Or do you call them writing journals? Writing diaries? Whatever you call them, they are essential. I’ve recently been asked to do a presentation in Nashville at the Path and Pen conference and I’m going to do a workshop on Writing Abundance. This will essentially cover a whole lot of ways that I’ve discovered to keep the writing flow going.
And one of the pillars of writing abundance is what I like to call collecting. You have to gather source material in order to have something to write about. In truth, all the source material you ever need is inside of you, but some of us need external reminders of this. These external reminders are what I call mental ephemera–notes about things you’ve observed over the course of the day, a snippet of dialogue you’ve heard, the description of someone you’ve seen. They can be articles you’ve torn out of a newspaper or printed off the internet. Or they can be images–pictures that appeal to you for whatever reason or photos of places you might want to write about.
It if all sounds like a lot of effort, it is. But it is worthy effort because it establishes a pattern of observation and seeking inspiration. You may never even look back through your writer’s journal but the simple act of writing it down cements it in your mind.
Upon occasion, more rarely than I’d like, I venture into making art. These ventures most often take the form of collaged pages (such as altered journals) or needlework. I deeply desire to design my own needlework and yet I find myself staring at the blank canvas, without a clue what I want to do on it. But recently I read a book which explained how to create collages and use other source material for ideas. And today I heard Kaffe Fassett speak (at the OCAC graduation) and he showed slides of what were essentially garbage dumps in India and the amazing knitted coat that came of it. So I’m starting to get a better idea of how visual artists work, and they work by collecting source material.
I’ve been putting myself back in the mind of the panicked beginner, staring at a blank canvas these days as I develop this workshop (and I will be putting an online version as well as an ebook of it up soon). It helps me to remember that feeling of utterly blanking out as one faces the canvas or the page or whatever. And my best advice for facing it down on this hot, hot night is to start a writer’s notebook. Or journal. Or diary. Call it whatever you like, just do it.