5 Life-Changing Journaling Exercises I Learned from Liz Gilbert
"Think about the three things that made you who you are. Nobody says they came from "success" and "happiness". The things that make us come from pain and failure."
When my friend (the brilliant author, Cait Flanders) invited me to join her at Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic workshop, I was awestruck.
Elizabeth Gilbert, the woman who nursed me through my first heartbreak with Eat Pray Love, and then taught me how to turn my pain into creativity with Big Magic.
It was everything I'd hoped for and then some.
The structure was based on her incredible book, Big Magic, which focuses on how to live a more creative life, despite your fears or self-limiting beliefs.
The book, and workshop itself, is built from six pillars: Courage. Enchantment. Permission. Persistence. Trust. Divinity.
As Elizabeth gave a 30-minute speech on each idea, we were instructed to write the following letters...
EXERCISE ONE: Write a letter from your fear
OPENING SENTENCE: Dear <Name>, I am your fear and this is what I want to say to you...
Note: This is powerful AF. We all wrote a letter from our fear, and were then asked to read them out. When asked if we related to someone else's letter, every single person in the room stood up. Our fears are, fundamentally, the same, and there's great comfort to be taken from that.
EXERCISE TWO: Write a letter from your enchantment
The idea here is to write a letter from your enchantment, to serve as a reminder of all the things you love doing, but don't do enough of. Think about your favourite places or people to see. Write about what enhances and what kills your enchantment. I guarantee you'll surprise yourself.
OPENING SENTENCE: Dear <Name>, I am your enchantment, and this is what I want to tell you...
EXERCISE THREE: Write yourself some permission slips
The idea here is to start giving yourself permission for the things that usually haunt or trouble you. Think back to what you have written in your last two letters. Think of the person whose permission you've most sought in your life. Perhaps it's a parent or a figure of authority. And then write out your permission slips, one by one, from that person...
OPENING SENTENCE: Dear <Name>, I am the headteacher and this is your permission slip...
Note: As we read them out, Elizabeth Gilbert (!!!!) led the group to say "permission granted" at the end of each sentence. But then we were asked to make them more specific. Because the universe delights in specifics.
So when writing yours, make sure you write tangible, actionable things. Aka: I give you permission to not go to that girl's party. Or I give you permission to buy the tent for a trip you've always wanted to go on. You get the idea.
EXERCISE FOUR: WRITE A letter from your persistence
This one is my absolute favourite. We all know, rationally, what we have achieved and overcome. But to position it from your PERSISTENCE, as a way of reminding you exactly what you've endured and what your persistence has done for you, is a moving and powerful exercise I recommend doing regularly.
OPENING SENTENCE: Dear <Name>, I am your persistence and this is what I have done for you...
EXERCISE FIVE: WRITE A letter to fear, from your divinity
The final show. The grand finale. Here, your writing exercises go full circle and you're now invited to write a response to your first letter, the letter to your fear, from your divinity.
OPENING SENTENCES: Dear Fear, I am your divinity and it's all going to be alright...
So! There you have it! Elizabeth Gilbert created these exercises to be done on the regular. Your letters don't need to be well-written or even very long. But try it. See how it feels. It's already changed my life and surprised me in ways I never imagined.
I have a feeling it'll do the same for you.