My friend Sherita and I co-lead a “Just Journaling” group that meets at Danner’s, our local independent bookstore, twice a month. We’ve been doing this for around five years or more. We meet on the first Monday and the third Wednesday, which always confuses people. We started meeting on such an odd schedule because several of our attendees were either students or faculty at the University; by alternating the meeting days, everyone could attend at least once a month. When we first started the group, for several weeks Sherita and I were the only people who showed up. Finally, after a few weeks, Carolyn and Claudia showed up. Carolyn is still a faithful member and a wonderful friend.
Sherita and I have been friends since around 1983, and we have been journaling together or apart most of that time. We both went to a Kentucky Women Writers’ Conference early in our friendship so that we could meet Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones. We took her journal workshop and we’ve never looked back.
We lead our workshop according to Natalie’s guidelines. Keep the hand moving. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation or grammar. We start with a few minutes of writing on “I am thinking of…” just to get our brains drained of the daily junk that fill them. Then we offer prompts; sometimes people pick and choose what they want to write on and other times we all write on the same subject. We write for 10 or 15 minutes, and then we read aloud what we have written. And yes, a lot of times we talk much more than we write! At one point we were all talking loudly, laughing and discussing our tendency to act as though we had ADD. A woman came running across the bookstore, asking breathlessly, “Oh, is this an ADD support group? May I join?” We laughed and told her that we may have ADD, but we are a journal group—and yes, she was welcome to join. She didn’t take us up on the offer.
One of the benefits that has come from the group is the bond of friendship. Some people have come and gone, and some have come and stayed, and we really have become a support group. As Carolyn says, this is the one place where we all fit in. These people have become my tribe, my family, my friends.
I have been uplifted and amazed at the quality of writing that has come from our group. Just by responding to random prompts, these people have written entries that have touched my heart. We laugh, we cry, we share our most vulnerable selves. The attendance changes at every meeting; we have new journalers joining in and others leaving for one reason or another. We have a core group, those of us who need the solace of writing, who can’t imagine our lives without each other now. And it all came from just journaling.