#8 Journalers' Corner: MEN - Reclaim your place in the Journaling World!
Since MySingleSpace is dedicating this spring to issues related to men in the single world, I thought it would be a great time to use the Journalers’ Corner to address issues related to men and writing, specifically the issue of why so few men do write for themselves.In the nineteenth century or earlier, it was common for men to keep diaries and many famous journals were written by men like Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Wilhelm Nero Barbellion.In the twentieth century, men seem to have virtually disappeared from the personal writing field.While it is a great advancement in our culture that so many people know the diaries of Anne Frank, Anais Nin, Etty Hillesum, Natalie Goldberg and Burghild Nina Holzer, it is a loss that so few men figure prominently or personally in the world of journals.
When I went to the Journaling Conference in Denver in 2008, approximately 10% of the 350 enthusiastic participants were men, only a slightly lower percentage than that of men in the typical psychotherapy private practice.In Writing Cures, a book about the value of expressive writing by Stephen Lepore and Joshua Smyth, there is one reference to men in the index and it is listed as “Men, inhibition.”Many of the researchers in the field of expressive writing are men, but most of the subjects of their studies are women.The presumption is that introspection is now a feminine activity.In our culture, avenues for private self-reflection and expression are not valued for men, who are labeled as emotionally repressive or in need of a great deal of external structure.
I don’t think those presumptions hold, and the exceptions I have seen to the normative trend have been powerful.In the public realm, two men stand out in the 20th century, Carl Jung and Ira Progoff.Jung’s diaries, published as Memories, Dreams, Reflections, are amazing accounts of a lucid and loose internal world.Ira Progoff wrote one of the early books on the topic of journaling, At a Journal Workshop, which delineates a structured but depth analytic approach to personal writing.A recent book by Sherri Reiter, Writing Away the Demons, has chapters written by participants in a writing therapeutic workshop and many of those journalers are men.Their self-told stories of transformation are valuable inspiration for anyone new to journaling.
The few men I know who write for themselves report that they benefit greatly from the experience. I will admit that it is a small and inconsistent sample.I also know of a therapeutic writing group for male veterans who served in Iraq.There is no reason that men wouldn’t benefit from writing in the same ways as women, and maybe even more for the power of breaking through the cultural stereotype.Maybe men who journal can find an even fresher look at the world and their changing selves for lack of famous examples to follow.
In this Journalers’ Corner, I don’t have specific exercises for men.I can’t think of what that would look like.Men, just write.If you feel lost but would like to start a journal, just buy a notebook and write about what is in your head or even about why it is hard to write about what is in your head.If you are new to journaling, some of the classic books in the field are listed on MySingleSpace resources and there are several great websites about journaling, such as IAJW.org, the website of the International Association of Journal Writers.If you like writing with a keyboard, there is also software developed for journaling.And if you have specific questions, please feel free to contact me through the MySingleSpace website or through my website, WritingForEmotionalBalance.com.
If you have been writing, some of those websites have opportunities for communication with other journalers and it would be great to know you are out there.No one should be denied the benefits and even magic of the most accessible mode of personal expression on the basis of gender.