Journaling My Way to Better Writing


Writing / Sunday, October 16th, 2016

I am one of the (un)lucky few to currently have all the time in the world to be writing, but I had be finding it incredibly hard to get any useful writing done. Like most of us, before this period of free time, I was often stuck with too many ideas and not enough focus to get any one of them out. My writing was often stiff, boring. I would speed through writing stories just to get them out, without putting much thought into them. I found myself tired, stressed, and just plain bored with writing.

So how did I fix this?

A few weeks ago, after months of having it on my to-be-read list, I started reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I was ecstatic.

What is it?

Long story short, it’s a 12 week self-directed course aimed to anyone who feels blocked to ‘unblock’ their creativity. The book is recommended for writers, artists, corporate minds, and anyone else who feels stuck.
How can you use it?
Now even for someone like me who has the time, doing all of the exercises required by the course can be far too much. But there is one suggestion made by Cameron that has changed my life: her idea of writing “morning pages.” I won’t lie to you, though, I’ve created my own version of her task.

Sorry, Julia.

In short, Cameron suggests writing three 8.5×11” first thing in the morning, by hand. No matter what, fill 3 pages. In my first week of tackling this 12 week adventure, the 3 pages did me great. I couldn’t stop writing. Granted, I spent a lot of time writing about the pages that I was writing, about the pen I was using, the way my handwriting looked. But the fact of the matter was that I was doing it. After months of talking about writing, talking about journaling, planning which of the many notebooks in my bookcase would be used for which project in my head, I was finally writing something that felt intuitive rather than forced.

And now what?

As the days-now weeks-have passed, my approach to these pages has changed dramatically. It has also pushed me to take up journaling (or diary-ing.. is that a word?) in the way I had always dreamed.

My “morning pages” simply turned into about an hour of brain dumping. Every morning, I wake up an hour before I need to start getting ready, grab my phone and head to the kitchen. I put on a pot of strong, black coffee, and in the 5–7 minutes it takes to brew I catch up on my social media. I’m living in a time zone 6 hours ahead of the majority of my friends and family, so my morning is the perfect time to catch up on what I missed from the evening before.

Once brewed, I take my coffee back to bed, get comfy with a staple bound notebook and a ballpoint pen, and I start writing. For about an hour, I just write. Anything that comes to mind: dreams I remember, leftover stresses from the day before, big stresses of life, exciting plans I have, my plan for the day. Sometimes this comes so naturally and I write seamlessly for an hour. Other times it’s like pulling teeth: I get distracted, I spend time cuddling my partner, I get back on my phone, I stare at the painting on the wall across from my bed that has been hanging crookedly for as long as I can remember. To un-distract myself, I write about how distracted I am.

When I’m done with that brain dump, I start with my day.

Going forward

I had always dreamed of taking a day by day account of my life because my biggest fear is forgetting. So throughout the week I make sure to jot down notes in my weekly planner so I can journal about my days later. On days where I have extra time, or am feeling overwhelmed by whatever writing project it is I’m working on, I grab my journal, a coloured felt tip pen, and I catch up on the days I’ve missed in my journal.

Now, I don’t document everything — that would just be insane, wouldn’t it? I document the events I feel are the most useful to my story. My personal story, what I always wished I’d known about my mom growing up in hopes that one day, I will have my own family and be able to share my time as a young adult with my kids.

How has this changed my writing?

#Writerslife

I guess until now you’re wondering what relevance this has to my #writerslife. Here we are!

Taking the time to dump my brain of the excess clutter has drastically changed my creative process. I am able to write. I’m writing material I am proud of, material I want to share. I’m finally doing the thing I’ve always wanted to do.

Giving myself the time to let go of everything that has been clouding my true writing dreams has given me the opportunity to do what I’ve always wanted to do: I’m writing a book and so far I don’t hate the progress I’ve made.

An author who doesn’t loathe every word they write? I promise we exist, and you can become one too!

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