A 4-Week Journaling Workshop: On Keeping a Notebook

“It was while writing a Diary that I discovered how to capture the living moments.” – Anais Nin

Now some years ago, I taught a series of journaling workshops at Covenant House, a youth shelter here in Toronto, and I loved it: writing and sharing stories, prompts, poetry, notebooks and paper, all of us sitting around a table scratching away. I had writing exercises and prompts, a tiny clock for time, freshly filled fountain pens and loved that there were youth who were sharing their stories through their writing and words.

Since then I wondered whether or not there would be interest in a workshop for the shop – we could all sometimes use a little inspiration to get us going, right? It never made it off the back burner – Naomi’s arrival, big moves and changes, collaborations that weren’t quite the right timing or fit. Now, however, with the launch of the studio shop, the stars have aligned, and the timing is perfect.*

Part of my love for journaling is that while I write the blog ostensibly to share with you all news and updates on the shop, I also write to remember and tell some of the stories from behind the shop, of Caleb, the cat, our journey, all of it. So much of that comes from the daily writing all of the tiny and small details of life, all the in-between. It’s writing down things to remember them and to sort through them in my mind and to find what’s important. As a bonus, I find the more I write in my journal, the easier words come in general – priming the pump and getting the ideas and words all floating around in there.

While of course it’s easy to take inspiration from (or be intimidated by) such giants who keep acerbic and insightful and beautiful journals and diaries, like Henry David Thoreau and Anais Nin and David Sedaris, still, it’s a practice that can help settle buzzing minds and set aside the tedium of the day and keep up a flow of new ideas for all of us. It’s about clearing out our minds and getting words on a page, and through that process, finding the things that resonant with us.

I’ve sort of slowly been gathering materials and ideas for exercises for a while – years! – and, now with the studio shop finally opening up, with an intimate space in the back just for workshops like these, I’m so thrilled (and a bit nervous) to schedule our first journaling workshop – a four week course where we’ll meet together once a week to write.

In case you need a little motivation, here are a few, among many, reasons we write in our journals:

To remember and tell our stories
To understand ourselves and our emotions
To sift through all of the hairy things that happen in a day
To dream or imagine the future
To make up funny things
To rant and rave at injustices, large and small
To enjoy the tactile feel of pen on paper
To disconnect from technology
To slow down
To clear our minds and focus
To find solutions or understanding to our problems
To figure out what our problems are
To look back on our past and see where we came from
To be more creative

“In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could do to any person; I create myself. The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood. It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent. Therefore (alas) it does not simply record my actual, daily life but rather — in many cases — offers an alternative to it.” – Susan Sontag

 

This workshop has two main goals.

The first goal is to help people build up a habit of consistent, daily writing. We’re going to be writing a lot during our workshops, but there will also be prompts and writing during the week – everyday, I’m hoping. The only way to really build up something as a habit is to do it consistently, and so I’m hoping that everyone who signs up is ready to commit to staking out time (around 20 minutes, if not more) every day for themselves. Of course if you miss a day or two, we’ll all understand that life happens (actually no one will even be checking), but with journaling, as with so much else in life, you get what you give.

The second aim is a bit bigger: to use writing as something more than just skimming the surface, to use our journals for more than just logging our days. I often hear from people that they’d like to journal more, but that they don’t know what to write, or that they’re finding themselves in a rut of not finding anything meaningful to say: …I got up early, I had oatmeal for breakfast, I said hello to Stacy at the water cooler, my cat is molting.

Together, we’ll go through all sorts of writing exercises and prompts that will help us find the tiny stories in our daily lives, thinking back to our childhoods, exploring the seasons of our lives, making connections between the things we see, noticing details around our world. I’m hoping these exercises will help enrich your daily journaling practice with new ways to write and come up with ideas, reveal new layers of ourselves and help us find our own stories to tell. These exercises will be fun and funny, along with thought-provoking and surprising, deeply personal as well as universal.

And perhaps one of the best part of this workshop is that we’ll be writing in a community, sitting with other journalers who are also exploring and taking risks and sharing stories, building up and supporting each other – which means that there will be some sharing. Of course you are free to pass if you’ve written something sensitive or that you’d rather not share, but part of this workshop will be accountability and support, sharing what we’ve written because what we write is important and personal, and learning from each other’s words.

 

We’re going to have two four week courses available:

Thursday evenings, from 6:30 – 9:00 pm: September 13, 20, 27 and October 4
Thursday mornings, from 10 am -12:30 pm: September 27, October 4, 11, 18

The four week class is $235. You can find the link to register here.

Because each class goes through new exercises and prompts I would encourage you to consider waiting to sign up until you can confirm your schedule for each class date. Unfortunately if you miss a date, there are no make up classes, as each class is small and intimate, with journalers getting to know and share with each other over the four weeks.

If you can’t make this round, we’re hoping to run more, if there’s interest. You can email orders@wonderpens.ca to get on a notification list for when a new workshop is posted, or on a wait list if either of the two classes get filled up.

All you’ll need to bring is a notebook and a pen. We’ll have some other supplies here for you to use as well, like highlighters or washi tape or markers, for certain exercises.

 

And that’s about it. I can’t wait! This has been a long time coming, and part of it feels right because as much as I love stationery (which is why and how I got into this business), even more resonant with me is this whole concept of writing with people and offering space and being part of guiding people in their journaling. I’m so excited to gather around in our new shop, writing and sharing stories, the sound of pens against paper.

This is sort of a new season of life for me as well – as our baby business starts to settle into its own, I’m now finally finding the time and space to grow these tiny seeds that have been buried for years. There’s something extraordinary about the idea sitting down with other journalers and writing into the evening – a step back from the busy-ness of our lives, joining with others to find new inspiration flowing, and it feels like the perfect way to break in our new space.

 

*Actually, of course the timing is never perfect, but it’s close enough.

10 Comments

  1. Teresa Elias

    This sounds amazing! I am very interested and would probably bring my adult daughter as well. The only sticky bit is that I live in Wasaga Beach, so I would require a weekend day class…..if this is ever an option, please let me know, and thank you!

    • wonderpens

      Will definitely keep this in mind as we consider scheduling future classes! I would love to have you both. Please stay tuned 🙂

  2. Gilles ST-JEAN

    Hi Elizabeth
    Too bad I’m in Montréal: I would have loved to attend and share my own experience. Daily journaling is already part of my life routine and I wouldn’t do without it. If you ever plan on organizing a week-end workshop…
    Have a great day.

    • wonderpens

      Hi Gilles – We would’ve loved to have you! I couldn’t agree more on how necessary I’ve found daily journaling to be. We will have to consider a two day workshop one day, and hope the timing works out for you. Thanks for writing!

  3. Judy

    Oh, how I wish I lived in Toronto so I could join this. I already write daily (in the mornings), but I think it would so interesting to write with others and to hear what they’re writing about or doing in their journals. I’m constantly looking for new writing prompts or other things that can spark my creativity. Anyway, good luck with this new venture!

    • wonderpens

      Yes, it would’ve been so great to have you join us! Perhaps one day things will work out for you to visit, maybe for a one day workshop. Thanks for the good luck, and wishing you lots of inspiration with your own writing.

  4. Tenisha

    This sounds lovely. I would really love to attend this workshop, but I’m going to be out of the country on these dates. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this space for future workshops!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *