This week, I am not technically providing a book review. I am making a reading suggestion – with a significant caveat.

I am going to suggest that you go to your bookshelves or filing cabinet or documents and pull out something that you wrote 10 years ago, or more, and read it. But be careful – reading what you wrote a long time ago, especially in a time of stress or turmoil, can be difficult. I do this regularly as I review my journals for writing ideas for the present.

If you’re someone who reads and writes a lot, what will be surprising to you after reading your journals – or articles or stories or poems – is how good they are. This will be a revelation, since you likely think that you never write anything that’s worthwhile.

I was going through some boxes last week and found a black hardcover book. It was bulging at the seams, paper oozing out from all sides. Some sheets managed to escape as I moved the book to look through it. On many of these loose sheets of paper, I found poems that I read and loved. They had been printed and seemed sort of familiar. I liked some of them a lot and looked all over the page to find out who had written the piece, only to realize that I had…oh…

The benefits of writing a journal seem to be better addressed in research than any benefits of reading it, other than immediately for the purpose of analysis and change. I use journaling in my practice and know that writing in a journal can be emotionally difficult.

I was not prepared for my emotional response to my own writing, my own raw writing years later. Herein lies the caveat. Read your own journal, but be prepared to be surprised at how good it is. Be prepared for the emotion you will feel. It will be like visiting with a very good friend whom you have not seen in years, who wants to hear everything that has happened – the good and the bad.

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