Keeping a Journal- Morning Writing for Writers
Jumping into the world of writing is like trying to collect a massive amount of feathers falling to the ground at once. Just imagine an exploded chicken in the sky and the happy dance you'd have to do to collect each feather before it hits the ground. That's what it feels like to jump into writing as a career.
If you don't have a formal education in writing, you are starting from square one. One question leads to another, then another, and another. Writing is such a huge umbrella for so many different sub-categories.
- Non-fiction authors
- Fiction authors
- Website content
- Children's literature
On and on it goes. To write articles for websites and blogs, you practice SEO, sub-headings, 2nd person POV, etc. To author a book you need stamina, imagination, skill, and persistence. To write poetry you need creativity and inspiration. Depending on the writing you do, your left or right brain needs to take control. Try combining them all together and your head just might explode.
After what appeared to be a minor schizophrenic meltdown, I found a cure for my frenzied mind; journaling. No, this is not a daily log of everything you did in a day, it is so much more than that. I'll give you my routine- inspired from the great Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down to the Bones.
Step One- Use Pen and Paper
Being a young tech-nerd born during the computer boom, I do everything on a device. I almost forgot how to write in cursive until Evan came home and needed help on his penmanship. I didn't even realize they taught that in school anymore?
Anyway, with the distraction of the Internet and the detached way of typing, you must journal in a notebook with a pen. Keep your computer away from you. Find a comfortable notebook and pen that you like for your routine- it'll help I promise.
I decided to use a binder filled with lined paper. That way when it fills up, I can just keep adding more. The binder has one of those front sheet cover "thingys" so I can draw some funny artwork or put a picture in it to inspire me.
Step Two- Do it First Thing in the Morning
I know I know, the kids need you, the dog needs you, your rigorous exercise plan needs you. Here's why the morning is perfect- you are fresh. There is no spilled milk, annoying emails, or arguments with the kids to clutter your head. To tap into that brain of creativity, passion, and spontaneity, do it in the morning. Just set your alarm for fifteen minutes earlier and keep your notebook and pen by your bed. You won't even have to get out before you journal.
Step Three- Use Your Wrong Hand for Five Minutes
Huh? Just follow me for a minute. If you are a right-handed person, that's a sign that your left brain is dominate. Typically creativity, art, music, etc. comes from the right brain. If you spend the first five minutes writing with your left hand, a few things will happen:
- You'll laugh hysterically at how much you suck at it.
- You'll write bigger and more like a child.
- You'll trigger those sleepy neurons in your brain to fire on the RIGHT side. That is the side you need to get the juice to, where all that beautiful energy is for the next great idea.
It's awkward, weird, and not so easy. You may feel like a complete idiot writing with your left hand (tongue hanging out of your mouth no doubt) and you may mock me for suggesting it. Make it a habit and you'll give the right side of your brain some exercise.
If you are right brained, you can go ahead and try with your left, just for the fun of it. But watch out, it might make you more organized and productive (sorry had to throw a little jab in there since I spent so much time talking about the creative right brained world).
Step Four- DO NOT STOP!
Once that pen hits the paper, you can't stop, no matter what. Write whatever comes into your mind even if it's this...
"So this crazy blond chick told me to do this and I have no idea what the hell to write and I think she's full of crap but hey I'm doing what she said (why- I have no idea) and not stopping even though I've said nothing creative or funny or inspirational yet. When I get to the period, I get nervous because I'm not sure what's going to come out of me next and I know I can't stop and this feels eerily like a bad dream...."
This isn't the time to carefully craft your words or brainstorm ideas. Just write and don't stop. Set a timer or number of pages. For me, I write four pages (8 1/2 x 11) which amounts to approximately 1000 words. I chose this because of my 100 Day Writing Challenge.
Step Five- No Editing Allowed
This step scares me to death. When I spell a word wrong or forget some punctuation, the urge to correct it is SEVERE. I've said some ridiculous things in my journal, not to mention horrific sentence structure. An English teacher's head would pop off if she read it.
Since you are following step four, which says you can't stop- it would stand to reason that you won't be able to edit. If you can't breathe at the thought, tell your inner critic you'll correct it later. It'll be a waste of time, but whatever.
Step Six- Put it Away When You're Done
No re-reading. Nope. I know I know, it calls to you. Don't do it. Shut that notebook and get up for the day. Go for a walk, feed the starving dog, or wake up your lazy kids. You can look at it later. Let it sit on the page and marinate for awhile.
Step Seven- Use a Highlighter
Okay, so now it's 10am and you are sitting down to write something brilliant and your mind is blank. Grab your trusty notebook and open it up to the morning journal. Reread through it and highlight any words, phrases, thoughts, or ideas that seem reasonable for the world to see. You might have nothing, but you might have something, even if it is just a word. With the highlighter, you can easily pick out the seeds of creativity to come back to when it's time to write.
The Frenzy has Stopped
Morning writing has been the difference between my scattered "what the hell do I do first?" feeling and peace. I'll tell you what, most of it is crap. Just me ranting about my fear, my worries, stupid thoughts that rise to the surface that carry not an ounce of inspiration. But once I put that notebook away and get up for the day, I feel clearer.
I've managed to write 5000 words a day for the past couple of days. That's not very long, but I'll tell you what:
- I've got three kids home on summer break. They need a lot of attention and help.
- I've got a dog and two cats who need my attention too.
- I have a husband that wants whatever's left over (poor guy).
- I'm managing three blogs, a forum, and a roster of private piano students.
- I do have things like housekeeping and cooking to do.
How can I possibly squeeze in 5000 words? I'm faster. So much faster. I've been struggling with a personal memoir for months, and in the last couple of days- it just pours out of me. Is it because I've purged myself of 1000 words of scattered thoughts? Perhaps. Is it that my right brain is working as hard as my left? Who knows, but the only thing that has changed in my routine is my morning writing.
Maybe you don't want to do the 100 Day Writing Challenge, but do 30 days of morning writing. Don't jump right to article writing or story telling. Sit down and let the first thoughts of the day pour out of you and watch how your brain appreciates the exercise with a sharper sense of clarity and concentration.