I write to understand my life. Whether it’s in the form of memoir for others to read or in the form of journaling for my eyes only, I write to make sense of Life. I write to create meaning.
So what is it about writing that makes me understand my life?
When I write things down, I clear some space in my otherwise overly-cluttered mind so that I can see more clearly what’s going on in my life. Furthermore, I can look at what I’ve written and see things that were unclear to me before.
I may not understand the meaning of what I’m writing as I write it, but when I re-read what I’ve written, hidden truths may appear. I can write about these truths and come to an even deeper understanding of what has happened and where I am in the journey of my life. The more I write, over time, a narrative will emerge out of the seemingly disconnected diary entries. My journal will provide the sense of a journey being taken.
There is something very satisfying about narrative. I think we’re all drawn to Story because stories are comforting. There’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. There are causes and effects. Unlike life, as we’re living it, which rarely offers easy explanations or neat endings.
As I write, I am creating the story of my life. I am creating a narrative of all the disparate strands.
I think many of us, if not all of us, are compelled to express that which we remember, to create a record. Just look at the current popularity of scrapbooking and memoir writing. We’ve always been interested in telling the story of what happened, to say “I was here and this is what happened; here’s how I survived and this is what I learned.”
People have written diaries for centuries. We’ve written narratives for ages. And we’ve done so not only to understand our lives, but to change our lives. That is the most incredible thing about the journaling process: by creating my story, I can change my story. That’s right: we can change our stories. When we write to ‘move on’ from a tragedy, for example, we are writing the story so that we can live a different story.
This is possible because writing creates awareness, and with increased awareness comes the opportunity to change the trajectory of our lives. In that sense, writing is extraordinarily empowering. When we discover in our journals a pattern or a role that we’ve been playing that we no longer wish to play, then we can choose for ourselves a different narrative on which to continue, one that is more aligned with our desired path. That is the power of writing!
Re-read something you’ve written and write about the truths you discover there.