Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Way of the Journal by Kathleen Adams

The Way of the Journal by Kathleen Adams serves as both a journaling workbook and resource. Anyone familiar with Adams’ Journal to the Self will recognize some of the exercises. In fact, anyone who has been journaling for any length of time will recognize most of these exercises. So what’s the point? Personally, I have a long list of journaling ideas but I rarely use them. Technically, I almost always do the free writing in my journaling. I occasionally tuck in a poem. Sometimes I list. So it isn’t that I don’t use journaling exercises. Rather, I do what feels right at the time. Which is why a workbook like this has its benefits and its problems. Some of the exercises did not inspire me to write anything beyond the surface (eg AlphaPoems). Other exercises allowed me to tap into some depth but withdraw before I felt overwhelmed (Sentence Stems). Others I could easily manipulate to write only what felt safe (Character Sketch). This is not surprising. I suspect that another person working through The Way of the Journal would find the same exercises I found uninspiring very stimulating. There is also the matter of my state-of-mind. I know from years of journal writing experience that there are days when free writing feels easy and other days when it is a struggle to fill the page. Knowing this, I imagine that if I were to choose one exercise and commit to doing it daily for one week, I would experience the same sort of journaling highs and lows regardless of the exercise. Trying one exercise once gives me a taste, an idea of the exercise’s potential for me in my journaling experience, but I suspect that my assessment of what I felt was a “good” exercise says more about me on that day than it does the quality of the exercise itself. I’d pretty much written off buying any new books on keeping a journal. I’m glad I broke that restriction to add this book to what will now be a permanent addition to my personal library. I look forward to exploring this book again, perhaps even doing the same exercise for a week or more as I mention above. I know I will also recommend it with no hesitation. It is simply that good! Why? Because the exercises lend themselves to all levels of self-exploration and it is not easy to find a workbook that allows the reader to only go in as deeply as they can and still feel safe. And when dealing with the psyche and psychic wounds, retraumatizing or triggering are risks someone cannot take along. Thankfully, with this workbook there are suggestions for how to approach even the darkest parts of the self without sinking so deep one can't still see the light. I doubt it will be matched any time soon--if ever.

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