Journaling can give us back to ourselves
When Bob Hawke passed away last week, a journo friend shared his experience of the former Australian Prime Minister. Russell and I worked together at Nine Sydney and as well as being a skilled news reporter, he’s a master of the self-deprecating story…
‘As a cadet reporter, I was sent to a news conference at Trades Hall in Perth where Hawkie, then ACTU boss, was talking about the Nookenbah dispute. It was the biggest news conference I’d ever been to.
The room was packed and Hawke was at his irascible best. Until I worked up the courage to ask him what I thought was an important question and he spat it. Fixing me with a withering stare, Hawke snapped ‘You’d have to be bloody naive to ask a question like that.’ The room was still. I was humiliated and wanted to disappear.
For years later, mates would remind me of it with relish. Then, one day, another journo who’d been there said to me, ‘You know why Hawkie turned feral on you, don’t you? That was a great question and he decided to play the man.’ I’m not sure if that was true but it was a sobering lesson for a fledgeling reporter.’
‘Just because a public figure attacks your credibility doesn’t mean your question was wrong or ill-informed.’
But oh boy, it’s hard developing the thick skin needed to ask those questions and keep asking until your subject answers them.
In my time as a reporter, I went to a few news conferences. For me, the most intimidating thing was the other news reporters – I remember being far more nervous about what they’d think of any question I asked than what the person being interviewed might have thought.
I’m pretty sure it matters to most people what others think – even to Bob Hawke who is revered for being so open and genuine in his public life. I guess the trick is to not let the fear of being judged stop us from doing what we truly believe in.
We can do that if we have our eyes on a goal and a future bigger than the fear we’re feeling in the moment.
I guess that’s what Bob Hawke did, and Russell too – focused on something bigger than moments of discomfort in pursuit of their ambitions.
Russell was a reporter for several decades, one of the best in the business working for what was then Australia’s top news service and covering some of the biggest stories in Australian history. And we know what Bob achieved.
I gave up on my own reporting career when I found I much preferred being the producer in charge behind the camera. No more scary news conferences for me!
But I can and do muster up the grit needed to push through resistance when I know what my end goal is. I did it on Sunday in Perth’s HBF Run for a Reason.
My old story was that I was not a runner, not athletic, not sporty.
But my new story is that I aspire to be fit and healthy so I signed up for a 12-kilometre fun run without giving myself time to back out. On Sunday I alternated between running and walking but I finished the course and what’s more, I enjoyed it.
I put it all down to keeping a journal.
I say journal not diary because for me a diary is more a recount without analysis and a journal is for deeper, if more random, writing.
As a teenager, I kept a diary – what happened, who said what and how I felt about it. Plus the many teenage crushes of course. I didn’t keep the schoolgirl diaries but I’ve still got the ones I’ve written since I was in my twenties. I can lose hours when I open them up as I’m transported back to the days of starting in TV, getting married, becoming a mum, living in Indonesia. I’d hate to lose them.
But it wasn’t until I started to keep a journal as well, that I really understood and started to benefit from writing to myself.
My journal is where I make the space to listen to a voice that’s deep inside me but usually drowned out by daily life.
It’s the voice that gives form to my innermost hopes and dreams, my wonderings, ideas and the flights of fancy that need space and quiet.
Writing organizes and clarifies our thoughts. Writing is how we think our way into a subject and make it our own. William Zinsser
Journaling can give us back to ourselves
When we take the time to listen to our self, we can come back to the person we are inside, and not just the person who we have to be for others – employee, employer, parent, partner.
We can get back to the person we once were, as well as the person we long to become.
Remember when you’d just left school and ‘real life’ was about to start? When the future was wide open with possibilities? That boundless future can seem to narrow as we become focused on our chosen paths and others fade into the past.
Journaling can help us to see that wide open road again.
It can also show us where we’re putting up resistance because we fear those moments of discomfort. Journaling can help us focus instead on the ambitions that are just beyond the discomfort. Like Hawkie, and Russell, and me last Sunday when I felt like I couldn’t manage another step but there were still several kilometres to go!
How to journal?
It doesn’t matter.
Long flowing sentences. Dot points. Single words.
It’s all valuable.
Only three things matter.
- Removing yourself from interruptions for ten minutes or more.
- Listening and writing without judgement.
- Reading back over your writing on a regular basis.
Capturing your deeper thoughts and feelings will help to reveal what motivates you, inspires you and even what scares you because becoming aware of your resistance to something will help you to challenge and change it. And that’s when big things can happen.
It got me running – and that’s big for me. Not sure what’s next but I’ll let you know when it comes along.
In the meantime, this quote from my favourite meditation app, Calm is quite fitting.