A poem pleading for the right to journal privately – at whatever age

My response to recent reports that a mother shared her five-year-old daughter’s journal online (fearing that she was sharing sad thoughts with paper, rather than her mother) is this:

My diary was always mine, unless spying eyes stole

my secret-est thoughts from the heart,

or spied my flaws, my dreams, my holes.

 I always write to heal, never to share or flaunt

my shadow stuff that’s too far too delicate

to bring to public taunt.

I’ve written daily words from at least the age of nine

from the clothes of Charlie’s Angels

to the depths of Freud and Klein.

So spying on a little girl’s words leaves me frozen with self-doubt.

I can only think of one grown person

whose probing left my craft in drought.

So as I tense for the critic, hoping for the praise

that moment of potential brilliance

gets lost in a fearful malaise.

So, mothers, for creativity’s sake, don’t censor your girl’s every move.

Leave her to find her voice,

through pen and page her groove.

Remember to stop and savour the snowflakes

Snow this week in London has caused late journeys, frozen toes, and hours of scraping windscreens free of ice. I’ve been in a hurry to get to meetings and carry on a normal life this week, the frankly the snow has been a pain in the backside. It took me 20 minutes to liberate my car from inches of snow. I then had to negotiate an ice rink of a car park that almost robbed my proud little car of its oomph. And you can’t get in my hallway for dripping boots, soaked gloves and padded coats.

I hadn’t stopped to enjoy the snow at all. I didn’t take a red sledge to the hills behind my house and hear my daughter’s pink-cheeked whoops of joy as she careered down the slopes. I didn’t join in with the neighbours as they shovelled our road back to black (a precipitous task, given the three-day snowfall we had). And I didn’t rush to find a carrot suitable for a snowman’s nose. It was as if the snow hadn’t happened at all, for all the attention I had paid to it.

Snowflakes reminded me to appreciate everyday precious moments    (pic: istockphoto.com/djedzura)

Until last night, that is. I was walking along the road to get my car, avoiding the slippery pavements packed with ice. And I suddenly realised it was snowing again. It was nine at night, and the streetlamps illuminated the fragile puffs of white tumbling out of the sky. It felt as though that snowfall was a show specially created for me. I stopped on the street corner and looked up at the marvel of those perfect little snowflakes. Collectively they may be a nightmare. But individually they are delicate little things of beauty.

They brought a tiny tear to my eye and a warmth to my heart. A former boss of mine, watching me run around like a mad thing, always said to me: “Remember to stop and smell the flowers.” He’s not around any more, but this phrase lingered. And last night’s snow reminded me to appreciate the divine magic in the things around us that we take for granted.

The snow is fluffier this year. Not so great for snowmen. And not too good for train operators or commuters. But absolutely perfect for pulling a lost woman back to the present. I may have disconnected from the world temporarily. But those little snowflakes had a big role in making me feel alive again.

The ‘write-rip-throw’ approach to ditching negative thoughts

Negative thoughts making your life a misery? Well, rather than ruminating on them and giving them oxygen, there’s a simpler way of getting rid of them. Just write them down on a piece of paper, rip them up and throw them away.

Write your bad thoughts down and let them go to be free of them. (pic: istockphoto.com/AnikaSalsera)

Write your bad thoughts down and let them go to be free of them. (pic: istockphoto.com/AnikaSalsera)

Sounds too easy? Too free of angst? No use if you just can’t let go…?

Research begs to disagree. It’s people who hold onto their negative thoughts who preserve them. Physically binning them – rather than just imagining you’re throwing them away – takes away their power. Here’s how… Continue reading

the healing power of a grief journal

Tears streamed down my face when I read about a woman who had lost her only child chart her journey through journaling. This post is really worth reading on Life Goes Strong, entitled Writing for Life: How Journal Writing Helps Heal One Mother’s Grief.

Writing really was therapy in this case, for Tamara Thomas, and the process took her through the stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining and acceptance – and the tasks of mourning: to accept the reality of loss; to work through the feelings about that loss; to learn to live without the person you’ve lost; and to Continue reading

rap star feels the therapeutic benefits of writing his life story

Writing down my ‘stuff’ – letting it flow on the page and then close the book on it – has long been my therapeutic secret. While it’s great to have a therapist with whom to share  and pick over the darkest, most uncomfortable aspects of one’s character, there’s something about the easy availability and non-judgemental nature of pages in a notebook that are all-ears all times of the day.

Which is why it’s inspiring to hear how rapper Dizzee Rascal, in writing his autobiography with the aid of a ghostwriter, felt the process of telling his story was ‘like therapy’. He told the Evening Standard that he had lots of Continue reading

is a ‘drunk diary’ a creative way of silencing the inner critic?

Can booze let loose the juices of creativity?

I admit my first reaction to hearing about singer-of-the-moment Adele writing her soaraway successful album 21 while under the influence of booze was one of disbelief: firstly, that someone so talented needs to drink (the shadow of Amy Winehouse loomed large in my mind), and secondly, that she could so coolly and publicly admit to it.

Except when I read beyond The Sun headline of ‘Booze helps Adele write songs‘, I realised there was more to it than just downing a bottle of wine and churning out indulgently booze-fuelled lyrics.

What it turns out the singer had done was bypass her inner critic – with all its angst and murderous intentions towards a newly born idea, thought or tune – with the anaesthetising effects of alcohol. Without that switch into another part of herself, the bitter-sweet unexpectedness of her number-one songs may never have Continue reading