Some advice I hear over and over again—at Writer’s Conferences; in blogs and books; in discussion with fellow writers—is that journaling is a powerful tool for a writer. Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with my writer’s journal. I go through patches where I write long, usually angst-filled, pages of thoughts and feelings. Then I hardly pick up the journal again for a few months (other than to write the occasional guilt-ridden entry on how I really should be journaling).

Just the words ‘writer’s journal’ fill me with alternating bouts of boredom and guilt.

But here’s the problem—I’m ageing. That idea I had last week for a short story has already become a hazy non-memory, flittering out of my mind even faster than it flittered in. The Chinese have a proverb that perfectly captures my dilemma:

“The palest ink is stronger than the most miraculous memory.”

Hence my first journal entry in about six months this morning, promising myself that—once again—my journal will become my trusted (if rather mute) companion. Now how does a somewhat undisciplined writer like me stick to that commitment?

Here is my three-pronged attack to conquer journaling. I’m calling it Operation Swift Pen.

  • Share my journaling commitment with someone who can hold me accountable. That’s what I’m doing right now by announcing it to the world (please ask me often how it’s going).
  • Spend some time in the morning writing down whatever comes to mind (without editing it or trying to make it sound ‘good’). In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron emphasizes writing ‘morning pages’: “…pages of longhand writing, strictly stream of consciousness…” that nobody else will ever read. When I was keeping morning pagesI found them an extremely helpful tool to de-clutter my mind (and I’m sure if I trawled through all the petty stuff I’d find the odd gem of a creative idea too).
  • In the evening, spend a few moments reflecting on the day—events, people, things seen or experienced, questions my kids asked, ideas, snippets of conversations—and make a note of these too.

Having said all that, I’m not going to beat myself over the head if I miss a day (or two, or three). I honestly think it’s possible to be a great writer without the discipline of journaling. Yet, I am looking forward to seeing if it will enhance my creative processes.
I’d love to hear—and learn from—some of your journaling struggles and triumphs.

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