I keep a writing journal. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done actually* for my writing, setting up and keeping a writing journal. But why, I hear you ask. What’s the point? Do I really need ANOTHER journal in my life (spoiler alert: yes you do!).
To help answer those questions, I’m opening mine up and sharing the whole entry from Monday 28th September:
“I don’t want to write the novel. Or rather, I do but I’m feeling all petulant child about it. I don’t want to have to be ready on the bang of being told, ‘You have an hour’, to suddenly get on it and write. I want some meandering time – nothing to do with the novel, everything to do with needing personal space. I don’t want to whinge either. A chunk of this is procrastination, a chunk is fear. What if what I’m writing is rubbish? What if there’s no point? What if what if what if. Just write. And so I go.”
As you can see, I was feeling decidedly grumpy. My 2 year old son had just raided the fridge and was running around the house with pots of strawberry mouse and cartons of (open) apple juice despite me repeatedly asking him (in increasingly loud tones) not to. I did not feel calm. My husband came downstairs to find out what the commotion was about. ‘Don’t even talk to me,’ I growled.
He didn’t. He sat down at the breakfast table with the kids and let me have my simmering rage space. ‘Go and write,’ he said, ‘go on, you’ve got an hour.’
You can see how I felt about that from the entry. Torn between feeling like a failure as a mother because I’d got cross with my baby boy over something and nothing, still victim to my amygdala hijack, I crunched through my breakfast and stomped upstairs, gracelessly. I had to go write. Now. Even though I really really really really didn’t feel like it.
11 short sentences
And it took 11 short sentences for me to move from angrily not wanting to write, to a place where I got calm enough to recognize this was procrastination, to a place where I was able to turn up at the page and write.
When I got there, there was lots to say. And an enormous revelation for me. I’m writing about something in this particular section of the story I have no personal experience of whatsoever. It’s an emotive and sensitive subject. I realized I am scared crapless of getting it wrong. But then I had an even bigger realization, beyond my usual ‘it’s okay, no one need ever read this’. My protagonist has NEVER dealt with anything like this before. My lack of experience will play directly into her naivete which is critical to the story. Oh. The relief.** Breathe.
My writing journal is probably therefore my most essential and important tool.
Hallway in life
I use it for a multitude of things. Definitely as a head clearing space, a space between being a mummy, a wife, a writing coach and editor. A space where I’m nothing almost. A hallway in life between being my outside self and coming in to my inside self.
I scribble down ideas, work out plot and character issues. I rant about domestic inequality and social injustice in the world. I write about how I feel about writing.
Whatever I write about it gets me in. I take my metaphorical coat off, my shoes, I put my slippers on and remember that this creative writing is a safe space, a sacred place. It’s just mine. No one else ever has to see it, it isn’t about them, it’s about me. My novel is a place where I come home to my imagination.
I can’t recommend it enough as a daily practice. Write, turn up at the blank page. Write your dreams, your deepest fears, your anxieties, your loves. Write about the humdrum and the stuff that’s ruling your mind. The page is where the muse waits to meet you. She’s soothing and loving and also she knows your BS. She’ll give you a hug and get you right where you need to be. Writing your story.
*I have Emylia Hall and Jen Faulker, writers and most importantly Mothership Writers (Emylia founded the organization, Jen was an amazing group supporter) to thank for starting me up on this practice. If you don’t know who they are – check them out. If you’re a woman and a writer you need them in your life xxx
** (And also, no one need ever see this. And when people do see this, the first set of readers will be my trusted beta reading group and they will be able to point out any crass errors or massive insensitivities I’ve put in the text).