My journal is my constant companion. It is never far from my reach ... It is a front porch of solace and retreat when I am tired and weary.
~ Nicole Johnson, from Fresh-brewed Life: A Stirring Invitation to Wake Up Your Soul
Your journal is a great place to get all those pent up feelings out. It’s also a great self-observation tool.
Literary devices make for richer, more compelling stories. They enhance the story so that the reader can relate to the characters and feel like they are there, too. This is why I think these devices can help us to better relate to our personal stories and see ourselves as active participants in our own lives.
Here are some literary devices and how you can use them:
Stream of consciousness
When writing in your journal you’re probably already using this literary device. In some novels we see what is going on in a character’s mind by way of this technique, this steady stream of thoughts. This is good way to see what’s going on inside your own mind.
You know this one. It’s when you assert that something is not just like another thing, but is the other thing to emphasize a trait. You can use this in your journal writing to discover something deeper about your feelings.
For instance let’s say you rant about being angry at your boss in your journal. What does the anger feel like? Try writing it using a metaphor. Maybe you say: I’m a roaring, caged lion. This metaphor is very telling. It says some of your anger is frustration and you either feel trapped in the situation or trapped because you couldn’t express how you felt to your boss.
This is a poetic device from Old Norse and Germanic poetry. It is when the poet creates a new compound word or phrase to describe an object or activity. This can help you better recognize how you are in the world.
For example, instead of simply saying you feel angry at your mother you take a deeper look and ask yourself why you are angry. Let’s say you realize you’re angry because you see that you’re acting like her. You’re really angry at yourself. Take a moment and come up with a name for this. Maybe you call it becoming-my-mother-anger. Naming something is the first step in dealing with it. Now when it happens you can just say its name and immediately go into self-observation and stop the behavior.
The best way to use this device is to look for it in your journal rather than create it. Take a look through your journal entries for the year. Do you detect a common thread that runs through your writings? This can provide a deeper insight into what you’ve been working on; maybe it’s not what you think.
This device, like the one above, is best used after you’ve written something. Take one of your journal entries and assess the tone you used. Was it happy, angry, sarcastic? Perhaps you used different tones when writing about different people. This can help you see how you feel about a situation or person.
This is the place in which something happens. In journaling it can be helpful to you to see your situation in the context of the environment it took place in.
For example, if you write about how you were unusually anxious today, also write about the setting…get detailed. Perhaps you describe your office with all its sights, sounds, textures, and smells. When it comes to sounds you describe some words you heard coming from your bosses office. One of the words was layoff. You didn’t consciously remember this during your busy day, but on reflection and using the technique of describing the setting you brought it forth. Now you know why you feel anxious and can now deal with it.
Sometimes you just can’t have the conversation you want to have with someone. Maybe it’s your boss or someone that has died. Using dialogue is a great way to have that conversation. Write what you want to say and then write what you think the other person would say. Simply carry on a conversation in this manner. Sometimes just getting what we want to say out is healing.
This is when you put together two or more ideas, words, images, etc. in order to contrast them and therefore see both more clearly. This is a powerful tool because it helps the reader gain insight on their own rather than being told what to think.
Here is how you can use it: Maybe you need to make a choice between two jobs. Write a paragraph about each job describing how you would spend your day. Write it as a story or use images so you can compare the feel of both rather than just doing an analysis of the pros and cons.
Often our journal entries are about something that happened earlier that day or week. It might be helpful to write it as a novelist would, a true account as if it were happening now. Putting yourself back into the moment can help you get in touch with your feelings. It can also help give you some perspective.
The next time you write about a situation in your journal describe what you saw, heard, smelled, felt. Create a full image in order to help you revisit the situation to see if there was something you missed.
Giving voice to an object or animal can help us understand our attachment to it better. It can also help us become more compassionate.
Choose one now and give it a try. Over the next couple of weeks test out more and see which ones work best for you. Once you’ve practiced them you’ll have them at your disposal when needed.
Brick by Brick
A soul journey. Building a life