times, scribes were devotees of the Word. They were the
bridges between worlds, charged with the sacred task of
painstakingly transcribing the Mysteries into a form
that could be referenced by holy men and women. Many
centuries later, our modern journals give us unlimited
access to the Mysteries of our souls. Through this
column, I hope to offer ways that we can approach our
own lives with the love and devotion of the scribes of
Rituals for Soulful Writing
What are the personal rituals associated with soulful
writing? I posed that question to my on-line writing
community, Spiral Journey, where 35 women and 2 men
gather on an e-mail listserv to write about anything and
everything. (We take our name from Eudora Welty’s
comment in One Writer’s Beginnings: "It is
our inward journey that leads us through time -- forward
or back, seldom in a straight line, most often
spiraling.") Some of their responses follow.
Paula is a writer, photographer and artist who works
evening shift as a word processor for a large law firm.
She has been married to her best friend for 22 years.
Until recently, my ritual was to write in
community. Six years ago I began writing once a week
with a writing partner. We met once a week for two or
three years, and my writing, and hers, took huge leaps.
We went everywhere together in our writing - me going
deep into the stories of my youth, and she going deeper
into incredible fictional short stories. After a couple
of years of this, others began to join us now and then,
and our group expanded to 3, 4, sometimes up to 6 women,
all meeting together at various coffee shops around town
or at each others' homes. We formed a sub-group to meet
monthly to work on fiction. But what I really loved was
our weekly freewriting sessions.
I loved this more than almost anything I've ever
done. The writing. The women. The sharing. The
closeness. The kinship. But then my writing partner's
marriage began to fall apart, and she along with it. And
one of our dear members moved away. And another woman
decided she needed to be alone to write, and several of
the others decided they needed to have real day-time
jobs, and everything fell apart. At the same time I
began to study Spanish, and had to drop out of a
different weekly writing group I had been in for five
years. I miss these communities and our writing times
together so much. I hadn't realized how much my days and
my contentment with life was tied in with those women,
and our writing together. They were my writing rituals.
Without them I feel incomplete.
Fran is the newspaper advisor for a private high school
in southern California and has worked as a publicist,
college administrator, and journalist. For nearly 20
years she has taught the Progoff method of
journalkeeping and also teaches her own methods of
I am really into power of place. What I've found is
that I have several writing areas in my house and I seem
to be drawn to different ones at different times. My
favorite place when the weather is good is my wild
garden/patio--though I even have two different locations
within the garden. Inside the house I have two areas in
my bedroom that I write, both in window areas. Sometimes
I use the computer in my home office and I have a chair
in my office window that has a great view of the ocean.
I often sit there for sunset writing. I carry a notebook
in the car and often find myself stopping for a few
paragraphs in different locations I find inspiring.
Gina is a journalkeeper from British Columbia, Canada. She is
the owner of the "Journals and You" e-mail
list at Topica, which has over 200 members. She is
active in her community and recently completed a term as
President of the Hospital Auxiliary.
Most of the time I journal with music playing.
I write outside as much as I can but when that's not
practical I almost always have the window open enough to
smell the air and the wind and the rain.
Most of the time I journal at night - I don't think
of this as a ritual so much as a habit.
Cheryl lives in a co-housing community and works as a
psychotherapist for very young children and their
families. She is deeply immersed in Celtic, Irish and
Toltec wisdom paths. Last year, with the assistance of
another woman in her community, she built an outdoor
labyrinth. She came to journal writing in midlife and
has used writing to heal herself of many emotional
I write early in the morning, immediately upon
rising. In the summer, the sun wakes me and I go to my
computer with a smile. I love to write. It is a pleasure
to wake up and write. In the winter, I set the alarm for
4 AM, and wake. Same smile as I head for my computer.
Nothing else in the past four decades of my life has
given me reason to wake with pleasure at 4 AM in the
I have an oil lamp on a shelf over my computer.
Before I start to write — soulful writing, intentional
writing — I light the candle. When the writing is
done, I extinguish the candle. I also have a color photo
of our labyrinth next to the candle, a photo taken by a
fellow writer, a woman with an eye for composition and
depth. This photo captures the aspect of our labyrinth
which draws me to it for contemplation and for peace:
the Ancestor Tree and the surrounding landscape, table
mesas and blue sky. The candle and the photo remind me
that writing is a sacred act, a creative act, a gift
offered to me in grace, and received in love.
Amy is a poet, journalkeeper, artist, and
librarian, who offers art/writing groups to children
from 6-12 and storytime groups to toddlers. She makes
her own collage journal covers. She has written journals
with her two daughters, ages 7 and 10, since they were
old enough to hold crayons. Amy is completing training
as a Certified Poetry Therapist. Her other passion is
My ritual for writing in my journal is to light a
candle, breathe, and breathe some more, and center
myself in the candle's flame. I have a small storyteller
doll that sits next to the candle, and looks at me with
eyes full of love. She has been to many writing
workshops with me, and gathered stories from the ones
spoken into those creative circles. I am sure that those
stories sing silently to me as I put pen to paper. I
begin each new volume of my journal with a letter
addressed to the journal, telling it how much it has
meant to me, what a huge part it has played in my life,
and how I am looking forward to the places we will
continue to go together. I end each volume with a letter
of gratitude for the opportunity to use my journal as a
vessel into which I pour all that needs to be said.
Catherine DeCuir is the journal guide for
About.com. She is a novelist, columnist, avid
journalkeeper, wife of a publisher and mother of teenage
Journal writing: Lately I've been writing in my older
(home-from-college) son's room while he and my younger
son play Nintendo or watch Star Trek (two things they
like to do together). Sometimes I sketch them or faces
from the movie posters on his walls. His room is quite a
relaxing and pleasant place. When we moved in, it had
been a girl's room and had pink flowered wallpaper, so
we told him to cover the walls any way he wanted. They
still change often, and are always interesting.
"Kind of like a journal, Mom," he says. This
has become a running joke in our house: I'm always
looking for little paper or flat stuff to include in my
journals. The other day I caught myself thinking about
gluing little globs of dryer lint to a piece of
cardboard. So the varying colors (now purplish darkload,
now dove-gray lightload) would show the different days!
Fiction: To work on a new chapter (or short story,
though I haven't done that in a while), I have to have
about a page of narrative or ideas handwritten on a
piece of notebook paper. Only then can I open a Word
document on the computer and write the rest. I have to
have near-silence (no music, even) and usually I've
reread the last few chapters before I start.
Non-fiction: The radio must be on. Usually it's news
or talk radio. I always have a SimpleText and/or html
document with a few links or ideas. I have a mug of
coffee or herb tea. I have the cat on my lap. I read
about half my email, and I start.
One of my college writing teachers said not to let a
lot of "superstitions" creep into your
writing: "If you can't write unless you have a red
typewriter ribbon [that's how long ago this was], you're
guaranteeing yourself that there will be days you can't
But I think my rituals are easy enough to recreate.
Valorie is living alone after recently
separating from her husband. She had been concerned that
she had lost her ability to write with depth. "I
miss writing passionately, writing thoughtfully, writing
while crying or laughing or pondering. I miss writing
the deep truths of my life. I miss the thrill of
discovery, and the satisfaction of expressing every
contradictory and nonsensical thought and emotion I
possess," Valorie wrote. "I think I miss
writing more than I miss my husband or my house."
Then she examined the rituals she associates with
I hadn't realized until last night just how powerful
it was to have a ritual. I was able to write as I
haven't felt free to write since before I moved into the
new apartment, and I followed this ritual in my former
A slow jazz or blues song or album playing in the
background, the song "Take Me Home" is
perfect, a mournful celebration of home, of never going
back and of finding it within ourselves. Candles lit,
two or four, on either side of the computer. Balance is
The postcards in a group, inspiring and
comforting...a self-portrait in green by Van Gogh,
Leighton's Flaming June, Susan Seddon Boulet's Phoenix,
Van Gogh's Olive Trees, Monet's Waterlilies, Boulet's
Psyche, Michael Parkes' Danae. Setting them all out last
night was like being greeted by old friends, and I don't
think they'll disappear again. Change, perhaps, but
writing in a clean, sterile place produces clean,
No one is home but my baby dog and myself, and it is
dark outside. I sit at the computer with a notebook
first, writing by hand a selection of twenty or thirty
delicious words. Echo, tattered, phantom, solemn, chaos,
fae, flare, ashes, peregrine, pepper, periwinkle,
belladonna, twitter, sea, viper, cobalt, subtle. Then I
can either do some deepcell journal writing, wordplays,
answer prompts, think on paper, or just...play.
Yum. A glass of wine and some cheese and crackers
goes nicely with these words, but isn't necessary.
Shay is retired and writes columns and essays for
her community newspaper as well as for publications
aimed at senior citizens.
I journal in the morning on a regular basis. Often I
go back later to add or describe the day’s events and
feelings. First I like to sit and stare at my water
garden. That's what I call it but it’s really just a
bowl full of rocks with a bubbler in it. I like to
rearrange the rocks and feel the water. It focuses my
attention, and my busy mind likes the soothing
water-over-rocks sounds. Then I randomly choose three
tarot cards. Sometimes I ask a question but usually I
just have an open mind. I write a haiku from the three
cards and then write morning (three) pages as commentary
on the way the cards fit in my life at that moment.
Often dreams get into the morning writing and I have a
dream journal too. Always I have music. That is a random
choice too. I just reach into the CDs and pick one. It
is amazing how often the music, the cards, the whole
thing fits together into a ritual of setting up my
attention for the day. For the last week I have also
been writing a dialogue with my inner child. I have a
large sketch book and she, Spark, writes with the left
hand and I write with my right hand. She chooses a color
of sharpie and so do I. I bend the paper in half, lean
across to write the questions, Spark leans across to
write on the right side of the paper. It is very
interesting. A couple of times we have dialogued in the
dark with candle light. She likes candles. I am
consistent with morning pages. Only missed one day in
July. It is a meditation for starting the day.
Kathleen Adams. All Rights Reserved
Kathleen Adams LPC, RPT is a
Registered Poetry/Journal Therapist and Director of The
Center for Journal Therapy in Lakewood, Colorado. She is
one of the leading voices on the power of writing to
heal and is the author of four books, including Journal
to the Self and The Write Way to Wellness.
Her upcoming seminars include the annual 5-day women’s
writing retreat in Colorado July 8-13, and a one-day
Journal to the Self workshop in Denver in late July. She
would love your feedback on this column; please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
or stop by her website, www.journaltherapy.com.
Kathleen's Past "Scribing the Soul" Columns:
Baker’s Dozen Ways to Journal Your Dreams"
2001 "Journals to Go"
2001 "Healing Words, Healing Touch: Jihan's Letters"
2001 "Love Letters"
the Authentic Self"
2000 "Riding the Inky Wave"
2000 "The Good News"
2000 "Soul Food: Exploring Affirmations in
2000 "Diary of a Headache"
2000 "Making Up the Truth"
2000 "Pockets of Joy"
2000 "Five Ways to Scribe Your Intuition"
Kathleen's Feature Article on Dream Journals:
in the Dark: Cracking the Soul's Code Through Dream