a tendency to trip me up.


I’m reviewing my amassed journals as I want to decide what to do with this confidential writing. I suspect I will shred some of the emotional outpourings. They helped me through back then, but have now served their purpose. I may keep some rediscovered records of events I had forgotten – the detailed timetable of mishaps that turned a 6-hour journey to a holiday destination into a 24-hour traveling nightmare! I may rescue and re-work some poetic material, preser
ve some interesting quotes and reflections, and ponder accounts of significant dreams.

I will not have to re-visit every moment of my life. Like many journallers, I do not write every day. Some entries do run day-to-day during focussed periods from a personal crisis to simply space and time away on a reflective retreat. At other times, the pace is more gentle.

How I journal has evolved over the years. I’ve branched out from A4 red or black hardback tomes to more portable and colourfully-covered books (Paperchase is a favourite haunt!). And I’m more adventurous in what and how I write: fragments, unsent letters, updates and annotations to keep track of things I want to work on or explore. I intentionally travel lighter and with more creativity. My current journal stays close, a companion work in progress in parallel to my life’s journey.

Once a week I go out for a journal-writing coffee-break, to review the last seven days. I write about how things have gone, especially in aspects of life I decided were a particular focus for this year. I write about issues that have come up and what I have noticed that I want to celebrate, remember, take action on or explore. This weekly write-up provides a rhythm and a framework for any journal-writing I may or may not do on other days.

Writing a journal has helped keep me anchored over the years, providing a first port of call for hopes and plans; dreams and fears; joys, affirmations and achievements. This is why I am setting up a group to support others in doing the same: Way with Words.

The aim is to meet monthly, to explore ways of journalling that will foster our wellbeing. Like me, you may have come through significant times of challenge and transition, and want to continue writing along your way to keep yourself on track, nurture insight and encourage personal development.

Way with Words will be starting on the second Thursday in October, so please do get in touch if you would like to join with other like-minded journallers. You can find a few more details on the Writing Workshops page.

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  1. Avatar Heather Shakespeare
    Posted September 22, 2016 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Hello Julia.
    I’ve just been reading this blog with much interest, not only because we are looking at journal-writing on the Professional Writing Academy course this week but also because I, too, have recently revisited my huge collection of past journals and am wondering what to do with them all.
    I’ve kept a diary (as I call it) on and off since I was nine, but mine too are confidential and, to be honest, I feel somewhat burdened by their weight – both literal and metaphorical – just now. On moving house in June, I brought them all down from my loft and transferred them to my new one, clearly labelling the boxes CONFIDENTIAL. My thought was to find a quieter day (!) and go through them all, writing up (or cutting and pasting) a composite of the words and memories I want to keep hold of, before disposing of the rest. Inevitably, there are some elements which I don’t want to dwell on and I like the idea of shredding/shedding them.
    I do hope your ‘Way with Words’ group stirs up lots of interest and that those who take part will really benefit from it.
    Best wishes,

    • Posted November 14, 2016 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      Hi Heather,
      Going through your journals to harvest what you want to keep and let go of what has served its purpose sounds a really good idea. As you say, it just needs time…
      Many thanks for your good wishes for Way With Words. The first session has gone well..

  2. Avatar Liz Hindman
    Posted November 14, 2016 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    Oh my life! I have kept a diary – I do not like the term “journal” – since 1967! I never look back at them. I just hope that, one day, someone will read them. I am sure that your name is there!

    • Posted November 14, 2016 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

      That’s impressive, Liz. You will definitely qualify for Golden Pen award by the end of next year! I have not been as consistent as that, so journal probably describes my efforts better.

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  • About Julia


    From writing stories for my younger brother, to penning poems for the School Magazine and filling a growing pile of personal journals, the written word has always been part of my life’s journey.

    I started out as an English Teacher and subsequently retrained as a Counsellor. I have counselled in a GP Surgery and worked with various Employee Assistance Schemes and Charitable Trusts alongside seeing private clients.

    Although I have done some freelance journalism and written four non-fiction books, creative writing has become my main focus in recent years.

    My poems have appeared online on sites including Amaryllis, Silver Birch Press, Clear Poetry, Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis, Riggwelter and Ink,Sweat and Tears. I have been published in Curlew and Bucks Mill Magazine, and anthologised in Our Hearts Still Sing. My first poetry collection, Chester City Walls, came out in 2015.

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