Fill Your Paper with the Breathings of Your Heart

Friday 06 September 2019 - Posted by Julia McCutchen

It’s been a while since I’ve written about writing. Yet it never strays far from the centre of my life and continues to feature in my work even when it isn’t the end game for soul-inspired professionals going through change.

Today I feel called to share my experience of arriving on the next arc of the journaling spiral.

It’s a powerful technique, especially during phases of deep transformation such as navigating a healing journey, changing the direction of your work and/or beginning a new phase of your life.

These are all relevant for me right now!

A Foundational Practice

Research shows that journaling is a valuable way to manage stress, boost creativity and enhance physical, emotional and psychological well-being.

It’s a foundational practice of the conscious approach to writing, living and leadership I’m wholeheartedly committed to.

Simply put, this is because it genuinely makes a difference to the process you go through and  to the outcome(s) you experience.

Awareness and Appreciation

Recently I’ve been reminded of two specifics that journaling supports:

1. Developing awareness: the more you write about what’s going on for you, the greater your tendency to notice the details you might previously have missed.

When you add conscious intention to this aspect of journaling, you naturally become more aware and more present.

Being present enables you to be less reactive in challenging situations and more capable of making conscious choices about how to respond to others or take action skilfully.

2. Enhancing appreciation: keeping a gratitude journal to “count your blessings” has become popular since gratitude was shown to have a direct correlation to happiness.

Gratitude is an immensely positive and expansive state of being that can become your default setting even when you’re going through intense change.

Yet if it feels elusive, you can shift your focus slightly and write about one small thing you appreciate such as a cool drink on a hot day; then build up from there.

Until You Feel Done

My natural inclination when I pick up my journal is to use stream of consciousness free writing and allow whatever shows up on the page to flow for as long as it needs to.

Sometimes this takes just 5 or 10 minutes.

At other times I spend 30 minutes or more downloading my thoughts and feelings until I feel “done”; complete – for now.

Five Minute Sprint

However, there’s a whole range of journaling techniques to fit your individual preferences and the circumstances you find yourself in at any given moment of time.

If you’re short of time or energy, you might like to try a Five Minute Sprint, for example, which is one of the simple but effective techniques on the Journal Ladder developed by Kathleen Adams:*

  • Set a timer for five minutes and write without stopping about something central in your life.
  • Silently read what you’ve written; then complete this sentence, “As I read this, I notice…”

You may well be surprised by the results of just five minutes of intentionally focused writing.

Validate the Process

Whatever approach you adopt, it’s worth remembering that writing about what’s going on for you is fundamentally an end in its own right.

By all means review what you’ve written once a week to mine your self-expression for highlights relating to realizations and breakthroughs if that feels relevant.

However, you don’t have to come up with amazing insights or innovative solutions to validate the process because the simple act of putting words on the page naturally shifts your perspective.

As William Wordsworth so delightfully summarised, all you need to do is “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”

Further Resources

Read my previous posts on journaling here:

* For more information about Kathleen (Kay) Adams pioneering work, visit the Center for Journal Therapy.


  • I first started writing in a journal over 20 years ago when my life began to fall apart. I found writing about the challenges I was experiencing gave me clarity and a deeper level of understanding as to what was going on. It has become my daily practice and agree with what you say, Julia, that journaling is a helpful and powerful tool of transformation.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience Jeanine; the gifts of clarity and deep understanding are priceless in all situations. It’s wonderful to hear that this has been a daily practice for you over so many years. Although I don’t write daily any more, I can’t imagine not continuing to use this powerful tool!

  • I have been journaling for over 40 years. When I finish writing I feel like I have just had a conversation with my best friend. Writing out my problems help me to see answers I wouldn’t be able to see otherwise. I, too, haven’t journaled like I used to, letting time lapses come in, but still reach for it when I need to talk to someone I can trust.

    • How wonderful that you’ve had such a long relationship with journaling Melissa and I know what you mean about feeling like you’ve had a conversation with your best friend.

      In my view, experience over time leads you to a point of maturity with the practice which means that you’re able to dip in and out as it serves you best. Thanks for sharing your experience Melissa!

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