Good buddy and charter Journalverse member Linda Barnes called yesterday to catch up. In the course of our meandering conversation she told me about an “invisible writing” journal technique she was using to process a painful experience. She said she learned it at last year’s Journal Conference in Le Journal Creatif (the Creative Journal) workshop led by Quebec art therapist Anne-Marie Jobin.
You’ll need supplies: Your journal, your favorite pen or pencil, and a box (small, large, you choose) of stick pastels, the kind that smudge. Also bring a story that seems too painful, shameful, traumatic or secret to tell, even to yourself.
- Start with a clean journal page. Draw a box–it doesn’t have to be perfect–on the page. Size? Your choice. Make it wide enough and tall enough to hold a line’s worth of writing. It can be square or rectangular. You decide.
- Now start telling the story. Write it in whatever way you choose, but keep it contained in the box. When you get to the bottom, rotate your page 1/4 turn. Continue writing. You’ll be writing over what you’ve already written.
- Again rotate the page so that you are now writing upside down to your journal’s normal orientation. Continue writing the story. At the end, rotate another 1/4 turn. By now you’re writing on top of scribbles. That’s what it’s supposed to look like!
- Plan to wrap up this portion of your story by the end of this segment. You can start again if you’re not finished with the story.
- When your box is filled with four sequential page turns and you’re back to regular orientation, put your pen or pencil down and turn to your box of pastels. Choose one or more colors that suit you. Color over your writing.
- Here’s where the magic happens! Now, with your finger (or, if you prefer not to get messy, a Kleenex), gently rub the pastels to smudge them. Anne-Marie calls this “soothing” the writing. Don’t you love that? If you want, add more color to make a design or pattern that pleases you. As you “soothe” your story, take in the soothing and flood yourself with compassion, kindness, forgiveness, peace.
Voila! You have turned a sad, shameful or scary story into a piece of journal art. If you want to protect the facing page from smudges, you can tape a piece of plastic food wrap (e.g., Saran Wrap) over the box.
Be sure to write a reflection (At the end of this process, I feel… or I’m aware of… or I am surprised by…, etc.) when you’re done.
Linda says she’s completed 13 of these invisible writes. Each time she finishes, she says,”whatever once bothered me has disappeared in a burst of magical color and all that remains is beauty.” It seems fitting that on this, the day of the Holi Festival (a Hindu rite of spring in which everyone showers each other in bright, beautiful powdered color) we can transform our difficult stories into brilliant works of art.
Thank you to our friend Anne-Marie Jobin for this wonderful idea. For more of Anne-Marie’s work, check out her website HERE. (It’s in French, but you should get the option to translate into English. The Chrome browser, at least, has an excellent translation.)
If you’d like to listen to the presentation this idea came from, check out the Journal Conference Audios page HERE. Anne-Marie presented Le Journal Creatif along with Susan de Wardt’s Beyond Words in the Symbol and Metaphor track. Audio clips (currently for all workshops in each section) are located under the photos.
Give this soothing technique a try, and come back to tell us about it in Comments!
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