It was a pleasure to recently have my friend Mari McCarthy as a guest on my show. Mari is one of the most courageous people I know. Listen to our podcast
or read on below!
Debbie DiPietro: Welcome to Courageously Go, where we will venture to places we’ve been afraid to go. Women of the world, we are going to start a movement, a movement towards courage. I am Debbie DiPietro, the creator of my award-winning blog, The Warm Milk Journal, where the mission is this: to live the life of our dreams by day and sleep restfully at night. For so many years I was plagued with anxiety, social anxiety, and insomnia, and I started writing about it. And through my writing and blogging and reaching out to other people, I found healing and a better night’s sleep.
And as an extension of The Warm Milk Journal, I now have this new podcast, Courageously Go. My goal with this show is to facilitate a global conversation about courage. I believe that when we live from our hearts by choosing courage, the life of our dreams and a better world for all are possible. No matter our age or circumstances, we never need to feel stuck or alone.
And so, welcome.
I have a guest that I’m very excited to introduce you to today. Her name is Mari McCarthy. She is the Founder and Chief Inspiration Officer of the Journaling Power Community at createwritenow.com, where she provides ideas, inspirations and many therapeutic journaling resources for health conscious people who want to resolve the issues in their tissues. She is the author of the bestselling self-help memoir, Journaling Power: How to Create the Happy, Healthy Life You Want to Live. Mari McCarthy, welcome to Courageously Go.
Mari McCarthy: Thank you, Debbie, finally nice to meet ya.
Debbie DiPietro: I know, and we’ve actually kind of known each other for a number of years really. It’s just the amazing thing about today’s technology and social media. I want to say we first befriended each other way back, ten years ago, or however long it’s been, was it on Twitter perhaps? I think it started off on Twitter, didn’t it?
Mari McCarthy: Yes, I think it was in the very, very early days of Twitter, when we had no idea what Twitter was all about or social media or anything like that. Yeah, so we’re long timers, Debbie.
Debbie DiPietro: We are long timers and cutting edge at that. I mean, I think we found each other, not just through Twitter, Marie, but through the hashtag journaling … you know, journal, because we both have that in common, don’t we? Journal writing and finding healing through writing, which I know that is what you’ve dedicated much of your work to do and I have done for many years on my Warm Milk Journal blog. So, here we are, and I just have so many things to ask you about. I want to start off just wishing you a happy new year. What are you excited about, Mari McCarthy, for 2018, what’s going in your life right now that you’re excited about?
Mari McCarthy: I guess the first thing I’m excited about is that finally at my company Create Write Now we have a real live store, so I’m just really excited that I have an opportunity and a place for people to come and take a look at all the journaling guidebooks, courses that I have put together to help them access their courage as I’ve done for all the years … and it’s almost been 20 years that I’ve been journaling, so I’m excited about that.
I’m also excited about the fact that I’m working on a new album. One of the things that I’ve found through journaling was that I’ve always wanted to learn to sing, so I’ve been taking lessons for many years now and I’ve now combined my two loves of writing and singing and I’ve written my first song. So I’m working on that and that’s currently in production.
Also too, as far as this year, I’m really into sharing journaling with people. As I said in my book Journaling Power, journaling is the best, ultimate, self-therapeutic, self-healing tool. I just want to share it with the world so that everyone can reap the benefits of finding out who really lives in their body and then creating the happy, healthy life that they want to live from the inside out.
Debbie DiPietro: Well, you have many things to be excited about it sounds like, for 2018 and probably for many morenyears to come. It all just sounds great. Why don’t we take a step back and for our listeners out there who many not have heard of you or Create Write Now, and that is createwritenow.com, why don’t you explain to us what your business is? Let’s start there.
Mari McCarthy: OK, it is a center, if you will, a community for people to come, to learn about how journaling is a free therapeutic tool that can help you understand who you are, what you’re about, what your passions truly are and help you create the dreams, achieve the goals that you want to achieve. That’s something that’s very new and different, because I think a lot of people think that journaling is about … It is stress relief, it is data dumping, it is all those wonderful things. But it’s truly a tool, a friend, a therapist, to help everyone to achieve and go forth and do what they want to do. So Create Write Now is a community, it’s an opportunity for people to share their resources.
One of the things that’s very popular on Create Write Now is we have blogs of other journalers, and they talk about their experiences with journaling, what they’ve been able to achieve in their life, how it’s helped them with everything from alcoholism to anxiety, depression, all the challenges that we live in life. So that’s my intent in creating Create Write Now was to really have a center, a community, for people to come to learn more and more about how putting pen to page every day, also known as journaling, can really revolutionize their life.
Debbie DiPietro: I think it’s tremendous the work you’re doing, Mari, and the community you’ve been building there for quite some time. As you know, I’m definitely, I’m a believer. I’ve really been a lifelong writer and journal writer like yourself, and we’ll get into your story in a moment. I feel like I definitely have found my voice through journal writing and blogging and, of course, you’re familiar with the Warm Milk Journal, a lot of my blog posts are actually journal writing. I was kind of sharing with the world my journal entries. I found my voice, I found my confidence, I found my direction in life and regained my health all really primarily through journal writing. And so I am one of your biggest fans, as you know, and you will always have my support and I just think it’s tremendously wonderful what you are doing.
Mari McCarthy: Thank you
Debbie DiPietro: You’re welcome. With that being said, I want to hear a little more … I think our listeners … if you wouldn’t mind opening up and sharing with us your story, and you describe it so well in your book. I love your book, Journaling Power. Because you had a very personal health crisis, didn’t you? Maybe you can … I think that would be a very powerful story, if you don’t mind sharing it with us, because that lead to … I’ll just let you explain it. Why don’t you share your story?
Mari McCarthy: OK, that’s great. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, known as MS, about 27 years ago. And I had, I guess about 20-some years ago, I had an episode where I lost all feeling on the right side of my body. It was really an interesting challenge. Most of my episodes, if you will, with MS, normally were…lasted a couple of weeks, but I just had this feeling that this was going to be a long-term challenge, so I needed a way to teach myself how to write with my left hand.
I was introduced to a book by a lady by the name of Julia Cameron, and in that she has what she calls morning pages, and every day, first thing, you sit down and pen to page you write three stream of consciousness, whatever. It’s a data dump, and I thought “okay, this is a good procedure. At that point I was a business woman, I owned a management consulting firm and I was traveling all the time and doing work with business-to-business and I had to have a procedure and this sounded like a very good procedure to go.
So, I started doing that and then within a very short time I started hearing rhymes and I started writing poetry and I started remembering all kinds of things from my childhood. It was really interesting, I was … I mean, I knew I had a childhood but as far as memories or anything on an emotional level, there was not a whole lot of that to be had. So I was like “Boy, these morning pages.” I really thought “Oh my goodness, all this is coming up by just putting a pen to the page.” So I just kept going, and going, and going.
One of the things that was so fascinating to me was I became left-handed in very short order, because one of the things that came up through my morning pages was that I always was left-handed. But, of course, being a good little Catholic girl, the nuns didn’t want me to be writing with my left hand, since it’s the Devil’s work and all that, the things that the Catholic Church espoused. So that was like “Oh my gosh, this is almost miraculous.” Just by several weeks of putting a pen to the page and coming up with, “Oh my goodness” …
Another thing that came up was my love for singing and I thought “Wow.” Of course I’ve always loved music, I’ve always wanted to perform, I always wanted to sing and then two … probably a couple months later in the local paper there was an advertisement, a story about a local music school that catered to children of all ages, and I signed up and I started taking singing lessons.
I mean, it’s a fascinating thing … Isn’t interesting how I lost, the challenge on the right side of my body, I got into journaling … And again, in very short order I thought “Oh my goodness, I need to share this with the world.” I’m just really excited about it. I think that when people talk about journaling, it’s just like “OK, well, did you journal about it?” That type of thing. I eat, sleep and drink journaling, because I just know that I just feel and can attest to all the results and changes in myself. That’s my story in 25 words or more.
Debbie DiPietro: I just have to say this. I knew that there was something I liked about you. Well I know there are lots of things I like about you, but I’m left-handed as well. So I just thought I’d put that out there that, yay, that you’re left-handed. All right.
You know, you mentioned morning pages, what is that exactly? So, that’s just a part of your routine every morning? What does that mean to you, morning pages?
Mari McCarthy: The first thing … To get the maximum out of them is that, as soon after awakening as you can, it’s best to get to the page. Well I changed that a little bit, I moved that a little further back, after I’ve showered. I do my morning pages before breakfast. But, the importance is to get into a routine and doing it as early in the morning as possible, after you’ve come out of the … Our brain wants to … When the sun comes up our brain wants to turns on. The thing is, that’s why it’s so important to get to the page as soon as possible, and just dump all this out and get back into managing our brain and to say “OK, let’s settle down, let’s get focused, let’s get back to the center,” and it’s really a fantastic centering mechanism.
Rather than, as we’re so prone to do, get away from ourselves first thing in the morning “Oh, we gotta do this” … get into the whole routine of living. The best thing to do is just to … And with time, it’s just a self-discipline thing, Debbie. You just sit down, and it’s like “Oh, I don’t really feel like doing” … you just need to tune into your heart and say “I need to do … this is for me, and this is for self-care”.
The thing is, once you get down there, and you put the pen to page, you just go off and then you’ll come up with ideas or things will come in from left field or memories or whatever, so it’s just something that … there’s no right way or wrong way of doing it. Julia recommends three pages of doing it every day. I’m now at the point, I’ve gone through different phases. For a while there I was doing them one page left-handed, one page right-handed, and that’s how I’ve been able to get the function back on the right side of my body and my hand. In addition to being the psychological and spiritual, it is also definitely the physical therapy aspect.
So morning pages, I guess the bottom line is, it’s just a routine, a self-care routine that you do. Again, to get the maximum benefits out of it, first thing in the morning, as close to waking up time as you can. As I tell all of my clients and people, that there’s only one right way to journal, and it’s your way. One of my clients came back and said “Listen, well, I’m a real slow writer and I write small and what works for me is doing one page”. “Fine” I said, “the key is to do it consistently for yourself every day”.
Debbie DiPietro: All right, well that’s good advice, and it’s easy to get started, it’s not something we have to go out and spend a lot of money on. Most of us have a … Do you recommend actual hand writing, or is it OK to do it digitally or what would you suggest? Paper versus digital?
Mari McCarthy: Pen to page every day. That’s all.
Debbie DiPietro: I want to follow up with you, because I think a lot of people might be interested. That really was a health crisis, having that diagnosis. How is your health, if you don’t mind me asking, presently, and how has your general writing helped you?
Mari McCarthy: I’m very healthy, I sleep well at night, I can drive a car. I still use a walker but I’m working on … I’d say I’m about 75% functional on the right side of my body. I still have a lot of work to do, but I feel physically, I feel that I’ve made huge strides. As you know, I have not taken any prescription drugs for almost 15 years now, and I’ve taken no over-the-counter drugs for almost 10 years now. It’s just, I’ve made major lifestyle changes with my diet and things like that.
I find too, that the journaling, coupled with the changes I’ve made in my life, has made me healthier and happier. I look at the fact that, I mean as far as going to the doctor, the only time I’ve needed to go to the doctor was a year and a half ago when I tripped and I broke a couple of bones in my foot. Other than that, I’ve not spent one dollar on medical or doctors or things like that. So to answer your question, I’m doing great and I think that’s one of the exciting things about journaling is to realize that … I feel like I’m back in my body, we’re so … living out of heads, worry and processing and over-analyzing and all that. Thanks to journaling I’m back in my body.
I realize too that certainly you need medical help for certain situations and drugs and all of that type of thing, but there are so many things that we can do for ourselves, just by taking ownership of our body. I’m on a first name basis with my body. I think, because of the way we were brought up in the historical established medical profession, it was all like “The doctors have all the answers.” We know our bodies best and we need to use the healthcare and medical profession as a partner in helping our … further, our health and well being.
Debbie DiPietro: I think it takes a lot of courage, whenever we have a challenge, whether it’s physical, emotional or mental, and it sounds like some years ago you figured out what works for you and now you’re inspiring others to do the same. Let’s talk a little bit about … Now we know, because of your journal writing, and how did you say, you have a …you’re at home in your body? What about, and this is something that, as you know, I have been challenged with, with anxiety and an overactive mind and the self-critic and just overthinking things and egos. How do we manage those things, that may not be visible, but we’re feeling them and thinking them?
Mari McCarthy: My recommendation is to journal with them. I believe, based on my experience, that having … that compassionately confronting our ego, by compassionately confronting our inner critics, our … whatever, or as I call them, the issues in our tissues, I find that journaling is more than just sitting down and putting the pen to the page. I mean, it is certainly that, but we can really use our journal to have discussions with our inner critic, to have our conversations with our … what I would call our goonies and gremlins, whatever is going on inside. Because all it is, Debbie as you know, is just stuff that we, as children, sucked in all this stuff, and it’s just so … We’ve just really done that to ourselves.
It’s just really a question of evolving, changing our behavior from self-sabotage, which we’re so used to doing, and processing and analyzing and all that type of stuff, to getting back to our true self, our child, our talents, all those types of things. I have found that the journaling has wonderful use. It can be your therapist, you can do the data dumping, but then it helps me and us understand that we’re in charge. It’s not the past, it’s not them out there, it’s like “Wait a minute, we’re in charge.”
I think it gets to the point, with a lot of journaling … like I say, I have almost 20 years of experience with it. When there are things I’m noodling around in my head or I find that something is really bugging me, I sit down and I have a discussion with my inner critic. I really feel like I’m using my inner critic, how he was designed. I’m using … seeing him as a resource. I think it’s just like any type of relationship, a marriage, a friendship, a business relationship or whatever, it involves a lot of work. To me, I think that’s one of the things about journaling, I found that you can go into … you can use journaling for all kinds of things.
Interesting, that’s the subject of my next book is called Heal Yourself: How Journaling Power Gets and Keeps You Healthy, and I’m going to be using a lot of stories of people that have used journaling to help them with their challenge and just use their journal. That’s the key thing. I think that’s what people may not know about, is that you can really use your journal to help you get the behavior change and get you out of your head, living back in your body.
Debbie DiPietro: Exactly, it’s a very powerful thing, putting pen to paper, and exactly what you … I think that too, just getting it out of our heads. Mari, I knew this was going to go by quick. I’ve been told we maybe one minute left, let’s make sure that people know about how … We know that they can visit you on createwritenow.com, how can they get a copy of your book Journaling Power?
Mari McCarthy: It is available up on Amazon, and it comes in a paperback as well as a Kindle version. It is a self-help memoir, so it’s not only my story, but it gives people journaling prompts and everything that they need to set up and maintain their own life-changing journaling practice.
Debbie DiPietro: Right, and I’ve had the book for a while now and I highly recommend it. When I post a blog post on courageouslygo.com I will definitely share a link so they can purchase your book. I’m sorry we’re out of time, it’s been just such a pleasure talking with you and knowing you all of these years and thank you for being a guest on Courageously Go today.
Mari McCarthy: Thank you very much Debbie, and congratulations on Courageously Go, I think it’s awesome. You go girl!
Debbie DiPietro: Oh yes, thank you, I’m so excited. So ladies, until next time, remember this: It’s our time to shine. Let’s make it so, and courageously go.
Here is Mari’s book!