Back in junior high, I was positively livid when I discovered that my mother had read some of the inscriptions from my friends in my yearbook. She had innocently wanted to get to know me better, but to me, it felt like a deep betrayal. At age 12, pen scrawls in a book felt so deeply personal, even if they were inane “have an awesome summer!” type comments.
During our awkward preteen years, we guard our yearbooks, diaries and journals like sacred scrolls. We slam our journals shut when a sibling enters the room. Seal our diaries tight with heart-shaped locks and stuff them under the pillow for safekeeping. As we get older, we still tend to guard our journals with that same fortress mentality.
Sometimes that is for our own good. Journals are meant to be a safe haven, a space to vent, to pour out our unvarnished thoughts without judgment or fear of censorship, either from self or society. We wrestle with our most prickly and uncomfortable emotions on those pages, detangling them and picking through. We sort out what matters—what needs to be acted on—versus what is best left behind, released onto page 74 and no longer needed. As receptacles of such powerful feelings, some journals are tools rightly kept very private.
But journals don’t always have to be such tightlipped, solitary vessels. Have you considered inviting another participant into this space? Instead of keeping a journal for “me, myself and I,” a shared journal can be a way to use writing to connect or deepen a relationship. Shared journals can work especially well between parents and teenaged children, as it creates a dialog that can sometimes be missing in the rocky years of adolescence. Shared journals are also enjoyed between grown siblings or between trusting friends. A shared journal transforms meditative writing into an openhearted experience—the writer takes the leap and shares with a reader; the reader becomes the writer, and a delicious loop of dialog starts to liberate both sides.
Ready to try a shared journal? Here are some topics that can provide starter topics:
- What is your favorite memory of the two of you together?
- What five words would you use to describe yourself? What five words would you pick to describe the other person? How have these words stayed the same or changed over the years?
- What scares you most these days? What used to scare you but now doesn’t bother you at all, and why do you say that?
- If you could change one thing about your life right now, what would it be?
- Lists can be revealing, too, such as, “Three things I bet you didn’t know about me,” “my three favorite books” or “five favorite songs of all time.”
Helpful hint: Have mutually agreed upon time constraints, so that the journal keeps moving back and forth between the writers and doesn’t get sidelined in the daily shuffle.
With a shared journal, you might be surprised not only how much better you can get to know a loved one, but also how much better you can get to know yourself.