July 8, 2010


Going through a difficult time?  Keep a journal.  A journal is a private document. It is like developing the raw material, mining the ore.  Perhaps it is a remnant. A journal will help you in many ways.  It can contain everything that you bring to it, grief, fear, anger, joy.  It will provide an opportunity to slow down and meditate.  Writing is a tool of the mind; you can sort out your thoughts on paper.   It will be a source book, a place to collect images, sounds, thoughts.  From these remnants, you will develop longer work.  

There is no correct or incorrect way to journal.  Write a lot.  Use the five senses when you write.   Julia Cameron of the The Writer's Way had good advice: 3 pages a day.  If you don't know where to begin, then start with an image or a description.  A person, a place, an object. The best thing is to is not to think too much about what to write, but just to begin.   

Allow yourself to be a beginner; use beginner's mind. Once you are writing, your subject will come to you.  When it comes, accept it. If you are one that works best with deadlines, a 10 minute timed writing is a good idea; but if you are still writing when the bell rings, then keep going.  It may become a poem or a story.   

I found these quotes (unknown author) on the website Creativity in Motion.   https://cim.ou.edu/quotes.html  (If you are interested, check out the Creativity in Motion grant application and information about previously funded projects.)     
“You cannot be a creator AND a victim.”
“You will not find what you do not live.”
“It’s not what you are that holds you back, it’s what you think you’re not.”

Writing Process
Writer's block occurs, in my experience, when you have become a perfectionist or if you trying to impose an idea or a structure too soon.   Do not try to make it perfect!  Get over the obstacle of the self.  Limit your distractions. (Internet, cell phone, family!) This is a work in progress. This is a first draft or sloppy copy. It is merely a ten minute exercise. It is like doodling or sketching.  If it has spelling errors or grammar problems, keep going.  If you find it boring, drop down a level.  Write about what is important to you.   

In this passage from Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, the artist Lily Briscoe is outside with an easel:  "She could see it all so clearly, so commandingly, when she looked: it was when she took her brush in hand that the whole thing changed.  It was in that moment's flight between the picture and her canvas that the demons set on her who often brought her to the verge of tears and made this passage from conception to work as dreadful as any dark passage for a child. Such she often felt herself--struggling against terrific odds to maintain her courage; to say: "But this is what I see; this what I see," and so to clasp some miserable remnant of her vision to her breast, which a thousand forces did their best to pluck from her."  

Woolf is talking about the frustration of artists and writers: what you want is not always what appears.  This is common and not of concern when you are journalling.  We create documents made by hand. Flaws can be part of the beauty.  A remnant, if we are to use Woolf's image, may be all you need. Think of women who have created beautiful quilts and garments from remnants. Once you have your raw material, then consider it without early judgment. Discover the strengths of what is on the page. Maybe it wasn't the initial vision, but something else as valuable, a deeper vision.   Revision is designed to develop the strengths.

If you need a safe place to keep a journal, use an online program.  http://www.google.com/docs or
http://www.zoho.com/writer  If you have internet access, these allow you to access your writing (and they are password protected) from any computer at any time.   They are easy to use and free.

Several studies have demonstrated the benefits of keeping a journal. If you write down your goals, you are much more likely to achieve them.  If you keep a journal during recovery from illness, your outcome will improve.  Writing is a source of strength and it help you in many ways. 

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