Journaling as an Author

Hand Writing by djking from FlickrIf you Google journaling, as I just did because auto-correct insists it is not a word, you come up with tons of sites discussing how much journaling can help your inner peace.

How, exactly, it helps one’s inner peace is a little up in the air. I only skimmed the search results, but I’m not sure I found anything I’d deem too scientific. There’s also a lot of different definitions for what journaling even is. Is it a photograph of your day in words? Is it a page of rambling? Is it a structured rendering of your conscious thoughts on paper?

I guess these are all true, but when I talk about journaling, I’m talking about the middle example. The page of rambling.

When I decide to journal I open a blank page in a notebook, put my pen to paper, and I write non-stop until the page is full. My handwriting is atrocious and what I create is basically illegible, but that’s okay. I never intend to reread it anyway.

No, the key concept is forcing myself through an entire, college-lined sheet of paper.

It’s weird. The times that I perform best at writing are the times when I’m not thinking about it at all. Most of my best ideas, if not all, have come about when I’m nowhere near my keyboard. My best ideas often come when I’m cooking, or walking, or in the shower. I’ll be doing something else and then *KAPLOOOF* I’ll suddenly know exactly how to work out a tricky plot point.

The problem is, how do you seek these moments actively? How do you get those ideas lurking in the back of your head to come out? If you try to focus on them they hide even deeper. And it isn’t very practical to stand in the shower for hours on end, hoping for a breakthrough.

Well it may not be a perfect answer, but sitting down and forcing out a page of freehand writing seems to capture those thoughts, or at least clumsy replicas of them.

I’ll start by writing about the problems I can’t resolve in my current project, and then my plans for the weekend get mashed in and a bill I need to pay get written about, after all I can’t stop my pen. And then back to the problem and then I debate how I write the letter Q and then back to the problem and then I’m writing a possible solution to the problem only it’s pretty stupid but what if I took that first part of the solution and tied it in to that scene I didn’t really like from earlier…and so on and so on. For an entire page.

My hand hurts like hell when I’m done but my brain feels clearer. Sometimes I come up with very real answers to the questions I’m forcing myself to think about, but that’s rare. What does always happen, though, is that I come away with some directions I can head off in when I next sit down to write.

It’s a strange mix of absurd pressure and complete freedom. The pen has to keep moving, but I’m never going to read what I’m writing so my thoughts feel that it’s safe to come tumbling out.

Now I’ve had bouts of journaling where I’ve accomplished absolutely nothing. But that’s because, like most things in life, you get out of it what you put into it. Some effort has to be made to address your current problems, but after that it’s just a free for all.

Too often I hear authors worrying about proper outlining ,or structuring, or knowing exactly where everything is going to go before writing. But what if you’re trying to outline something and you don’t have all the pieces?

Maybe take the opposite approach and let your pen go completely nuts for one whole page. You’d be surprised how many somethings you can produce out of nothing.