Overcoming the Top Two Fears of Every Journal Keeper (and Writer)

by Dawn Paoletta

June 2017

The page and you have something in common.

You both start naked.

The stark blank page will soon be filled with a multitude of words. Or, perhaps, doodles depending on how you are feeling. You approach the page with a raw, vulnerable, naked mind but something gets between your naked mind and the pasty white page. Call it whatever you will, but the dance has begun and intimacy in your writing life is dependent on your ability to push through two fears:

1. The Blank Page

2. The Risk of Exposure

There are a lot of things I could say about how you approach the first page of a new journal and it would also be the same as approaching the blank page daily. Most people would agree that every child is unique and for what I am about to say there will be exceptions. I have volunteered and worked with children for many years, and I think they can teach us a lot about this topic of approaching the blank page. When I hand out blank white paper to my Sunday School kiddos, I notice a couple of things. They are not afraid of making the first mark and they are equally at ease in starting the process again and again. They exhibit freedom and fearlessness in approaching the paper. Granted, they are not exposing much more than scribbles and scrawls in their elementary expressions, still, I believe there might be wisdom we can apply to our own journaling and writing endeavors.

Think back to your own experiences with children OR go back to your own childhood. I can still remember happily coloring in the lines and being proud of it – a daring artist I was not! I can also remember watching someone else color and how it stole my coloring book happiness and Crayola joy right out from under me. Why? Well, after I saw the exacting way my fellow crayon lover meticulously outlined and colored the pictures in the coloring book, I became obsessed with trying to color the same way she did. Ugh! Why do we only see stupidity in hindsight? If I could go back in time I would affirm my younger self that coloring for the joy of coloring is enough, and no one owns the patent on coloring book style. Or maybe I would just break Little Miss Perfect Coloring Girl’s crayons with glee. OK…no, just no. Sorry.

Freedom. Whether it is coloring or writing or anything else- there is freedom in expressing yourself your unique way. Never mind comparing yourself to others. Your own journey IS important. There are enough joy thieves in the world…don’t rob yourself of  joy and satisfaction by needing to do it someone else’s way. Your own uniqueness will  develop as you allow yourself the freedom to scribble and scrawl across the blank page just as you are.

After we overcome the fear of the blank page, the next obstacle will be addressing fear of being found out. As in exposed. My friend and fellow Journal Keeper Stacy shared her experience and every journal keeper’s worst nightmare with us a while back. We all have to deal with the questions of privacy…and let’s face it unless you hide yourself completely in fictitious writing there is a level of risk.

I have to be honest, I live on the edge. This may not be right or comfortable for everyone but with 180 journals in our home I live with the risk of my family peeking in the journals. My journals cover a span of life that starts at about 17 and goes to present day. I am certainly not proud of everything in these journals. I have considered a journal burning party for some of the less than edifying journals. BUT the reason I have not done this yet is the very fact they reveal a valuable journey. One I will not deny, or obscure. One that confirms to me a certain transformation, and reminds me who I am apart from a Savior. If I forget, there are pages of  my unredeemed self bared on blank pages. Exposed, if you will. In three of the four Gospels (and my favorite sobering Book of the Bible, Ecclesiastes)  it states that it all will come out in the wash. Whatever I’m hiding now will be exposed anyway. I’m trusting God for all. Life is a risk. We all have to come to a place of peace with the privacy issue. Wisdom and discernment is needed. So is grace. Especially if one desires to be whole. Wholeness cannot be attained by burying, disguising, oppressing truth. We have to bring it to the light and deal with it. We are all in various states of becoming…and being transformed.

Will you risk your very essence, remaining tight in the bud of safety at the cost of obscurity.

The fact, is we are exposed throughout a myriad of choices, activities and conversations daily. Really, there is no hiding. The challenge presented in Anaïs Nin’s quote confronts each one of us daily as we approach the journal.

 “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”

The question we face every time we write in our journal is the same whether writing privately or publicly.  Will we risk exposing ourselves? How far will we go and where is the balance? What  is the potential cost to ourselves, others?

Fearlessness. Maybe it comes with age, maybe it comes with knowing grace. Maybe it never comes completely at all. Aim for it anyway. Courage comes in the practice. If you cannot overcome your fear of being found out, you will be inhibited in your ability to be authentic. That is my thought anyway.

What do you think?

For your Journal:

So, journal keeping friend, how close do you live to the edge of exposure? How are you approaching the blank page? What can you do to encourage your own peace of mind with regard to honest expression in your journal pages and the risk of being found out? I mentioned some Bible verses which I linked ( Luke 8:17; 12:2, Matthew 10:26, Mark 4:22, Ecclesiastes 12:14); How could these verses influence or impact how you approach your own journaling?

Reflect, and respond to any of my post in your journal (as you wish!).

Additionally, I would love to share your thoughts or comments on approaching the Blank Page, and dealing with the fear of exposure.


Dawn Paoletta is a life enthusiast who loves to juggle words, chug coffee, and journal excessively. You can find her gathering stones on the beach most mornings. She enjoys hanging out with her hubby, daughter and family pets close to home in the smallest state in the US: Rhode Island. She blogs and shares her passion, poetry and prose at Enthusiastically Dawn.

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