Three months ago, after an absence of years, I picked up a pen, dug out an empty book and started journalling again. It’s felt like getting reacquainted with a good friend I’d lost touch with. From my early teens I was a devoted journal writer. The first journal I filled was “A Walk Through the Shire” (Michael Green, Running Press, 1980), a paperback with antiqued pages decorated with a quotations and illustrations from the Hobbit. This was all pre-LOTR, back before Jackson took Tolkien mainstream.
Recording my deepest thoughts and feelings on the page, next to words and pictures from a book I’d grown up with gave my adolescent experiences some weight and even some beauty. Once I’d filled that book, I moved on to others from Running Press—Faeries, “a Woman’s Notebook” and a Poet’s as well?
In my late teens, I stumbled upon Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. That book blew my creative windows right open. I abandoned pretty stationary for spiral-bound jotters. I wrote diagonally. I wrote upside down. I wrote in the morning, I wrote before bed, on school trips and in the pottery shed while my friend sculpted her clay figures. The more I wrote, the more I got to know myself.
But somewhere in the intervening decades I became SERIOUS about writing. I started feeling guilty about taking time out to journal when I should be spending my time more productively trying to write for publication. My own issues, my own self slowly got edged out of my jotters, replaced by plot outlines and character sketches.
After 6 short-story publications and 1 novel, I found myself struggling to have any sort of writing practice at all. It’s been well over a year since I’ve written any fiction. I haven’t even managed to sketch out a plot or outline a character.
So now I’ve gone back to first principles: journalling. And I’m loving it.
Online courses that have helped me kick-start my writing habit:
- Writing in the Digital Age. Tami Stroebel
- Journal Your Life: Writing Your Dreams Into Reality. Susannah Conway