Dipika Kohli, Director at Design Kompany, author, and thinker admonishes to embrace our mortality by being aware of how fragile life is and that one should decide what should be done with their finite days, and quickly. —TEDxRaleigh


It’s Khmer New Year, and I’m in Cambodia, and the feeling of visiting the top of the year all over again is so thick I had to reopen cojournaling. Something that’s been going already since January but which I think has started to become a real thing that’s yielding real insights for people, who have been generous in sharing their appreciation. Maybe I invited you to cojournal with me back in December, and maybe things were busy for you then, or you tried it and it didn’t seem like the right fit, or something else. But here’s a second chance.

Because Kismuth is nothing if it’s not about new beginnings. That’s where there’s hope, after all. And hope is the only thing that matters at the end of all of this, isn’t it?

So far

It’s awesome that you’ve been with me on this journey of writing about what’s really real, in our hearts, which of course includes the not-so-pretty from time to time. Still, the village is about sharing, I found out, when GJ left a deeply personal, hugely sensitive comment at Kismuth’s blog saying she felt she could tell her story here, I felt flattered. Honored. Floored. And I wanted to do something bigger than just tell my own stories, here.

After that comment, I wanted to create a semi-private space for us to share in our writing journeys, together. Small groups of four, in e-mail threads. Writing once a week on prompts I now send to a handful of people working on the cojournal project with me each Monday since mid-January. On our way.

The big idea is that over time, we are holding one another accountable and making sure we get to practice our writing, too. Writing from the heart, that is. Writing that’s… hey, I’ll just say it, pretty darn personal. First-person. About stuff that’s happened and feelings around those things. The shapes of our personalities, getting revealed to ourselves through our own writings and becoming the first wave of how we’re getting to know others in this forum, not meant for anything else but a shared journey of exploration. My work is to make spaces for conversations like these: who are we, what are we doing here, why does it matter, and how does it feel? I always wanted more of that since I left Governor’s School East, which is where at 16 for six weeks I got to be in just exactly these kinds of spaces. No grades. No judgments. Just good kids—we were just kids then—looking to connect. Looking for meaning.

My mother is a psychiatrist. She sends people on their way with prescriptions, meds, and these ideas that there’s something wrong with them. What I always felt was we could do what she does if we just had places to talk, together, about who we are, what we’ve experienced, and discover we’re not so very much alone. Why should big drug companies capitalize on our humanity, our natural lows, and the sensation that there might not be a way out… if we’re not able to talk, together, and share?

Empathy is the thing that I think a good healer would have to have.


And now, cojournaling…

It looked a lot different when it got built up the first time. This is where we are now:

ARE YOU A WRITER? Are you finding it hard to get any quality, focused writing done? Introducing COJOURNAL, a new guided ecourse.

New! A guided, group journaling project

Get accountability and structure to make it happen starting TODAY. The next edition of COJOURNAL will take place in 2015. But hurry if you want to join a new Khmer New Year edition, which just kicked off April 14.

FREE TRIAL OFFER. A free trial is available for two weeks. 

Take me there now.


What this is

COJOURNAL is designed for people who want to think deeply and look inward.

What I’m offering you

Cojournal: Write What You Know will show you:

  • How to begin the process of letting go of fixed ideas
  • How to get lost a little in the soup of creative play, exploration
  • Where to find clarity on 1-3 of your emerging themes
  • How to become more efficient in making time for creative work
  • How to gain confidence as you sift what matters from what doesn’t
  • How you can learn more about yourself than you imagined when prompted to think
  • How others doing the same in a small group of 4 with you will shed more insight on your work than your best friend, coworker, or spouse

All you’ll need is internet once a week, stuff to write with, readiness to commit to your own self-improvement, and a timer. The “jigsaw” teaching method puts you in a small group with three others, so as to build a space that’s collaborative and inspires personal sharing, too.

What makes Kismuth the right place for me to try this?

Helping you make space to think deeply, and discover the beauty within, is my most important work at Kismuth.

Are you a creative person feeling stuck? Making space for you to do your work, and hold you accountable along the way, is my most important work. I want to see your brilliance. More importantly, so does the world.

It’s taken me 20 years to understand that this is my calling, and now I want to share with you a new project designed to give you the tools to uncover your theme, your story, and your creative voice.

Here are a few highlights from my efforts to provoke people to look inward, and deeply:

  • As a writer-in-residence at Preetlarhi Magazine‘s grounds in Preetnagar, Punjab, I designed and built this course through email conversations and beta-testing.
  • I write monthly columns about parenting on the road in Asia for Seattle’s Northwest Asian Weekly, and Charlotte, NC-based Saathee Magazine.
  • I’ve spent the last 20 years with Akira, my partner in life and business, on compiling a toolkit of exercises, prompts, and checklists designed to help you look deeply, inward, and discover your own story. In design, we call this “the concept,” something I talk about a little in this video below.
  • At TEDx Raleigh I invited people to think with me on how “There’s Not That Much Time Left.”
  • NPR’s “The State of Things” host Frank Stasio interviewed me in Durham, NC, about my first book, a memoir called The Elopement. Feeling ready to talk about the process of writing it, I answered my own question, “How much is too much to trade for a promise of love?” You can hear the conversation here.

On this page you’ll find:

  • You’re not alone in wanting to create and feeling stuck on how
  • A group of fellow writers that gets you, and wants to see you realize your best work
  • What Ira Glass said about making art
  • A new structure to create your weekly writing space

Rain check?

COJOURNAL and other courses like it were born of an e-letter conversation series with people in various time zones who’ve been sharing thoughts with me through email about the Importance of Things. You can be part of that when you join me at Kismuth, here:


What’s next are the specifics of COJOURNAL: what it is, how it works, and why it matters.

Make the space

Lots of people will knock you for trying to write your personal story. Or tell you you have to be famous, or that you’ll have plenty of time later when you’re retired or on some summer vacation off to exotic locales with tons of time. The truth, though, that all these great writing advice tells us is it’s largely going to boil down to one thing. Practice. But who has time for that?

Heck, even you may be making excuses for not writing more. Yet, somehow, you know it matters to you. You wouldn’t be reading this if it didn’t.

“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”
― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

So the most important work that you can do as a writer is to get started NOW on writing regularly, even if it’s just going to be shared in a tiny group like the three others in your small group for this project. The more you practice, the better you’ll be, and the more we’ll all benefit from having a chance to have read and gotten to know your voice. Don’t leave it too late, if you want to share something of importance with your nearest, dearest, and even those whom you will never know. We hear all the time about those manuscripts rotting away in someone’s attic, or in a desk.

Don’t be one of those people.

Start today.

Write what you know.


But also, think about why you write.

Is it to gain recognition, fame and fortune?

If that’s your goal, please stop here. This isn’t the place for you.

COJOURNAL isn’t about how to get the book written. It’s about exploring deeply to discover the themes that matter most to you, something that comes from introspection and an outsider’s eye. Or, in this case, a couple of outsiders, four to be exact, in your small group.

It’s inspired by the Open University, Brene Brown’s TED talk about vulnerability, hours of experience facilitating groups, and a new idea: small groups for deep conversation. It’s a composite of zooming in and seeing distance in your own work, with the perspective and feedback along the way from three others also in the project, too. Not a class, but a flat hierarchy, one where voices are encouraged to ask, explore, and discover something new, and to share.

Finding patterns in the abstract is my particular, natural gift. It’s why concepting is the work I do best and why more than 500 people in Europe, Asia, and North America have hired me as a consultant to discover an identity.

Here’s a video where four clients talk about the value of doing that work:

Say Hello to Design Kompany (8 minutes) introduces how we approach creative projects at DK. COJOURNAL will help you dig deep to find the concept that is your own, personal theme.
Voice is a short video for Design Kompany on expression.


Is this for me?

YOU MIGHT BE one of those people who always wondered what would happen if you could have gotten more creative writing classes in, or hung out with more people around who cared about the same kinds of things. Or maybe you came to the scene later, discovering that you have a knack for writing in a creative way but not having much room to express that outside of office memos or the neighborhood newsletter.

Here’s a chance to express yourself in ways far more introspective: this is a place to go deep, and discover the meaning and themes that are of most importance to you, which you may not yet even be aware of. I come from a family of psychiatrists, so promoting you to do some deep exploration comes naturally to me.

Universal: the quest for meaning-making

I know this works because these are the same tools I’ve used for clients of mine at brand design studio Design Kompany when it comes to crafting a compelling, and truly unique, story. It has to come from within.

I’ve personally gone through twenty years of making up ways to tackle the challenge of overcoming self-inflicted resistance so I can help other people do the same. Namely, put together the stories that come from the most raw, most intense place. The heart.

You aren’t going to get grades. You’re not going to be put into a class, and no one will be judging you. There will be no trolls. There won’t be a lot of people who want you to “read what I wrote” and “give me an honest critique.” The writer who puts her heart into her work knows, already, what it’s worth. We know without being asked if we’ve given it our best. But the small stage, the one that is created here in the small journaling groups in simple, four-person email threads, that’s where we have a chance to test this work. Change it by sharing. The thing observed has a different makeup than the thing not observed, according to quantum physics.

This is me talking about fuzzy logic and quantum physics, and all that uncertainty stuff.

Bring it down from the closet or out of the drawer. We need other people to connect with. It’s human nature. Many of us try to make our spouses those people who not only help us when we’re feeling sad or need to talk about our last thing that got on our case at work or cook dinner or change the sheets to also be the person to sit down and listen to us recite from a short story. Their opinion makes or breaks our ideas, sometimes, because we hold them in this giant spotlight. But what if we could relieve our nearest and dearest of this terrific burden, the one that feels it has to say, “Sure, you know. That’s really great. That’s good. It really is. No, I’m not just saying that. Of course I think it can be published. Of course, love.”

These people aren’t the same as the ones you will meet through this project. COJOURNAL isn’t about competition, the race, winning, losing, or even about getting a book deal (though it might lead to that, if you’re looking). What counts is clarity. Clarity of intent. That’s what a painting professor once told me makes a piece “good.” If you know where you’re going with a thing before you start, you can really be sure that it’ll have a better quality in it. Themes that become clear to us help us make choices later about what we want to express of ourselves, and how to live our lives.

There’s more.

One day I was on Illustrator, and thought, a-ha! The magic happens in the invisible chords of the circle, the conversations across place and culture, where we share, and connect. I'll cojournal!!

One day I was on Illustrator, and thought, a-ha! The magic happens in the invisible chords of the circle, the conversations across place and culture, where we share, and connect. I’ll cojournal!!

Writing for people is different from writing for yourself. And when you reach a certain point in writing for your own journals you realize that it’s not that important in the long run if you have all those piles of things if no one is going to ever respond to them. You might get to the point that I did and burn stuff. In a can in Ireland, I remember, burning away the last of the old bits from high school: crushes, love stories I’d invented, the things that I had hoped could change but didn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t. The learning to let go was part of the growing up, but so was the beginning of sharing. I had a writing circle. Every Friday night in the dimly lit room of the West Cork Arts Centre in Skibbereen, I met with the people who would become my most important peers because they, too, cared about words and art, making and sharing. Their simple presence, week after week, made the whole idea, COJOURNAL, seem enormously important.

I wanted to hear about their lives in London and Germany, their stories of rain and the houses with gardens in various parts of southwest County Cork. All of that. I wanted to know. And they, too, wanted to know about me. So I learned, and I trusted, and I put the words down. They weren’t that good, of course. When you start anything, it’s not that good. Just listen to what Ira Glass says about that:

On Week 8, we will take a closer look at the importance of practice when it comes to commitment to out own writing work.

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

Maybe this will sound familiar…

YOU HAVE THIS idea. You’ve been wanting to get it done. But you can’t. You just don’t know why, but it’s not happening.

Why? It’s the thing that S. Pressfield talks about that I shared above. The “Resistance,” with a capital “R.” Every person who ever tried to make anything artful has sipped from its cup. But you don’t have to nurse that drink forever. Kismuth’s COJOURNAL here to help you overcome that block, the impossible-looking hump that’s stopping you from starting today to get your creative muscle working again. You don’t want to let that thing atrophy, do you? You’ll have to practice to get better, so why not start now?

The new project and why I’m inviting you to be a part of it

We need space to practice.

To get better. To find our voice. To make it ours, truly ours, and untainted by the wavering doubt that comes when we aren’t fully sure of ourselves because we haven’t gone that far out to the most compelling frontiers. We cave. We let ourselves be discouraged. We think we don’t have “an idea” yet. But we aren’t making time and space to play, to get lost, to uncover, to unsort everything we think we know, dissect the rest, and edit until the beautiful nugget emerges as what’s ours, and ours alone. To give you a chance to discover your themes, I’m inviting you to be part of the COJOURNAL project.

What are you waiting for? The perfect moment? When you have enough money in the bank, enough ideas in the notebook, enough gumption to close the door and get to work? It’s not going to be the perfect time, ever. You know that, in your gut. ‘Specially if you have children!

So here it is.


What other people are saying

Here are some testimonials:

  • “It has been interesting seeing the responses from the others.”
  • “Any work, no matter how small, gives a sense of continuity and accomplishment.”
  • “I’ve been enjoying how you pose questions and prompts… I’m very interested to see how this project evolves and grows!”
  • “I would love to read what others are writing, and would be happy to share mine as well.”
  • And more… but it’s very personal, or course. Breakthroughs are happening. This is affirming, for sure.

The specifics

Structure is important, and here’s how it works:

  • On your first two weeks, I’ll send you an email with some questions about your expectations from the project, and what you hope to gain from it. You’ll get your first assignment, too. This is a free trial period. After two weeks we’ll both be able to decide if there’s a mutual fit.
  • Based on your responses, on your third week, you’ll get a first lesson from me, delivered by e-mail with specific tasks, goals, suggested approaches, and a line on what to expect next.
  • From then on for the duration of your course, on Mondays, I’ll present a new lesson in the same format. The idea is to build from the week prior to go deeper, and explore more fully, the topics that emerge.
  • Depending on the conversation, you may see some reading suggestions, too.
  • You’ll be given a progress report, personalized with details of how the writing is evolving, every quarter.

Fees. This is a pay-as-you-go class at US $7/week. You will have a free two-week trial period to see if this is right for you, and if we can work together well. If we decide to continue, you’re welcome to stay on for the weekly course. It’s okay to opt out anytime, too. Cancel anytime, no problem.

Here’s where to sign up. You can make payment through PayPal. Please put “” in the “To” field.

Don’t have PayPal? Just e-mail and let us know you’d like to find another way


3 thoughts on “COJOURNAL2014

  1. Pingback: Announcing COJOURNAL2014: Welcome to the village | Dipika Kohli

  2. Pingback: Random Notes by Dipika Kohli | Kitaab

  3. Pingback: Monday village report #12: Into Bangkok, a protest, and a room with roses | Dipika Kohli

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