Tag Archives | journal writing

8 Ways to Blow Up Your Writing Brain by Journaling (+ Tips)

I'm an off-and-on journaler.  I've had periods in my life–long stretches, like ten years–when I got up every day and wrote in a journal first thing.  (And to prove it, I've got three huge tubs of them.) I've also had journaling droughts, where I don't actively write in a diary. Copy_reflexion_author_260936_l

Article after article suggests that journaling is good for you in a number of ways, including your mental health. Studies show that journaling is linked to reducing stress, helping to deal with traumatic events, and  increasing your physical health (it boosts your immune system and lowers blood pressure). It has even been shown to help in sports performance and reduce employee absenteeism.  (You can read more about these studies here.)  And that is all well and good–really good, actually–but the bottom line for me is whether or not journaling helps me with my writing.

And  I'm here to tell you that the times when I am writing in my journal regularly are much more productive and creative for me than the times when I am not.  I actually thing journaling is good for everybody from writers to visual artists to musicians to business people.  Journaling helps you sort things out, process life, and come up with ideas.  And I don't care what you do in the world, those are valuable processes for everyone .  For writers, one of the biggest benefits I see is that it helps us see life as story, and that stories abound in life.

But sometimes, I will admit, I open my journal and my pen hovers over the page and I can't think of anything to write.  So over the last few months I've been keeping track of the various ways I use my journal and I now present them to you.  I've also included some handy journaling tips at the end of this post.

So you can blow up your writing brain (I mean this in the best of ways) and your creativity.

Account of day to day life.  This is probably the most traditional kind of journaling, the kind of activity we used to call writing in a diary.  It can be a great starting point for a journal entry (see below).  Austin Kleon calls it keeping a logbook, and makes a case for doing it regularly. It is probably the kind of journaling I do least, but when I do do it, I love looking back on the accounts of my days..

Idea incubator.  One of the best reasons to keep a journal as a writer.   I think every writer should have some kind of notebook where you record ideas, things they've seen, books to read, etc., even if you don't actively write journal entries.  (You might like the bullet journal idea below for this.)  For a fantastic post on using the writer's notebook, check out this post.  I love it so much I'm going to print it out and put it in my bullet journal.

To sort things out.  This is the kind of journaling the mental health professionals want you to do, and with good reason–because it works.  Process your crap on the page and deal with it, instead of waiting for it to come out at an inopportune moment.  (Talkin' to myself here, too.)

As a vessel for the spiritual.  Those of us on a spiritual path know that writing in a journal can help you figure out your relationship with the divine, talk to God, converse with angels or spirits–whatever you desire.  I would go so far as to suggest that journaling can become a form or meditation or prayer.  I know it often is for me.  My favorite writer for this is Janet Connor.

As a bullet journal.  This is how I organize myself, and until I found this system I was constantly searching for the best way to keep my life together on paper.  (No, I do not use a digital system.  I hate phone and computer calendars.)  But the bullet journal is much more than just an organizer or planner–it can hold all your thoughts and ideas.  Mine has become a hybrid which I use for my journaling entries as well.  If you are interested in this system start with the original link, and then google "bullet journal."  You'll find a ton of helpful post and articles about it, complete with clever hacks.  I find mine works best, though, if I keep it as simple as possible.

Morning pages.  Julia Cameron popularized this version of journaling in her book, The Artist's Way, and it is a perennial favorite because it works.  The process is simple–you get up and you write three pages without thinking.  That's it.  You don't have to craft beautiful sentences or write about how your boyfriend stood you up.  Just write and see what comes up.  Not only is it helpful to get your ya-yas out, over time, certain themes will emerge that may help you see your life more clearly.

A space for free writing.  Sometimes you don't know what to write but you know you want to write.  Your journal is the perfect place for this.  Grab yourself a prompt and have at it.  Set a timer and write for 20 minutes without lifting the pen from the page.  Miraculous things will emerge.

A place to write about your current WIP.  I spend a lot of time writing about my current novel.  If I get lost in the plot, I write about where I might go.  I write about characters and their back story.  I write about the homes they live in and the places they work.  Writing in a journal is a godsend for helping you figure out your story.  You may want to keep a separate notebook for this, so you can easily access the information when you need it.

Those are just some of the ways I use my journals, and there are a ton more that I don't have room for–like making lists or mind mapping.  You'll come up with your own favorites.


Start where you are.  I had a friend who found journaling a great help when she went through cancer, but then she stopped.  She wanted to get started again, but felt she had to commit to the page everything that had happened since she had last written.  Nope.  Just start where you are, with whatever you want to write about.

Index!  This sounds tedious and overly organized, but it is a lifesaver.  It is a key part of the bullet journal and I've started using it for my all my journals.   Label a page at the front or back of the book as an index, then number your pages and when you write something you want to keep track of, note it.  Oh, and I recently found the Leuchtturm journals, which not only have page numbers already printed on them, but also a pen strap and a gorgeous rainbow of colors! I can't wait to order one.

Keep at it.  As with everything we do, at first it can seem awkward and useless.  But the more you write in a journal, the more you'll see the various benefits and keep at it.

Maintain a list of prompts.  It's really helpful to have a page in your journal where you write down prompts and then if you don't know what to write about, there you are.  Feel free to use mine–there's a ton of them here.

If you really get stuck, go back to day before and write what happened. It's as good a starting point as any!

Do you keep a journal?  What's your favorite technique for journal writing?  Please comment!



Process Writing

I mentioned process writing recently in another post but I want to look at it more in depth today.  Why?  I'll tell you why.  Because I've realized that nearly all of my product writing has its origins in process writing.  As in, blog posts, articles, and notes for scenes flowing from my pen.  As in, I start out in process writing and suddenly I'm in product writing.

But first, a refresher.  I'm borrowing these terms from Roseanne Bane, who discusses them in detail in her book, Around the Writer's Block.  Reading her book has solidified the efficacy of these same habits in my own life and so I share them with you.  Bane says that the path to subverting writer's block on a regular basis takes three forks: process writing, product writing, and self care.  Process writing is the kind of writing you do that supports product writing, which is your writing writing.  That novel or memoir or article you want to finish.  Process writing is journaling, morning pages, free writing, not sitting down with intention to work on your current project.  Self care is just that–getting enough sleep and exercise and eating right as well.

It's easy to discount process writing.  Easy to think you have limited time to spend on your writing anyway, so why waste it on navel-gazing or rant-filled journaling? Easy to believe that free writing just results in a bunch of meaningless words on the page.  But I've learned that none of that is true.  Process writing, if done in a deep, attentive manner can be the springboard not only for your product writing but for creative ideas and visions as well.

My process writing occurs first thing in the morning because that's when I like to do it.  I feel better all day long if I've written right after I get up. I used to call this habit writing morning pages, but I don't any longer because I like to think I'm going deeper than that.  There's nothing wrong with morning pages, mind you, it's just that mine too often devolved into a to-do list or on-the-page worrying about what I needed to get done that day.  Yeah, left to my own devices I can get numbingly boring to myself.

These days, I've been practicing a different kind of technique called soul writing, popularized by Janet Conner.  I'm not an expert in this kind of writing by any stretch of the imagination and I'm sure that the way I practice it is probably different in some ways than that which Janet propounds.  She recommends getting yourself into a theta state by activating the five senses.  You've got touch and sight going already with the writing, but you might also want to put on some soothing music and light a scented candle.  As for the taste, well, I always have a cup of coffee and a glass of water nearby anyway.

But here's what really makes it work for me: instead of just talking to yourself on the page, you find a higher power to chat with.  This can be anything that works for you and may likely come to you as you write.  Janet calls hers The Voice.  I call mine God, and when I say God I mean the God within each of us and everything on the planet, not the mythical guy up in the sky that wreaks havoc when he feels like it.  The other key aspect of soul writing is to ask a lot of questions.  What you're doing is opening yourself up the channels for your creativity to come through, and asking questions facilitates this.

What happens to me is I'll ask a question or remember that I wanted to write a blog post that day and suddenly I'm doing it.  I'll think of an idea for my WIP and whoosh I'm writing a scene.  There's something about this kind of writing, this willingness to be open, that makes the creative juices flow.  This post, for instance, was written by hand in my journal a few mornings ago. 

So that's my rant on process writing.  If you're stuck or feeling blah about your writing, I recommend you try it.  And please check back and let us know how it's going.  Do you do any kind of process writing on a regular basis?  Leave a comment and let's discuss.

***My favorite kind of product writing is novel writing and my debut happens next week.  Join me for the Emma Jean Virtual Release Party!  There will be prizes.  More information here.

Image by brokenarts.


Saturday Writing Tip: Observation

Binoculars_glasses_glass_261717_lI often talk about the benefits of being present, quiet and mindful–not only as a way to focus on your writing, but when you're out and about in the world, so that you can observe things in order to write about them.

(Brief aside: I'm typing with one of my fingers bandaged after slicing it while cutting green onions for a salad the other night, so excuse any wonkiness I miss.)

I discussed this topic the other night in my novel writing class, and the next morning in my journal I found myself spontaneously giving myself an assignment.  It's an observation assignment, and I thought you might want to do it, too.  So here goes.

The idea is to be present, alert and mindful throughout your daily life and then write what you've observed later, that night or the next morning.  The act of writing your observations down hones your observing skills.

Every session, look back over the day and write two things:

1.  Dialogue.  Any memorable lines from the previous day?  Who said something interesting?  Can you get the words down exactly as they were uttered? 

2.  An event or description.  This can be a big event, such as winning the lottery, or a small moment, like a description of someone bending down to tie their shoes.  You can also describe the sunset or the rocks you noticed on your walk–anything that caught your attention.

The idea here is to remember as vividly as possible what happened, not write it in a gorgeous literary way, because we're working on the art of observation. 

I must confess, when I started doing this, I was shocked–shocked–at how little I remembered specific details from the previous day.  I recalled things in broad strokes, but I want to be the kind of writer that remembers the telling detail, that one tiny little action that illuminates everything. The first few days, I've ended up writing down the most prosaic of lines of dialogue (all that I remember) on the theory that eventually I'll get better at remembering the good stuff.  And I'm using this observation exercise to get there. I'll let you know how it progresses.

Are you an observer?  How do you teach yourself to recall events in detail?

Need some help translating your observations to a writing practice?  I've got a couple slots open in my coaching.  Head on over to my coaching page for more information.

Photo by Gastonmag.


A Month of Giveaways for Writers!

It's December, I'm in a holiday mood (my Christmas tree is already up and I'm in the process of finishing the decorating) so I've decided to give things away.  Not just once, but four times.

Here's how its going to work: on Monday, I'll announce the prize and ask a question related to writing.  You answer in the comments, and on Friday I'll randomly pick one of you to win the prize.  Please note: I'm not choosing you on the basis of the brilliance of your answers, so don't worry about that.  Just comment and you get a chance to win. (Also, all my commenters are brilliant and I adore and appreciate every one of you.)

A different prize will be announced every Monday in December, so come on back and check it out!

Okay, ready to find out what the first prize is going to be?  Drum roll, please…. Moleshine_lrg_journal

A Moleskine journal.  A Moleskine Classic Ruled Large notebook, to be precise.

I love Moleskine journals.  The paper is smooth and easy to write on, the basic size is easy to transport and you can manipulate the spine in various ways so as to make it easy to balance on your knee and scrawl in, if need be.  (The drawback with many perfect-bound journals is that you can't turn the cover back on itself and sometimes writing in a book that only opens flat can be awkward.)

Also there's an iconic feeling to the Moleskine, perhaps because generations of authors and writers and artists have used them throughout the years.  Writers such as Ernest Hemingway and Bruce Chatwin.  Artists like Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso.

But, mostly I use Moleskines because I like them, plain and simple.  And when it comes to journals, you should use what you like, because if you do, you'll write in it more often. By the way, I've written a bit about journaling in this blog, and here are some of those posts:

The Writer's Notebook: Loving Moleskines

Journaling, One Path to Writing Abundance

Practical Considerations For Journal Writing

The Carry-Along Book

Okay, okay, here's the part you've been waiting for.  Just answer this question and you'll be entered into the contest to win a Moleskine:  Do you write in a journal regularly? Does it inspire your creative writing?  (Yeah, I know, two questions.  Consider it a Christmas bonus. Answer one or the other or both.)

Catch you back here Friday when I'll announce the winner!

(Also, please note, I have nothing to do with Moleskine, I just love their products.  They are not sponoring this giveaway, I'm doing it all by my little old self.)


Promptitude: Whiney Baby

Baby-scream-pink-69549-l At the beginning of this week, I wrote about fear.

As I've progressed through the week, feeling much better about life, I've also been reading SARK's latest book, Glad No Matter What.

She writes about a process for clearing out fear and other nasty emotions that plague us. First you write a Mad page (or pages), beginning with putting words for the feelings you're having across the top of the page.  Then write out what's making you feel that way, specifically.  Next she advocates writing a Wise page, wherein you write to yourself supportive and pithy bits of wisdom that will make you feel better.  And finally, you write Glad pages, which are like Mad pages, only happy.  Across the top of the page write all the good feelings you have, then write out what is making you feel this way.

The thing is, its easy for people to get disdainful of such processes.  Like the whole optimistic, glad thing.  Even I can find myself rolling my eyes if things get too feel-goody.

But, actually, that's bull.  I think its a conditioned response from society.  If I were younger, and more passionate about rebellion, I'd say its a response from a society that wants you to fit into the great unhappy masses and not stand out.  Because, honestly, doing things such as the above process can make you feel better.  Way better.  And who doesn't want to feel better these days?  I know I do.

So this week my prompts are oriented around journal writing and they are designed to purge worry and fear, which, I have it on good authority, there's a lot of these days.  The key thing with these prompts is to keep going and when you run out of stuff to write, go to the next prompt.  You want to get all the way down to the bottom layer of the fear in order to deal with it.  Here goes.  Be brave:

–I'm worried about…

–I'm afraid of….

–The worst that can happen is….

–And then…

–But wait, there's more…

Okay, that's it, I promise.  Phew, nasty stuff.  Take a deep breath and a drink of water.  Don't you feel better?  Sort of wrung out and depleted, but also ready to fill that empty, purged space with good new stuff?  Start with this:

–I'm happy because…

–I'm inspired to….

–What bring me joy is….

–I'm grateful for…

And there you have it.  Let me know how it works.



What a Writer Does: Shawn Mullins 2.0

Yesterday, I wrote about attending a private performance by Shawn Mullins.


I wrote about how, at every concert that means anything to me, at some point early on I get a thrill through the very core of me that means I'm connecting to the music in a profound way.  That thrill is the same impulse that motivates my creativity and so its no surprise that I find myself wanting to write about it.  In that moment, I'm suddenly hyper-aware of how much I'm enjoying the moment, which paradoxically shifts me out of the moment if I'm not careful.

But here's the deal: this is, again, what a writer does.  As soon as I realized that the concert was touching me in a deep place and that I was going to write about it, I started to shape the narrative in my head.  I made a mental note of what he wore and scanned the stage again to imprint the visual in my brain.  Phrases and words started flowing in my mind.  This is usually the point where I'd pull out my journal, or in a pinch, my Iphone, and start taking notes.  But I was in a dark room and couldn't do that, so the notes were mental.   And so I'm thinking:

–How am I going to shape this story?  Is it better to set the stage, start with the build-up, why we were there, describe going in?  Or should I emply a mise-en-scene method and start in the middle of the action?

–What exact words do I use to describe him and the setting so that it will come to life?

–How on earth am I going to remember all this without writing it down?

But beyond that, I was excited because Shawn Mullins is at heart a writer's writer, and encountering someone like that always inspires me.  Some of the themes of his life are themes that I hold dear. As a young man, he lived in his van and traveled around the country, writing in his journal.  I'm a lifelong journal writer myself, and feel a kinship with anyone who gets ideas from journaling.  And Mullins also didn't wait to be rescued, one of Christine Kane's favorite expressions.  By this she means he didn't wait for an agent or a record label to anoint him.  When he couldn't get signed with a big label, he created his own, made his own CDs and sold them out of the back of the van.  More and more, I'm realizing that we need to take the responsibility for success into our own hands.

So those are some writerly thoughts upon seeing a performance that inspired me.  What about you?  Have you been inspired by music to write something? 

*The very cool photo is of an electric blues guitar, which is not really in the same ilk as Mullins' acoustic schtick, but hey, we're talking about musical inspiration in general here, right?  The image is by tvvoodoo and I got it at Everystockphoto.



They Call it Fear

First there was the story I read online about how the Northwest, including Portland, could expect a Violator3_black_white_686057_l major earthquake of the sort that just decimated Chile sometime in the next 50 years.   I hate earthquakes.  I expect the earth beneath my feet to stay steady, thank you very much.

Then I watched a little bit of the local Fox News.  I never watch television news, but it was on after American Idol, and the TV didn't get turned off fast enough for me not to see the story about the guy who got slashed up by a trio of men who invaded his backyard in the early morning hours.  (The victim was outside having a smoke.)  This wouldn't have been so bad, except it happened fairly close to my house.

Before I knew it, I was getting re-acquainted with my old friend, fear. 

Now this kind of fear is a little different than being scared of stuff.

This is the kind of fear that most often is underlying, sometimes vague, beneath-the-surface misery.  It is not specific enough to battle.  There's no real way for me to put myself face to face with earthquakes, for instance.  And realistically, I'm not going to put myself face to face with a slasher.

No, this kind of fear is insidious.  It is the kind that terrorism is designed to instill.  It is the kind that seeps throughout every cell in our body, a nameless, creeping dread that if left unchecked, starts to subtlety control thoughts and actions.  And eventually it will manifest itself in my writing.

It won't be obvious how it's manifesting, either.  Instead, it'll take the form of procrastination or suddenly deciding not to move forward on a project or convincing myself its okay if I never write another novel. Because this kind of fear is leech-like, attaching itself to your bad habits and insecurities and magnifying them.  This kind of fear feeds on uncertainty and indecision. And before you know it, you're telling yourself you never wanted to be a writer, really, anyway.

So, how to battle such a sneaky enemy?  Here are some tips:

Acknowledge it.  The more you do this, the easier it will be to see.  Took me awhile, but last night after I'd soaked myself in a bath of fear, I realized what was going on.  Sometimes acknowledging is half the battle.

Dance with it.  Or wrestle it, or punch it in the face.  Argue with it, yell at it, tell it to go away.  Because this fear is stealthy and cunning, it doesn't like being overtly dealt with and chances are doing just that will keep it at bay.

Protect yourself from it.  Stay away from the things that cause it in the first place.  I usually don't watch television news, for instance.  I won't read books or see movies that have animals in them because I worry about the animals the entire time, even if there's a happy ending.  And because I take on things far too easily, I don't see war movies and I refuse to read anything written by Cormac McCarthy.

De-stress.  Meditate, do yoga or Qi Gong, find yourself a good relaxation CD (my current favorite, since I'm in the middle of a wonderful hypnotism program) or do whatever it is that rids you of stress.  Fear feeds on nerves, anxiety and stress, so it is important to deal with it regularly.

Write.  It always comes back to this for me.  Writing regularly is the best revenge against everything, including fear.  So write often, every day if you can, whether you are writing on a project you're passionate about or in your journal.  

And let me know what your fear-busters are, would you?  We can all use some help in banishing fear.

Photo by Violator3, used under a Creative Commons 2.5 license. 


Three Rules

I'm reading Crush It, by Gary Vaynerchuk.  In case you haven't heard of him, he's the marketing genius Kodakz760_662439_l who built his father's liquor business from four million in sales to fifty million in sales in just eight years.  How did he do it?  Mainly through video blogging, with his show, Wine Library TV, and the use of social media.

His book is a quick read, and essential if you've not yet dabbled much in social media.  If you have, you'll probably get more in the way of inspiration than new information.  But hey, I'm all for inspiration!  And one of the things that Gary wrote about inspired this post, so there you have it.  Specifically, in chapter one, he writes about the three rules by which he lives.  His are: love your family, work super hard, live your passion.

I've been thinking about this three rule thing a lot lately. I'm really attracted to the concept of living life by a set of rules, which is odd, because in general I'm a rebellious type.  Years ago, in a critique group (which I seem to be thinking a lot about lately, since I wrote about it here, too) we talked quite a bit about characters with moral codes.  You know the kind–the detective who may, to outside appearances, seem to be completely insubordinate and anarchic, but when you dig deeper you learn he's got good motivation and a strong compass to guide him.  A current example of this on TV would be, of course, Dexter, who is a serial killer who kills serial killers.  

So, I decided to assign myself the task of coming up with three rules by which I live.  I approached this by thinking about what my absolute, bottom-line, bedrock beliefs are, and by how they get played out in my day to day life.  Oh, and by the way, you'll see that these are, because of my very nature, writing related, but as far as I'm concerned writing bleeds into life and life bleeds back into writing, so the two are inseparable.

Ready?  Here goes:

Three Rules for Living

1.  Always Connect.  In my Writing Abundance workshops, I always, always, always begin by talking about the practice of connecting.  To me, this means connecting with something bigger than you, most likely the divine, in however you view it.  Take time to meditate or pray, in whatever form this takes for you, every day.   Beyond this absolutely crucial practice, you can view this rule in other ways, too, as in connect with friends and family to get their support for your writing, connect with others via social media, connect with writers through critique groups or other networking opportunities.  Connecting is vital.

2. Give it All Up, Get it All Back.  This also translates to, put it all on the page, always.  I just wrote a whole blog post about the practice of letting go.  It is a worthy thing to aspire to in life, and it will serve you well in writing, too.  Put everything you have on the page every time you sit down to write.  Fling your whole self on the keyboard or paper.  Don't hold back, don't back off.  You can–and will–edit later. Fling yourself at life, putting everything out there, without worrying about what will happen.  Remember, we only think we know what is going to happen tomorrow.  I've learned the hard way that plans can change in an instant.  So don't waste time trying to control what you can't (and this includes reactions from agents, editors and readers).

3.  Write or Create Every Day.  I am a firm believer that writing every day is the best way to establish a prolific and prosperous writing career.  It is incredibly difficult to maintain momentum on a project when you are only giving it sporadic attention.  Yes, there is something to be said for taking breaks, and I'm a fan of downtime (I love me American Idol) and self-care, which I deem to be essential.  But there are 24 hours in a day, in case  you hadn't heard.  Couldn't you spend just 15 minutes of them with pen and paper?

So there you have them, my three rules.  Ask me about them same time next year and I might well have a new set.  But these are mine for now.  What are yours?  Do you like the idea of having rules to live by?

**Photo by DrewMeyers, used under Creative Commons 2.5 license.


Give It All Up, Get It All Back

Yesterday I had jury duty.Justice

I resisted, mightily.

Perhaps it is because I'm called to serve on jury duty more than anybody else on this planet.  This was my third time, and I've gotten excused from service several times before, when my children were little.  I know people who have never gotten a summons, ever. So I was a bit taken aback when I was called yet again.

I told myself that I was too busy.  I had a trip to Nashville planned.  I'm self-employed and can't afford to take a day off.  Yada, yada, yada.  I called the number on the summons and was told I could reschedule, so I did.  Then called again and rescheduled once more.

Finally, the day came.  I had to be in the jury room by 8 AM and if there's one thing I hate, it is having my morning routine of writing and introspection interrupted.  But off I went to the courthouse,clutching  my bag full of manuscripts to read and work to catch up on.

The county really makes jury duty as painless as possible.  You only have to serve for one day, or one trial, whichever is longest.  And there's a large room full of chairs to hang out in, with big-screen TVs, vending machines, books, newspapers, and magazines galore.  I always head straight to the back, where there are tables and chairs.  I found me a good spot and staked my claim to it.

It is tradition for one of the judges to come down and talk to the jurors, and she did, reminding us that the founding fathers of this country thought so highly of the right to a jury trial that they died for it.  This made me feel highly virtuous for a few moments.  Then she talked about how for women, jury duty is the only compulsory service we must give to our country.  By then I was preening, so proud was I.  But when she finished her talk and pressed the button for the cheesy video, I was deflated once again.  I gave up my precious writing time to watch a bunch of yahoos talk about how great it is to be on jury duty?

Once the video was finished, we were left to our own devices until such time as a jury pool would be convened.   I looked around at all the people who had brought their laptops and wondered why on earth I hadn't brought mine.  Even when I remembered that I had made a conscious decision to use this day to get reading done and stay away from my computer, I pouted.  I wanted my computer, wanted to write a blog post, work on my novel, tweet away the day (which I did from my Iphone anyway, but never mind).

I pulled out the manuscripts I had to read, but soon was interrupted by a loud burp.  A plump gray-haired woman in a polka-dot blouse was drinking Coke and apparently it made her gaseous.   It also didn't do much to keep her awake, because soon she was curled at one end of the couch beside me, feet propped on a chair from my table, snoring loudly.  Which was a festive counterpart to the counter-culture type (orange shirt, hair in a pony-tail) who sat at the other end of the couch, head thrown back, mouth open, snoring even louder than the woman.

I muttered under my breath and pondered dark thoughts, like I wouldn't want either of them to serve on my trial, as I tried to read.  Then I looked around at all the people with their computers and started feeling bad about that again.  I needed my computer desperately.  What was I thinking, leaving it at home?  I could be getting so much done.

I started obsessing about what would happen if I got on a trial.  I thought about my Friday, the plans I had for finishing projects, the appointment I had.  I started figuring out options for making sure I wasn't chosen for a trial.  My daughter told me to tell them I loved guns.  A friend on Twitter told me to tell the judge I had diarrhea.  Another friend told me just to say I'm a writer, that that gets them every time–attorneys don't want free thinkers.  So I pondered all this and then my brain looped back to how horrible, how utterly awful it would be if I had to serve on a trial and take another one of my precious days. Because, you know, I am important.  I am a writer with things to do, brilliant words to commit to the page.

And then, something happened.  Either I got sick of listening to this endless drivel in my brain, or my brain got tired of providing it to me.  I sat back and realized that no matter what, it would all be okay.  If I got called for a trial, I'd work late, or work on the weekends to get things done.  I'd rearrange my appointment.  All would be well.  This was only a very short time out of my life and it was just fine.

Ah, the sweet release of letting go.  I went back to my reading and finished two manuscripts in rapid time–for such is the power of focus.  I had a thought about a new novel I'm fooling around with and wrote three pages on the legal pad I'd brought.  I was so wrapped up in my work that it was a surprise when I looked up from it to see the gray-haired burping lady gazing at me.

"Have they called anybody yet?"

"No, they haven't," I answered.  And I realized that it was nearly 10:30, and every other time I'd been on jury duty, several groups of potential jurors had been called by then. 

A few minutes later, the jury clerk addressed us from the podium at the head of the room.  All eight trials slated for that day had been resolved in one way or another, she said.  They wouldn't be needing any jurors that day.  We were free to go.

The stunned silence that ensued was quickly followed by a rush to the door, as if everyone was thinking the same thing–let's get out of here before they change their minds.

And so I was home by noon, and I had time to go grocery shopping, get some writing done, write a blog post, take a walk.  And as I walked and thought about my day, the thing that stood out in my mind was the moment of letting go.  The minute I quit resisting and accepted the situation as it was, I got everything I wanted–the chance to focus on my work, the opportunity to leave early and go home. 

Give it all up, get it all back.  I first heard that in a book written by Alan Cohen, and I often quote it in my Writing Abundance workshops.  And yet, every time I am shown the power of letting go, I marvel anew at what an amazing tool it is.

The same rules hold true in writing: put it all on the page every time you go to it.  Don't hold back.  Give it all up. 

I promise, you'll get it all back, and then some. 

Photo by navets, found on everystockphoto, used under Creative Commons 2.5 license.


Make the Words Flow

I noticed something this morning when I was in the middle of writing an email.Myjournal

The words were flowing as smooth as a glass of fine wine. 

I started paying more attention.  And realized that I was allowing myself to go a bit deeper emotionally in my response.  So I stopped and thought for a bit, and realized why this was. 

Because I've been jingling every morning again.

Now, I'm an inveterate journaler.  I've written about journaling over and over again, so much so that you are no doubt sick of it.  Recently, I was reading Katrina Kenison's memoir, The Gift of an Ordinary Day, and in one scene she is delighted to find that over the last 18 years or so, she has filled 10 to 12 journals.  Um, I'm filled hundreds.  I have tubs of them in the downstairs closet, and more bursting out of cardboard boxes in my office.  So I've got some journaling cred.

But every once in awhile I take a break from it.  I decide that I should get right to my novel writing first thing in the morning, since it is the most important thing in my life and all the experts say to do that first.  So I shun my journal and go do my other work. 

And then something calls me back.

I pick up my journal again and before you know it, I'm writing like crazy every morning, and then sometimes several times a day.  And I have to admit, as I realized while writing the email, my work is better off for it.  Here, I've decided, is why:

  • The words flow more easily
  • The process of going deeper comes naturally, without effort
  • I'm more connected with my emotions
  • I notice more
  • Writing breeds more writing.

Take special note of that last item.  If I take time to write in my journal, those words breed more words. Has anybody else ever noticed that?  The more I write, the more I'm capable of writing.  It is almost magical.

One of the reasons this may be is that the act of writing in my journal shakes loose the muse and often what I write about is how I want to do a certain scene in my novel.  Nearly every day, a blog post comes through.  I get ideas for all kinds of things.

So.  Writing in your journal doesn't have to take up your whole day, and it doesn't have to be first thing in the morning.  Pull out your moleskine at lunchtime and write for 10 minutes, or have a mini-writing session during your afternoon coffee break.  You'll be amazed at what happens.