Journal &/or blog – the “brain dump”
Why? For me, one of the major impediments to practice is that my brain gets totally overloaded with thoughts that move so super quickly that I feel foggy and slow, unable to detangle a single line of thought. I get overwhelmed and have some very strong bad feelings about starting anything (practice, study, even reading a book). Scrolling on social media gives me small distractions that keep renewing themselves, but that doesn’t help my brain state – in fact it can considerably worsen it.
What does help when I get myself into this mess is just writing – nothing in particular, just picking whatever words come into my mind and writing them down. I call it the “brain dump”. Get those swirling thoughts out of your head, write about the feelings you’re experiencing, list out your worries and fears. Once you’ve got them down, it can be possible to gain a little clarity on some things, to be a bit more sensible about some of your more unfounded concerns, and to start planning what you’ll do next. But even if you don’t get to this stage, just writing a bunch of things down can really help you feel a little calmer and less foggy.
What? Journaling by hand is lovely, but it is tiring (RSI, anyone?). I still do it, but usually only when I’m away from my computer for a while. But if that’s what works for you, treat yourself to a really nice notebook and go for it! For me, I type so much faster than I handwrite, and my thoughts comes thick and fast when I need to do a brain dump.
At the computer, if you’re not an aesthete then you can be like my boyfriend and just keep an enormous running word doc open that you write in. But that’s too dull for me, and my old macbook struggles if I leave word open for more than a day. So I do my journaling online. For a long while I used a website called 750 words, which can be kind of good to help get you on a streak of writing, although after the first month you have to pay $5 a month, and frankly that’s ridiculous. Now I just have a free wordpress set to private, which is perfect for me. You can make it look pretty, but it’s a journal just for you, in which you can really write down all of your most private thoughts. Sometimes you’ll write something good enough you might want to share it, so then go right ahead, but I think it’s important to have somewhere to write where you’re not always conscious of other people reading it and you’re not going back to it hoping it will pick up notes. This is just for you.