How to get un-stuck in about 20 minutes

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After we read the diary of Anne Frank in junior high, I started my own diary because I figured it would make me more interesting than I felt at the time.

It was really boring, describing the TV shows and street hockey games that constituted my life at the time. After a week or two, it occurred to me that it would never be studied and admired by future students, and that nobody was even going to read it, including me. So I stopped.

It was years before I could even begin to understand why anyone would write in a journal if they weren’t hiding from an occupying army. Clearly I was missing the point. Journaling has a much more immediate and universal benefit.

One of the most common questions I get emailed about is how to get “un-stuck,” in the general life-situation sense, and I’ve been promising to write about it for a while. These days I do a certain form of journaling, which is by far the most consistently effective way I’ve ever found to get over the feeling of being stuck. It works every time unless I forget to do it. I kind of stumbled across it through blogging but anyone can do it. 

I got an early hint of it in high school when my mom suggested I try something she’d been doing, called “morning pages,” where you write three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing first thing in the morning. You just write what comes to mind, no matter how disjointed, meaningless, or negative it is. The idea is from the gazillion-selling creativity bible, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. My mom has been doing it for years, and I know some of you do too.

I hated it but it really worked. It knocks something loose in a good way. If you’ve never tried this, it’s hard to explain what this early-morning verbal purge does to you emotionally, but you feel different when you’re done. You could say that you finish with a clearer idea of what the rest of your day ought to be about.

When Cameron gets asked, “Why should we do morning pages?” she often says, “To get to the other side.” This is a great answer. Writing freely does get you to the other side of something: the cloudiness of unexamined thoughts. When you write out what’s on your mind, you break that cloud down into finite, meaningful parts, and often it looks quite workable from there.

I didn’t make habit of morning pages though. The part I didn’t like was that you’re supposed to do them every day, and I’m allergic to things I’m supposed to do every day (as followers of my experiments probably know.) I start to feel like it’s not always appropriate every day, and I’m just doing it because someone said so, and I begin to resist it in general.

Luckily the reflective writing habit found another route into my life. When I started blogging, my life began to get generally better very quickly, and I attribute most of that to the regular work of articulating my thoughts.

Words make it real

The simple act of writing out a thought keeps it still long enough for you to get a good look at it. Once it’s there in front of you, you can decide if it’s true, and whether you ought to do anything about it.

It translates feelings into something coherent, something you can work with. It’s one thing to feel generally frustrated, but something empowering happens when you actually write down the words, “I am frustrated with X because of Y.” It becomes a clear part of your reality. When you expand on it, often the solution becomes obvious. If not, at least the problem is obvious, which makes it a lot smaller in the mind. Articulating a problem gives it hard edges — a beginning and an end.

Blogging brought this kind of clarity into my life in a big way, because I was regularly transcribing my thoughts about the things that most affected my life. There were always issues, though, that could use a good writing-through, but which wouldn’t make for good blog posts. So a couple of years ago I started doing it outside of blogging too — I took a suggestion from good old Steve P and started keeping a journal on my laptop, so I could talk out any issue without dumping it in some form on my readers.

When I feel stuck I just open up my journal and begin by typing out what the problem is, and see where I go from there. I let the words wander – where I’m at with something, how it feels, and (maybe) what I might do about it. After twenty minutes of this, there’s more than a few revelations staring me in the face, and I have some real perspective about the problem and probably a place to start.

I do this maybe 5 or 6 times a month, but could stand to do it a lot more. It gets me past the overwhelmed, “stuck” state, even if I don’t actually solve any of these problems during the journaling session. Stuck-ness comes from not knowing what the problem is.

This little journaling process helps me with just about a hundred percent of the problems I bring to it. The biggest issue is just getting myself into the chair and getting the first sentence down before I talk myself out of it. When you’re feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, there’s a lot of resistance to doing even easy things.

This is part of the reason pen and paper never worked for me. Too much internal resistance. My generation has been typing its whole life, and three pages of longhand would probably put me in the hospital.

So I type. I’ve tried a few programs, including my word processor, and eventually settled on an indie program simply called The Journal, because the demo was free and Steve Pavlina is always raving about it. Later I bought the full version and have no regrets. I doubt I would still be doing this if I didn’t. You can download the free version here.

Whatever you use, it has to be quick launching to minimize the resistance factor, and it has to be more organized than a word processor. Otherwise you probably won’t make much of a habit of sitting down to do it, because you’ll end up with a bunch of messy documents you’ll never look at again. (Remember that you’ll be journaling most when you’re frustrated and stuck.)

If you use a pen and paper, get a dedicated book for it that’s attractive to you. Keep it in the same place and keep a working pen with it. A good pen, not a crappy real estate agent freebie pen.

How to do it

The moment you recognize the “stuck” feeling, open up your journal (online or off) and get the first few words down. Gravity’s on your side after that.

Write out your most prominent issues in terms of what they feel like, what you think is working, and what’s not working. Don’t worry about describing the day’s happenings beyond that, and definitely don’t write it as if you expect someone to read it.

Keep it confined to how you feel today, right now. Don’t tell your life story, just the things that are going particularly well, or particularly poorly, or the things you can’t help thinking about.

If you’re like me, you might have four or five issues you want to lay out and look at. Instead of trying to remember them all while you explore the first one, just leave a few lines (this is where an electronic journal is far superior) with a single word reminder for each one: “fitness”, “work”, “finance”, or “badminton” or whatever makes up a big part of your life.

In mine I use hashtags as these quick headers so that I can search for, say, “#productivity”, and see only my entries on personal productivity, instead of all occurences of the word regardless of context.

This is super useful. If I need ideas about how to deal with a financial issue, I have a couple of years of different perspectives from different days at my fingertips, on that exact topic.

Getting words down makes the situation finite and specific again. It’s typically just a few uncertainties and the feelings that go with them. This pattern in itself is reassuring. Usually I end up with a paragraph or two about each issue, and feel a lot better, even if I don’t have any solutions.

At the very least, I can no longer believe I’m truly stuck. If I still feel stuck it’s because some part of me wants to be. Usually “being stuck” only means you’re refusing to shine a light on what’s really going on with you. Words light it right up.

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Photo by Jenny Downing

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{ 64 Comments }

Sandra Pawula May 25, 2014 at 11:39 pm

David, I really like the idea of being stuck as the trigger for writing in a journal. I’ve resisted doing Morning Pages because I prefer meditating first thing in the morning. And, then I don’t want to muck up my mind space, but unleashing a stream of possibly unnecessary thoughts and emotions on a page.

But, I do like to journal from time to time. As you say, it does help me clarify and push through. So I especially like the structure you’ve presented here. I have a hunch that I could benefit from this more often too.

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David Cain May 26, 2014 at 8:25 am

I have similar problems with daily routines interfering with each other (which is much of the reason I want to dispense with cooking lunch.) Journaling didn’t work for me until I made it into an occasional thing. I still sometimes talk myself out of it though, but it has never not helped when I did it.

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Reece Pater May 25, 2014 at 11:55 pm

Hi David,
I thoroughly enjoy reading your articles. They are so well written and are often from a very creative perspective. I read a few mainstream blogs on minimalism, frugality, personal finance, self-awareness etc, but yours is the first I have ever subscribed to :) Great to see an article on Journaling. I also incorporate this practice to smooth out stuck-ness, lol. It is the reason I began blogging also. If you have a moment, I would love some critical feedback from yourself regarding my content and writing. I aim to write at a level that you consistently deliver. http://the-simple-life.org/life-maths/ Thank-you :)

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David Cain May 26, 2014 at 8:26 am

Thanks Reece.

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Collin May 26, 2014 at 12:40 am

Journaling is indeed a habit I always benefit from but never quite take full advantage of.

I do have a software recommendation though. For iOS users, Day One (dayoneapp.com) is amazing. Beautiful design, password protection, syncs across devices, and allows tagging.

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David Cain May 26, 2014 at 8:31 am

Do you journal on your phone? Or is this for iPad?

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Anne May 26, 2014 at 1:23 am

Hi David. Good article. I’ve been journaling for years (hand written in a pretty notebook. I do most things electronically, but journaling and creative writing go better by hand, for some reason). Sometimes I’m writing every day, sometimes may leave it for several weeks. Reading back through my journal entries always highlights issues that need looking at, eg endless comments that I was worried about my eating habits and alcohol consumption, but failing to do anything about it. Do you keep your journals? I had a row of books going back about 15 years, but decided a few months ago, after one last look through them, to destroy them. I didn’t want family members reading them in the event of my death and anyway they were all about what was past and gone. Shredding them was incredibly therapeutic (much more so than deleting a file would have been!) and I put some of the shredded paper into the compost heap, which felt very symbolic. Now I just keep the last one.
Morning pages didn’t work for me – I found that it brought all my negative thoughts and feelings to the surface and left them there, which wasn’t a good start to the day! I’m in a better place these days though, so perhaps I should give it another try.

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David Cain May 26, 2014 at 8:37 am

I keep mine in that program, so I have a couple years of it now. It’s encouraging when I look back to see that most of the problems I had would no longer be a problem. I don’t really flip back through them but I’ll often search for a tag to see what I wrote on a particular topic previously. If I used paper books I don’t think I’d flip back through them. The value is in the writing anyway.

I had a similar experience with morning pages. It brought up a lot of negativity for me, but I was also in a much tougher place in my life at the time.

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Sid May 26, 2014 at 1:23 am

Thanks for the “morning pages” tip. Although a regular journal-ist (of the old-fashioned, non-blogging kind), this I hadn’t heard of. I’ll give it a try.

But David, I don’t like the consumerist direction your blog has started to take these days. Take this very article : beautiful, from-the-heart thoughts are mixed with messages to sell some product.

Et tu, David?

Your blog has, for years, been a place where we come for a brief respite from the cynical place the world has become. I can’t begin to tell you how distressing it is to see you, too, playing the same game (albeit in your own understated, low-key way).

Journaling does NOT need some silly overpriced software. Pen and paper is just fine for many. And if it isn’t (I too type much, much faster than I write), plain MSWord (or equivalent) with some basic skills in using it is more than adequate. No need to keep many documents. Keep just one : and with pre-set spaces and dates to instil discipline (if needed). You well know how : give folks some tips on that (or I can, happily, in a paragraph or three).

Look around. Want to look good? Buy overpriced jeans and jackets! Want to do well in life? Buy overpriced self-help books!

And now you too! Want to eat right? Buy overpriced food substitutes! Want to introspect? Jornal : but use some overpriced software application!

What next? Want peace? Meditate! But do it with this overpriced DVD or app to guide you!

David, you are too sensitive a person, too evolved a soul, to not see this cancer of consumerism eating away at every aspect of our life. Don’t add to it please.

Don’t sell us out!

If you have financial compulsions (as who doesn’t?), then be direct and upfront : make your blog a paid subscriber website, either partly (for new posts) or fully. As long as charges are reasonable, I will be the first to sign up!

But don’t sell us out like this please, don’t poison your sterling blog with the corruption of consumerism. Please!

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Vishwa May 26, 2014 at 7:05 am

Couldn’t agree more….. :(

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aletheia33 May 26, 2014 at 5:24 pm

please forgive the following unorganized/vague thoughts.
i have to say i agree with sid. i identify with an earlier/older generation of “serious” writers, with an earlier era. admittedly, there have always been levels of compromise, in selling one’s work to publishers or magazines/newspapers, that one could pursue, and a lot of different meanings of the term “selling out”, or becoming a “hack”–whether that meant writing “schlock” for better money or writing promotional and PR stuff that could include anything from a college alumni magazine to straightforward marketing of all kinds. and admittedly, since print began, there has been blurring of lines between promotion/furthering one’s own or others’ interests and writing with “integrity”–which ultimately can only be “pure” when one writes merely “for love,” without expectation of remuneration. class attitudes come into this as well; for so many centuries, only males of the leisure class could write.
at the same time, since the advent of the internet and the free market ideology that began to take hold to the max here in america around the 1980s, the lines have become more and more blurred, to the point where i will not be surprised (but i will be disgusted) to see product placement in, for example, novels written for mass consumption–this seems to represent some kind of final boundary collapse in my mind. . .
what does it mean to write with integrity in such a world? i do not know. all i can say for sure is that i have always reacted by bristling whenever i feel that someone is, however subtly or just plain well-meaningly, trying to sell me something in a way that is not straightforward. selling, the great american art, is unavoidably a form of seduction. selling better is about seducing better. it matters greatly to me whether a person who is suggesting i might like to try out something for which i must pay has something to gain from my buying it other than the simply happiness of doing me a good turn. there is, in fact, a line that i draw in my private little ethics pocket book, and i do use it to maek decisions about who i want to associate with or whose work i want to read.
i do not find david’s hoping for a commission if i end up buying a product he recommends cynical–merely naive. if you think it through, you can see clearly a very slippery slope for society if “everyone acts this way.” the internet is full of advice articles whose primary purpose is selling. one does have to be pretty aware to avoid getting confused by this. why does chase bank have a whole advice website for young career women? is it because they “care” about this audience, or because they are using it to attract this market cohort? and it can be very tedious to search out the reliable information buried in all the promotional junk. i believe we are heading rapidly into an internet universe wherein it is becoming harder and harder to do so–because of the slippery slope. because “everyone’s doing it.”
but then, i’m weird–i don’t even have a TV, because i am aware that TV only exists at the whim of the corporations that fund it in exchange for access to their gigantic markets. if you are wiling to do as corporations bid, you can make a lot of money writing for that medium. if not–well, not.
it has never been very workable for people who must work for a living to earn a living, or even half a living, by writing. every occupation has those who practice it honestly and those who compromise in one way or another. almost everyone compromises their integrity in some way if they decide to raise children and take on a mortgage. one’s choices narrows very significantly at that point–at least, until the kids have graduated from college.
the reality is that most people are not very interested in paying for advice in written form unless it is marketed as coming from someone who has an easily recognizable authority based on something additional to the mere fact of their writing. magazines that sell advice have always combined heavy advertising with “editorial content” about the same products advertised in their pages. the freelancers who write the advice articles in these magazines do not earn much from them; it’s a very precarious lifestyle.
my point is that if you are blogging because you love to blog, to share what you are learning about life and the world as you go along, you have a great gift not only for writing but for teaching. both of these occupations have a long history, and neither has ever paid much. except for those few teachers and writers who are masters of marketing themselves. nothing wrong with that. suckers and their money are easily parted. just don’t expect me to hang around for it.
and speaking of teaching–is it OK for coca-cola machines to be placed in public schools, or does this represent the selling of a captive market, at a high cost to the coke drinkers, who are developing diabetes in childhood at an alarming rate? the point is not that drinking coke is bad for you but: where do you draw the line?
i am watching david to see how he goes…. will he draw his line, or will he drift into deepening compromise? at the moment it does not look so good. i expect i’ll unsubscribe soon. because there are so many people out there doing exactly the same thing–blogging for money because “i deserve to be paid to do what i love”. and there are more and more and more of them all the time. what i am interested in is finding the ones who have drawn the line. they have always been quite rare, and they still are.

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Esme May 27, 2014 at 1:55 pm

Aletheia33,

Surely you could have found a way to say what you wanted to say more concisely. More words does not denote more meaning.

Frankly, your post was so long and rambling that I must have missed your point.

David Cain May 26, 2014 at 8:59 am

I don’t think the world has become a cynical place, but your comment strikes me as cynical. Sometimes it is perfectly all right to buy something or sell something. I wouldn’t be journaling at all if I didn’t take another blogger’s recommendation and buy that software. If it’s not worth it to you, then it is your choice not to buy it.

I have a question for you: how do you pay your bills? I used to pay my bills by selling my time to an engineering company, where I would build large tracts of new homes at the edge of the city. I didn’t want to do that for longer than I had to, so now I write full time for fraction of the money.

The strange thing is, nobody complained when I made a living doing that. But on the internet, there are people who believe that it is wrong to use ads, or recommend products, or attempt to make a living (or even pay for the upkeep of the site) in any way.

If the odd affiliate link “poisons” the reading experience for you, then that’s too bad. The content here is always free, and I have a right to pay my bills. I think the way I do it is quite innocuous and honest. The “paywall” format you suggest would make the blog exclusive to people who want to pay for it, and I think that’s way worse for most people. I want it to be free. I know I will lose the odd reader by even attempting to pay for my hosting, but that’s fine.

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Maria Long May 26, 2014 at 9:19 am

Boom! Excellent response without animosity or aggressive tones. My boom is from pretty fireworks not cannons :)

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Keith May 31, 2014 at 8:03 am

David,

I think if you wouldn’t have said anything about the commission, no one would have said a word. I see both sides. As readers we love (essentially what the article is talking about) the real and the raw. It’s awesome. Even if it’s with good intentions, seeing products being thrown in the mix seems to taint the experience. Personal opinion – smash the whole page full of advertisements all AROUND the content. We can tune those out. Our generation has become pretty good at that :). As long as your posts are unscathed, I don’t think any of the readers will care much about how you make your money. I think what people are scared of is (if you’ve ever seen the movie Idiocracy) advertisements becoming an inherent part of the experience. If we cannot filter out the real from the sell, it scares us because we don’t know who we can trust. Your readers trust you David. Hold on tight because in today’s times, that is hard to earn. Great article – Keep up the good work :P.

Karen J May 26, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Sorry Sid, but links often have a commission connection, and “the few, the noisy” who object to that fact have demanded that it be pointed out in every instance. Thus, it’s in our face, instead of a quiet (and innocuous – it doesn’t cost any extra!) background fact.
David didn’t even *imply* that You Need This Product, he only extolled what *he likes* about it.
Don’t want to use a “product”? Don’t. Your life choices are up to you to make.
I would gladly pay for David’s content, too, IF I felt that was the *highest and best use* of a piece of my extremely limited dollars at this time. But it would drastically change the nature of the conversations here, and probably affect his writing, too – in ways subtle and not-so. (Glad you’re staying Free, D!)

Bright Blessings to you all…

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Gark May 26, 2014 at 5:55 pm

I was thinking exactly the same thing. As soon as I see someone’s apparent good idea lead me to a product that they will financially benefit from, I switch off. And when it comes from someone, like David, whom I have admired for so long for flying the anti-consumerist flag and now wants to flog that flag to me, I literally feel sold out. Of course you need to make money to live David, but please choose a method that isn’t completely at odds with the values you espouse.

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David Cain May 26, 2014 at 6:14 pm

What values are those? I recommended something I bought and use that has improved my life, and I was upfront about my financial relationship to it. The value of this post is not contingent on using it. Affiliate links are standard fare for blogs, but being transparent about it isn’t. I am starting to see why.

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Laukik May 27, 2014 at 12:46 am

I have been an ardent follower of raptitude for about an year. There are so many things here (like a foreign trip or giving up my 9-5 job) that I think I can’t afford and hence don’t do them. Though I like the ideas and do what best I can to implement them.
On the same lines, I like the idea of journaling. But reading your post, I don’t feel compelled to buy the software. I will try out the pen and book method first. Buying the software (in fact even using the free version) will be a part of stepping up.
There is always a tool to do everything better. David’s blog, IMHO, is about ‘the thing’ and not the tool.

Nevu May 27, 2014 at 4:09 am

Hi David,
I am someone who appreciates this site and in no way see you’re links as selling out. I find them useful like recommendations from a mate. I can make my own decisions if I want to buy stuff and in any case its not like your flooding the place!
This is the best site I know quite frankly (along with Justin Guitar – if you ever want to learn to play!) and I think you are on track perfectly in your ethos and your brilliant content.
cheers.
Nev

Gark May 27, 2014 at 5:30 am

Upon self-reflection today, I concede that I was over the top in my comment above and for that I apologise.
Perhaps a better way to say how I feel is that having a vested interest in a product introduces doubt as to the strength with which you recommend that same product. This doubt further festers when the product type in question seems contrary to the lifestyle to which you seem to aspire, namely one of minimalisation. I do however appreciate that you declared your financial interest in the product.
All I am saying is that this post raised my eyebrow and had me thinking that this could be the end of the types of posts I came here for in the first place, such as those in your essential raptitude list. Purity and clarity of thought like yours is very hard to find, so please don’t lose it!

Vilx- May 26, 2014 at 1:40 am

And here’s some nice music to go with it. :) In the authors words, the song is “in a general sense, about feeling stuck; in a place, time, you just can’t get yourself out of”. :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khYQiK9v2z4

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David Cain May 26, 2014 at 9:00 am

Thanks Vilx. I started dancing in my chair

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Ragnar May 26, 2014 at 2:38 am

Hey David, I had no idea this was an actual technique, I’ve done it subconsciously a few times when I haven’t met my daily writing goal and I’m “not in the mood” or “I can’t think of anything”.

I will have to make a point out of doing this every time I have a thought that stalls my forward momentum.

Thanks for your insight!

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David Cain May 26, 2014 at 9:02 am

Another thing Julia Cameron said that stuck with me, in regards to writing: Don’t look at it as “thinking something up”, just think of it as “getting something down.” I am still learning this lesson — the hardest part of both blogging and journaling is getting to the chair and getting a few words down.

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Ragnar May 27, 2014 at 10:00 am

Exactly.

It’s funny in a sense, that it’s perhaps my ego that has stopped me from being more productive. That I believed I I would be able to override my instinct to postpone, without dealing with the doubts/thoughts I was having.

I just finished a rather long piece convincing myself that worrying about whether or not I’ve made the right choice(long term) is stupid. All of these relevant ideas that completely crushed my rationalization for inactivity were already inside my head, and yet before I put them on paper, I was still under the power of my own bullshit. This stuff works, haha.

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zenchan May 26, 2014 at 4:12 am

Thanks for this. I do journaling occasionally to get out of the stuck phase. But when I’m stuck it sometimes comes with a resistance to journalling as well. Sometimes it reminds me of this friend whom I gifted the book that helped me quit smoking. A few months later he still hadn’t read it because he was afraid it would make him stop smoking!

I would like to add a software recommendation that is Free and Open Source and works on Linux and Android (for those who want to do it on their phone). Lifeograph http://lifeograph.wikidot.com/ does everything you need and more. It includes encryption, auto-logout, tagging, favourites, calendar view and encrypted backups all the features that make it perfect for me.

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David Cain May 26, 2014 at 9:08 am

I do have that resistance too, and that’s why I try to remove as much of it as possible and get to the actual typing phase before I think my way out of it. The resistance only lasts until I get to the end of the first sentence. But yeah, often I don’t get there.

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BrownVagabonder May 26, 2014 at 5:48 am

I have been journaling since I was 12, first in pretty notebooks, and now on a laptop. I discovered the morning pages from a friend of mine, six years ago, and did them regularly for a year. Both journaling and morning pages have been amazing in helping me to become unstuck, and clearer about my goals, and life-path. I still use both the techniques when I need further guidance, something that I might not get when I am meditating. Like you, I wish I did both of these more often, perhaps everyday. Working towards it slowly.

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David Cain May 26, 2014 at 9:09 am

I want to do morning pages again, and I think I will do the entire Artists’ Way book. It’s sitting here with me and I’ve been waiting for the right time.

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David May 26, 2014 at 7:03 am

Mr Cain, I think I love you. I mean I’m not IN love you but I love you for your courage, insight and overall awesomeness. I also really got something out of ‘the morning pages’ and felt the obligation to do them EVERY day was too stressful. Nice to know someone I respect (you) agrees and finds merit in doing the exercise at any time and with not such a draconian discipline.
Have a great week, pal!

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David Cain May 26, 2014 at 9:12 am

Thanks David. I get really angry at things I have to do every day, and I hope I get over it some day. But journaling intermittently has worked just fine for me. Have a great week yourself!

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Ed May 26, 2014 at 7:26 am

I guess I’ll have to be the naysayer here. I’ve done plenty of journaling in my life and I’ve never found it to be useful. If anything, it makes me MORE stuck (stucker?). The only way for me to get unstuck is to actually take action, do my best to make the decision a success, and let go of the things I have no control over.

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David Cain May 26, 2014 at 9:13 am

I can understand that. I am often averse to taking action until things are clearer for me, and writing things out has helped me remove doubts about my choice of action.

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EscapeVelocity2020 May 26, 2014 at 9:24 am

Interesting thought, making it a morning routine, but inspiration hits when you least expect. I usually end up carrying around thoughts, living distractedly until I can get a paper and pen. For instance, I almost always have something to write when I’m driving, jogging, listening to music, or getting a haircut… Yesterday, at the end of a meal at a restaurant, I went to the restroom. When I came back, my family was gone and the servers were putting fresh silverware on the table for the next family. I have tried capturing the intensity of that initial feeling, when your mind has all the crazy thoughts before landing on the rational explanation… What became of that young boy dreaming of being older? What if my family disappeared? Is this how insignificant life really is, an enjoyable feast then cleared away… But a voice recorder on my cell phone is about the best I have come up with, followed by writing it out. Usually just the act of voice recording is enough without listening to it again, but helps if life gets too busy. A life unexamined becomes a stuck life indeed.

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David Cain May 26, 2014 at 9:31 am

I use a voice recorder too, for ideas that come to me anywhere but the shower. It’s unbelievable how many come to me in the shower.

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Karen J May 26, 2014 at 1:22 pm

unbelievable how many come to me in the shower.
Say Hello to another version of your Inner Resistance, eh? ;)

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David Cain May 26, 2014 at 2:27 pm

I guess so!

Nancy July 22, 2014 at 9:59 am

There is a pencil and notepad available that allows one to write in the shower. I do my best “solving” there with a wonderful vocabulary and then tend to forget most of it by the time I leave the shower.
It is just a little pad–but enough to get the gist.

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Anna Bardon May 26, 2014 at 10:50 am

Hi David I’m so pleased you wrote about morning pages. I’m doing the twelve week artists way course over a 12month period because I found I was rushing all the time to get all the tasks done. I absolutely love it. I think it is one of the few books where she helps you to be really proactive and not in a sort of struggling human way,but in a more spiritual way where it’s mostly about listening and uncovering false belief systems to just be able to let go and let the universe work through you. Love your blogs. I trust your judgment in what journaling apps are best .thank you for your recommendations. I liked your reply to Sid. There is nothing wrong with getting paid for good advice and services. If your motives are right and you are living up to your potential then it’s impossible to not make money. How does he know what is adequate and best for others? I love the fact that we are getting more and more organised and evolving and growing that’s what life’s about for me. I have more time for my children when I am more organised. Its the reasons behind why you buy something that make it good or bad. Shakespeare said…nothing’s either good or bad but thinking makes it so.
Anna xxx

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David Cain May 26, 2014 at 12:25 pm

That’s a great idea: doing the Artist’s Way in 12 months instead of 12 weeks. That has been what’s keeping me from doing it — I’m afraid it will take too much of my time one week and I’ll stop doing it. Even taking two weeks per “week” in the book would probably work for me.

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Chris @ Flipping A Dollar May 26, 2014 at 6:45 pm

Too true. I’ve used 750words.com on and off for about a year now. When I’m using it regularly, I feel a lot better. The tough part for me is if I feel better because I’m being a little more introspective or if I have more time to be introspective because everything is going swimmingly…

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Carrizo May 26, 2014 at 10:35 pm

Hi David,

I’ve been journaling for almost one year and realize now reading your post that I only do it when I’m stuck. When I was starting, the idea was to write at least one day a week but it looks like I only break the resistance to write when I’m really stuck, it’s like my last resort, and yes, it always leaves me in a better position to solve my problems so I don’t understand why there’s always resistance to do it if I already know how good it is for getting un-stuck.

It’s also useful for accountability. If you are trying a new habit, journaling helps to put down your thoughts and really feel the big effort you are putting on it.

Btw I use google drive for doing it and always write one or two pages. The hashtags look like a good idea.

Thanks!

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David Cain May 28, 2014 at 8:41 am

I have a tendency to resist everything when I’m stuck. I think it’s just an instinct — when things get bad you don’t want to do anything new or take any initiative.

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Vishal May 27, 2014 at 2:01 am

Completely agree.
Writing down your thoughts on paper is an amazing way to gain thinking clarity and presence. It is like — Thinking aloud… but on paper.

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John Nasaye May 27, 2014 at 5:19 am

I have been doing this for a while now [5 years plus] and only came to realize the real benefits after one or two years. I started it as a fun thing and also to get some much needed writing practice but later realized it is one thing that I will need for the rest of my writing career! Its funny you should mention the diary of Anne Frank because, after reading it, I decided to name my journal so that I would be actually be sharing my thoughts with ‘someone’. This has brought a fresh sense of momentum and renewed interest in my journaling. I can’t wait to pour out to ‘Adrian’ whenever I feel stuck or disillusioned in any way.

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Alyson May 27, 2014 at 8:46 am

I have been told to journal by many people over many years but never made the effort. Then last fall I began to struggle with severe anxiety and panic and that was what finally pushed me into journalling. And it helped! There was something about getting those crazy thoughts onto the screen that reduced the hold they had on me. And I even gained some immensely valuable insights into why I was having some of these thoughts. Now that I’m doing better I journal rarely, but when I’m having a difficult day I’ve noticed I can hardly wait to get to my computer to write it out.

Thank you for the recommendation for The Journal, I’ve been wanting to use something besides Word. Unfortunately when I visited the site I learned it only works for Windows. I have a Mac and would have to buy yet another program to make it work on my computer. Too bad, I was excited to give it a try. Hopefully they’ll develop a Mac compatible version some day.

Thank you for this blog, I appreciate it!

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Jamie May 27, 2014 at 10:43 pm

I had the same disappointment. I did a quick google search and found this list of apps for Mac. I think I’m going to try Day One. I’ve used Evernote but not for journaling. Good luck!

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David Cain May 28, 2014 at 8:44 am

Sorry about that, I never think of Apple users :(

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devo May 27, 2014 at 2:19 pm

hi david,

GREAT explanation of stream of consciousness writing, it’s effects and benefits. i’ve personally filled 28+ blank books over the years (with attractive paper & binding and very nice pens) and have recommended this process for decades but have often felt unable to convey the power of it to others as concisely and attractively as you have. i’m pretty sure you don’t mind but i’ll be passing along the url for this page as substantiation for future recommendations.

as for making a few bucks on the link (which i did check out and am now trying for free)…
it seems some of the folks above who have poo-poo’d the idea have a pretty negative personal relationship with money (independent of your blog or it’s content). many very kind, educated people walk around with cynical overlays on their thinking but don’t notice it. as was well stated above “Stuck-ness comes from not knowing what the problem is”, cynicism seems to work like that too. i’d like to recommend journalling about it.

journaling brings personal awareness to our automatic thinking. when that thinking is habitually pessimistic, the world begins to look like our thinking. awareness of that automatic process allows us an opportunity to separate our identity and the world from that thinking. i can’t think of a single personal problem that more awareness wouldn’t help with.

an extrapolative internal process i have learned from noticing my thinking through journaling goes like this:
* i notice that i’m having negative, self-defeating, fear-filled, paralyzing, etc… thoughts.
* i notice that the thoughts are in me, not the world.
* i notice i’m not the thought. i’m a man, a spiritual entity who’s just experiencing this thought right now. when this thought passes, i’ll still be me, not my thinking.

yup, journaling has changed the world …for me, and all i wanted was to feel better.

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David Cain May 28, 2014 at 8:46 am

* i notice that i’m having negative, self-defeating, fear-filled, paralyzing, etc… thoughts.
* i notice that the thoughts are in me, not the world.
* i notice i’m not the thought. i’m a man, a spiritual entity who’s just experiencing this thought right now. when this thought passes, i’ll still be me, not my thinking.

These are great insights. Big reminder for me this morning, thank you.

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Kirsten May 27, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Hallos, David
Well, given that I could use heaps of clarity, a reduction in mental chatter AND an increase in productivity (perceived or otherwise – I suppose I doesn’t really matter), I have downloaded the program. My only concern is that it will put me straight in the path of my favourite time bandit – the Internet. At least with a notebook I can avoid/evade it somewhat. I suppose I’ll just have to pull on my big girl pants and develop some self discipline. :-)
Thanks for another excellent, and helpful, post.
Best,
K

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David Cain May 28, 2014 at 8:47 am

That is one ever-present danger. I still struggle with it, but by the same token it’s nice to have your journal a click away when you are already using the computer.

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Jeff May 27, 2014 at 10:06 pm

David,
I’m wondering if you ever use Evernote and if so, have you considered it as a journalling platform?

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David Cain May 28, 2014 at 8:48 am

I’ve never tried evernote. I know it has a cult following. Do you use it?

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Jeff May 28, 2014 at 9:20 pm

Yes, I use it frequently for capturing web pages and notes of various types .. some personal and some for work. But I’ve resisted using it for journaling thus my curiosity as to whether you’d ever considered it. I suspect my resistance has more to do with generalized resistance to writing and less to do with the platform, though I like to imagine if I found the right platform the writing would flow effortlessly.

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John May 27, 2014 at 10:27 pm

I’ll have to try out this method. I’ve found that when times are toughest or I’m “stuck,” simply saying my issue out loud to a close friend almost always gets me unstuck. I think whether we verbalize vocally or by physically writing on paper triggers something within us. Especially if we repeat what our problem is out loud or on paper. Our minds have a default tendency to build tiny problems into large ones. When we see them written down or verbalize them, it’s almost as if they sound silly.

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David Cain May 28, 2014 at 8:49 am

I have done this a lot by accident, both while talking to a friend and writing (inside my journal or outside.) Sometimes just saying “I feel ____ about ______!” creates an immediate change.

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Damia May 28, 2014 at 8:37 pm

Hi David!

I’m a new fan of yours and I must say that this article really spoke to me. I’ve journaled on and off over the years and my biggest obstacle is my own resistance to doing it consistently! I’ve also tried meditating to quite the mind chatter but again, I don’t stick with it. I must live on the corner of Inconsistent Lane and Consistent Avenue! I’m going to try your method if only for those times I’m feeling stuck.

Thanks for thought-provoking article!

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Jessi May 29, 2014 at 8:13 am

I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog. Almost every post speaks to me in some way or another. I feel like I should say more, but what I want to express is pretty simple. I appreciate your writing and the positive effect it has on my life. Thanks.

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David Cain May 29, 2014 at 10:04 am

That is so sweet, Jessi. Thank you for the kind words, and I’m glad Raptitude does something for you.

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Joshua June 3, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Hey David,
I just fortuitously discovered your blog thanks to a link I saw on Facebook, and actually, it’s the first ‘blog’ I’ve ever read. I’m throughly enjoying it. As for the suggestions in this piece, I’ve found the same, and I think I’m just like you! The damn paper and pen, what a task it presents itself to be! I do it constantly or I don’t do it at all, but I suppose I’m that way with a lot of things…
I think I will take you up on this electronic journal business. I’ll do the sample first, and if it goes well, I don’t mind paying any commission. (I stopped reading the comments after a bit, but I thought the acknowledgement of this was an honest, up-front, and perhaps even humorous move; power to you brother; do what you gotta do).
Best.

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Nevu June 16, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Hey David,

Hope its not too late to thank you for the excellent recommendation for The Journal. Now that is making life simpler, notes about this and that, things to do, capturing run times and thoughts all in one place. I have it on a USB stick as I am always near a computer at work or home. Anyway it gives a way in that is immediate and clear so now I just capture stuff with no fuss and hopefully i can get to some of the advantages of journaling without concern for gadgets or notebooks etc.
Thanks
Nevu

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