Writing in a journal every day. It’s something that comes up frequently in articles and posts on writing. Whether it’s included in a ‘”how to” piece for those just starting out, or further along the line as a means to keep up the momentum, writing in a journal, it seems, can be useful in a number of ways . When I began to think seriously about my writing (creative, not academic, although the two overlap in so many ways), I didn’t keep a journal or have an ideas notebook. I just wrote in a very disorganised way, as the mood took me.
The first book I read on the craft itself was Stephen King’s much praised, On Writing and I learned a great deal and resolved to approach the blank page in an entirely different way. I would be more thoughtful, more focussed, I would use my ‘tool box’ and have some idea of where I was going. It didn’t work, I wasn’t ready, and I continued to stare at the blank page or screen with increasing trepidation. Where do I start? How do I start? Is it even worth starting?
At around the same time a friend, who is not a writer, began reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and told me that I might find it useful too. I wasn’t sure but I picked up a copy anyway and, honestly, I’m glad I did as one of the first things I learned about was what Cameron calls the “daily pages”.
I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to write three pages every morning as soon as I woke up but I didn’t have anything to lose so resolved to give it a try. The main point was to write those pages without thinking and without stopping, stream of consciousness style, and to record whatever came into your head. The weather, what you were going to have for breakfast, anything.
From day one I struggled. I’m a perfectionist. I check. .I edit. I check and edit again. That wasn’t allowed. Write, don’t stop, don’t check. All that matters is to fill the pages. Spelling, grammar, repetition. Ignore it. The words had to go down on the page and stay down.
Having initially thought I would give up pretty quickly I surprised myself by keeping going and, like most things, once the writing became a habit, it became easier. Eventually I found my pages metamorphosing into a journal and, after three months of frantic scribbling, I decided what I needed was two notebooks. One for my journal and one for my writing ideas.
Since beginning to write in this way I’ve become a lot more confident in getting my ideas down on paper. I’ve read lots, taken a couple of courses, and got involved in two rounds of Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month). It hasn’t all been a success of course, how could it be? Although the “get it down and leave it down” mentality has been a godsend I still have my off days/weeks. I also have to admit I’ve lapsed a bit on the “daily pages” but I am still writing in my journal and notebook (almost) every day and that’s a big step in the right direction.
More importantly I feel like I’m making progress and that’s the best part.