Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Starting your journal

The diary of William Viers Bouic, kept from 1867-1870 
Having trouble getting started with your journal? You have a beautiful blank book. You have a splendidly blank page. You have a combination of performance anxiety and shyness. A sense of walking into a strange room where nobody knows you. Who are you? What are you doing here? How can you spoil those lovely white pages. What if your writing sucks?

Try free writing:
Free writing is a prewriting technique in which a person writes continuously for a set period of time without regard to spelling, grammar, or topic. It produces raw, often unusable material, but helps writers overcome blocks of apathy and self-criticism.
Julia Cameron is one of my idols. She, along with a couple of other women (Pema Chodron and Sharon Salzberg), saved my life, each for different reasons and at different times of my life.

I discovered Julia Cameron during a long bout of writer's block.  I overheard a fragment of conversation about a book called The Artist's Way and how inspirational it was. At that time I was certainly up for some inspiration, so I went out and got it. It blew me away. It also got me writing and now (14-ish books later) I use Julia Cameron's suggestion about Morning Pages whenever I need to prime the pump.
Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*–they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.
Literally, when I started doing it I would write "I can't think of anything to write" over and over until the required three pages were full. That didn't last. Within a few days, I'd think of things I wanted to talk about. Julia says not to re-read them. She says that because she doesn't want you to critique them as art. If you are aiming at writing as a profession that is B.A.D. If you are just trying to get going journaling, though, re-reading is allowed.

You can also set a timer for 10 minutes and don't lift your pen or pencil until the timer goes off. Just pour your brain onto the page. These ideas have been around for a long time, I'd just never heard of them before Julia Cameron and her wonderful book.

Either of these methods can pull you out of yourself (less painful than it sounds) and get you focused on moving the pen and putting out words. Inevitably, it becomes a conversation about whatever is going on in your life. I call that activity "journaling." 

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