Got A Problem? Write It Out!


I had a problem yesterday.

Not a huge problem, just a common, everyday sort of problem.

I needed peace and quiet and it wasn’t obvious to me where it was going to come from.

In the throes of completing a final draft of an e-book, I needed to read the whole thing through in one sitting.

And because it wasn’t a crime procedural or suspense thriller,  I knew from experience only complete and utter respite from noise and interruption would suffice. But I had no way of achieving it.

Or so I thought…

I live in a decently large, some would say huge, house but my husband inhabits our home office. He yaks away on the phone, presents webinars, gets interviewed, drinks tea and clicks around with his mouse. That wasn’t going to work.

We had work going on downstairs so leaf blowers, vacuums, mowers and pruners all comprised weapons of mass concentration destruction there.

What was I to do? I had a deadline. I had to meet it.

I got out my journal.

In my coaching practice I often give encouragement to my clients that, I realize after the call, I need to give myself. And taking the time to journal daily has been one of those epiphanies.

When I first moved to the US, not knowing a soul besides my husband and having no clue what direction my life should take, I read and followed the practices espoused in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. One of the practices was to write, longhand, three pages of whatever came to mind every morning.

Back then, I hated it.

But it felt important so I stuck at it.

Over time, it became a priceless tool as I uncluttered my mind on those pages much like we unclutter a room, a garage or even a whole house.  My journaling became a time to write out whatever was bothering me, organize my day, reflect upon my experiences.

Following my wedding weekend. I spent hours over days capturing every single detail I could remember on paper and when I was done, I was done.

I could move on.

I wrote the most terrible things sometimes as I processed my thoughts and once I got to the end of my notebook, I would trip down to Kinko’s and shred it. We all have murderous thoughts at times but they are momentary and we don’t need to be sentenced by them.

Over the years I have journaled on and off. It was a sanity saver when the boys were babies. Nowadays commitments mean I can’t always do it early morning, so I do it whenever and wherever I can. A less than perfect practice is better than none. I filled many a notebook.

I bought my own shredder.

Yesterday I sat down not having the answer to my problem and wrote it out. Over the three pages and half an hour, the answer became apparent.

I needed a desk, a chair, some natural light, a room out of earshot of anyone (I read final drafts out loud) and with a door I could lock, my tea and a bottle of water.

I shifted some furniture, lit some candles, opened the windows, tossed some trash and, tea and water in place, got to work emerging four hours later with it complete.

Who knew the answer lay in my son’s grungy bedroom?

Many people will say they can’t write. In my experience, that’s nearly always rubbish. Usually all that is needed is some guidance, some confidence and repetition. Writing as therapy is an easily accessible, cheap practice available to everyone.

Try it next time you have a problem, you might like it.

Have you ever journaled and found it helpful? Or do you believe you ‘can’t write?’ Let me know in the comments!

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer March 23, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Cool, but did you really shred the pages in which you wrote about your wedding? Sniff…


Alison Golden March 23, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Oh no! Got me there, Jennifer. No, I saved those. Those pages went in my memory box. But I’ve shredded everything else. I could probably be jailed for some of the things I’ve written over the years…;-)


Lisa D Liguori
March 23, 2011 at 8:05 pm

One of my all time favorite books is Simple Abundance, A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, by Sarah Ban Breathnack (and I just discovered she has a website now, gotta go see it!) and she recommended THe Artists Way. She also recomended the journaling, which I have also done off and on. Thanks for the nudge. Perhaps it is time to get that last journal out and begin again.


Alison Golden March 23, 2011 at 8:13 pm

I think that would be a great idea, Lisa. I have notebooks all over the house to grab whenever I have the time. I also have special pens I use but the notebooks are just regular notebooks and are often what my husband brings home from conferences. The key, I find, is to write a set amount every day – for me that is three pages but for others who are anxious about time, it can be for a certain number of minutes. Thank you for commenting!


Mary E. Ulrich
March 24, 2011 at 1:18 am

Great ideas Alison. I love the idea of a private room, a cup of tea, writing 3 pages in your journal and then a shrieking Warrior Woman shredding all evil thoughts into quarter inch bits of paper. Sounds like Heaven.
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Alison Golden March 25, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Oh it was. I was so happy to have found this wonderful solution. It was also very comforting to be in that room. I had had the idea of converting this bedroom into my office soon after we moved here. But then I got pregnant and it became the nursery for two babies. Oh, the tales those walls could tell…


March 24, 2011 at 3:30 am

The shredding idea is pure genius. I’ve journaled before only to look back and be absolutely horrified by what I wrote. So, I stopped journaling. Thank you, Alison, this was a wonderful post.
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Alison Golden March 25, 2011 at 5:56 pm

I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Beth! I’ve never read anything about shredding, quite the opposite. Usually I hear about journals being read in old age and reminiscences being had. Well, that wasn’t at all what I wanted to do with my words. I worried that I would fall under a bus and all my nasty little secrets would be out which is why I started shredding.

It feels so freeing not to have to worry about punctuation or grammar or even if I finish the sentences. No-one else is going to read these words and shredding it is almost a triumphant act for me, like clearing my closet and throwing away old, holey clothes. I hope you get back to journaling and get out all the good thoughts and the bad. Better out than in, my mum always says. 🙂


SuzRocks March 24, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Sometimes I don’t write about the sort of stuff I NEED to get off my chest because of the idea that someone will read it. And writing in pen takes so long- I can type so much faster.

But, nonetheless- I’m journaled on and off (more off than on) since I was little. Now, when I write for my blog- I need complete silence. Whenever I’m focusing, I want silence. My husband HATES this!
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Alison Golden March 25, 2011 at 5:45 pm

I need silence too. It can take me literally 6 hours to get a blog post done from start to finish if I don’t have silence.

Shredding takes away the fear of someone reading it. That’s why I started doing it. I have a client who writes her pages then throws them away immediately. I think that’s also a good idea if someone is prone to keeping clutter or thinks she’ll go back read it, ponder, reflect, write action plans, etc. The idea of journaling is to get that junk out!

I am unsure about the typing. I’ve read that writing by hand works better perhaps precisely because it is slow but the jury is out on that one. I guess it’s more important to do it than not, whichever way you do it.


SuzRocks March 24, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Ps. I missed you and was wondering why you hadn’t posted in a while


Alison Golden March 25, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Aww, shucks, thanks for noticing I had gone for a while. I took on some work which was way more than I expected and everything else slid off the table. It has been a huge learning experience and taught me a lot about how I want to move forward. Journaling, in fact, has helped me realize that. 🙂


Ellen Berg
March 24, 2011 at 8:35 pm

Writing is the way I figure my life out. It always has been, and I feel lucky to have found that tool early in life. Writing is such a powerful tool that I have my 8th graders write for 20-minutes every single day. Some days they’re just clearing their minds, other days they’re playing with language, and still others they’re going deep with projects they love. I just expect them to show up to the page every day without judgment, to write and expect the ideas to come.

When my kids return to visit, they tell me that daily writing practice is what they missed the most and what helped them become proficient writers. My hope is they will keep up the practice for the rest of their lives.


Alison Golden March 25, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Hi Ellen!

I think it’s great that you get your 8th graders to journal. I wish I had had this process when I was their age. One can become great friends with a notebook and pen and when we’re teenagers we need our non-judgmental, unbiased friends more than ever. Thanks for commenting.


Sarita Edgerton March 25, 2011 at 10:35 am

Great article! I do not journal on a regular basis but I do use my blog to journal!
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Alison Golden March 25, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Hi Sarita:

Definitely blogging can be a form of journaling. The thing about blogging is that it is public. I can think things that I could never put out there. I also don’t think anyone would want to read my rambling ramblings. Really. It’s embarrassing what I write sometimes. A notebook, pen and shredder are definitely the go to items in these cases.


Glynis Jolly
March 25, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Journaling is something I need to get back into. Maybe not as a daily routine but, as you said, for problems that I know there are easy answers to if I could just think of what those answers are.

Great advise, Alison. 😉


Alison Golden March 25, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Thanks, Glynis. Good to see you back here. We bloggers can write for all sorts of reasons, why not problem solving? Love your new avatar!


Eileen Ludwig March 28, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Thank you so much for stopping by my site and looking at my photographs. Years ago, I did the Artist Way and have bought it again at a yard sale with the intent to do it again. I busy myself so much I say I don’t have the time. Your right, clearing the mind is so important to stop my procrastination. Love your site and I have liked your facebook page. My is and I have three others sites if any of them interest you. When you find one, you can find more.

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Alison Golden April 2, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Could you pull out that Artist’s Way book and blog your experience on one of your blogs, Eileen? 🙂 I always find that if I can get blogging material from doing something it tends to blast through my procrastination.


April 6, 2011 at 6:45 pm

This is great advice and something I follow in my professional life, but have not explored in my personal life, after reading this, I am thinking, “why not?”
Andi recently posted..J’adore 16My Profile


Alison Golden April 9, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Oh, I’m interested that you have experienced in professional life. I would be interested to know how you worked it professionally.


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