For this month's theme of journal writing, we thought it would be fun to ask some writers to share excerpts from their journals and give us a peek into what writers think about writing. Fun for us. Maybe not so fun for them. One benefit of journal writing is that it puts us in touch with our private thoughts. But sharing them with the world? That can be just a little bit...terrifying! So the following posts will be anonymous (which required much less arm-twisting.) Hope you'll enjoy them anyway.
On Staying Focused
Oh, the dailiness of work! If only it were possible to create a volume of work once a week. It's so hard for me to get motivated the next day. I wake up feeling like I don't want to do this again. And yesterday was a good day! I got a lot done and I felt good about what I was writing. It's just that I don't feel like doing it over again. I want new challenges. I want variety in my life. I want new yoga pants.
Writing as Pep Talk
A letter to myself:
Don't be scared. Just because you didn't write yesterday doesn't mean you can't write today. You've already caught up on your housework. And doesn't it feel good? Don't you love the feeling that yesterday's chores are finished and you're no longer in the hole? Writing is like that, too. But you don't have a debt. You just need to do today's pages.
All you have to do is write today's pages. If they aren't very good, you can fix them later. But remember, the only way to fix the blank page is to sit down and fill it with words. They don't have to be the right words, the best words. They won't be. You'll probably think of better words tonight or tomorrow. But you won't get to those better words by putting off the writing. You only get there by writing something. It's not a failure to write pages that you later replace with better ones. It's part of the process. Trust it.
It's your job. Get started.
I have finished the long summary/discovery draft. I have finished it!!!! I don’t know that I have any more ideas than I did before and I do have some reservations about how well I’m going to be able to create the scenes I imagine with my words. But I feel a sense of accomplishment getting to the end of it. My hope is that I will have good enough technique to make the characters’ choices seem plausible, but of course, my fear is that I won’t. Even though this isn’t the book that feels closest to my heart right now (I’m saving that one) I do feel invested in the characters and theme. I want to do this well. I want other people to get the chance to read it and I want them to like it. The great thing about writing (as opposed to other sorts of performance art) is that I get as many do-overs as I need to get it right.
I've recently started using the book 712 More Things to Write About during Morning Pages. Here were the first two prompts that sparked my interest.
Write a list of your 10 favorite doors. Where do they lead? The doors I chose lead into a walled garden full of irises, peonies and lavender, into a 1920s speakeasy, into a city coffee shop with creaking floors and tiny tables, out of an Austrian hotel into a pedestrian street set off by arches, into a book lined study with a fireplace and leather chairs, into a Parisian bistro, into a ballroom with glittering chandeliers and cream-colored walls, out onto a balcony overlooking the ocean, into an attic bedroom with dormers and window seats, into a palace where I am a welcome guest and instantly transformed with the proper clothes and manners.
Your pet has one request of you. No? Are you sure? I don't take up much room. You brushed me last week so I know I won't shed much. What if I just put my paws up? Just my front paws. I don't even have to lie down. I can just… No? What about down here? If I lie down here I can keep your feet warm and you won't feel crowded. You’ll be able to breathe. You won't feel the need to complain about my breath. Why do you do that anyway? My breath smells fine to me. But if I stay at this end you won't even smell it and I will sneak closer in the night. I can lie here all night. Wouldn't that be cozy? Should I jump up now? Don't you want company in bed? Don't you?
So is the point of a writing prompt to stretch us as writers and stimulate our creativity by forcing us to write about things we wouldn't normally? Is it to spark productivity by showing how it's possible to just take off and write about anything? And if so, should we spend time thinking about each one so that we can write something valuable or should we just put pencil to paper and go without thinking so that we will conquer writer's blocks and maybe be surprised by the results? Maybe I should think of them as warm-ups like scales and simple pieces at the piano. Maybe I should stop worrying about the subject matter of any particular prompt and see them less as riffs I can incorporate into my other writing and more like morning stretches.
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