Last summer I started reading The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron's popular book which outlines her method for unleashing the "inner artist." One of the key elements in this process are the "morning pages," three pages of free writing done every day. The key element here is "free" writing - there are no topics, no list of must-includes. You just pick up the pen, and write whatever comes to mind. I started doing morning pages last July, and I've filled six spiral notebooks with all kinds of things, from shopping lists to plans for my future. Sure, I've done some whining, but I've also come to some pretty interesting conclusions and had more than one "light bulb" moment in the process of writing out my feelings about a dilemma.
Cameron isn't the first to advocate free writing as a means of tapping the well of creativity that lies in our subconscious. Back in 1934, in her classic book Becoming A Writer, Dorothea Brande wrote "if you are to have the full benefit of the richness of the unconscious you must learn to write easily and smoothly when the unconscious is in the ascendant." Her prescription - "rise half an hour or an hour earlier than you usually rise, and, just as soon as you can, without talking, without reading the morning paper, without picking up the book you laid aside the night before - begin to write. Write anything that comes into your head." In this manner, she says you learn to train your mind to release words easily and freely, words that can later be whipped into some sort of shape.
I also love reading the published diaries of well known authors, and one of my favorite is Virginia Woolf's A Writer's Diary. Back in 1919, she had this to say about her own diary writing:
I've become quite accustomed to "loosening the ligaments" of my mind each morning as I sit in my favorite chair, warmly snuggled in a cozy flannel blanket, with a steaming cup of coffee at the ready (sorry, Dorothea, I have to get up and make the coffee first!) I just replenished my supply of spiral notebooks - I've found that if I use just an inexpensive school style notebook, I don't feel any constraint about writing something worthy of a lovely bound book full of nice thick paper. I do like a smooth writing, fine tipped pen - right now my favorite is the Vision Elite by UniBall - it's gel ink glides effortlessly across the page but doesn't soak through.
How about you? Do you have a journalling habit? What kind of journal do you keep?