Telling The "Truth"
"Truth is such a rare thing; it is delightful to tell it." - Emily Carr
In my own journal-writing, I always try to tell the "truth". Of course, I know I do not have a handle on the truth; it's a slippery business, infinitely changeable and completely dependent upon who is telling it. In the context of journal-writing, rather than trying to tell "the truth," it makes more sense to aim to tell "my truth," which is an entirely different matter.
I notice that when I write my truth, while simultaneously allowing my emotions to surface, the result is almost invariably eloquent. Not fancy; not necessarily profound; not contrived; not artificial; and definitely not "writerly". It is honest and written from the heart, resulting from an unselfconscious recording of the awarenesses and feelings of the moment. This kind of personal writing, I have often observed, engenders an equally moving response from the audience - even if it is just me, reading my own stuff. Or others, listening to me read out loud.
I don't feel in the least arrogant in saying that I sometimes write eloquently in my journal. It is not possible for me to do it all the time, of course; I'm not always in my feelings, and often just do my best to record the thoughts and concerns of the moment. But when it does happen, almost of itself, it is deeply moving, and I am grateful that I have managed it. Somehow, it enriches and intensifies my deeper understanding of my self, and helps me to move to a new level of consciousness.
I have experienced other people in journaling workshops doing this - writing their truth while simultaneously allowing their feelings - and often the result is eloquence. They are often astonished, never imagining that they could write eloquently, and are moved to discover that they can do it, through their own spontaneous use of that wonderful tool we possess for describing the nuances of our existence - the English language.
"Facts and truth really don't have much to do with each other." - William Faulkner
Faulkner was right; the facts and the truth really don't have much to do with each other, particularly when writing about the past. After all, the past, especially childhood, is where I often have to go in order to understand myself in the present. "Only when I make room for the child's voice within me," wrote Alice Miller, "do I feel genuine and creative." Antoine de Saint-Exupery echoed this sentiment: "Whence come I?" he wrote. "I come from my childhood as from a homeland."
I often remind myself not to bother myself about the facts - the "objective truth" - when I am journaling about past events, because when it comes to remembering feelings and experiences, they differ dramatically from person to person - even when they are writing about the same event. What really matters are my true feelings - anger, resentment, hurt, love, appreciation - and how they shape the choices I make in this life. As a reminder of this, I was enthusiastically re-telling one of my favourite stories about my father recently, and my sister, who is six years younger than I am, recalled the incident very differently. "I was there too," she said, "and that's not at all the way I remember it."
It can be a very liberating experience to revisit traumatic events from earlier in my life in my journal. I have learned that I can bring my evolved adult awareness to bear in seeing more fully and compassionately how things were at the time - for everyone concerned. Sometimes, with this more mature level of compassion and understanding, I can reinterpret past events, curtail the blaming, and change the story to the benefit of all concerned. Forgiveness and healing can take place, and I can move on in my life less burdened by old resentments and hurts, more open to loved ones, both living and dead.
By changing the telling of past events, I can change present experience and bring about significant healing - both for myself and for those who have been featured players in the story of my life. I know this; I have actually done it through my journal.
My journal is always, pre-eminently, the place to tell the truth. Because if I can't tell the truth to myself, in the privacy of my journal, then I really do have a problem.
About the Author:
Ellery Littleton is a writer and teacher who has been offering courses in journal, memoir and poetry writing for over 20 years, primarily at The Haven Institute on Gabriola Island and at Royal Roads University in Victoria. He has long experience in the intensive journal-writing method and is the author of several books, including: Old Rocks, New Streams - 64 Poems from the I Ching; Time Crimes - a sci-fi thriller; Riverwalk - a collection of 365 poems (a poem a day for a year; and most recently, Hummingbird Tattoo - a collection of erotic haiku - which has been nominated by the American Haiku Foundation for a "Touchstone Distinguished Book Award" for 2011.
Journaling Workshop with Ellery
June 24th - 26th, 2011 - Writing Up a Storm - Journaling Workshop
Join Ellery for his popular 'Writing up a Storm - Journaling' workshop June 24-26, 2011 at the Haven. This richly creative program is part writing seminar, part intensive journaling and part story circle. The writing exercises offered are deceptively simple but powerful and effective, and can lead you to writing about yourself, your life and your most important experiences in a new and vivid way.