A Heaping Helping of Creativity, Please
I teach a seminar on “Write What You Know,” to writers most of whom are just getting themselves into the writing life and trying to decide what they want to write. One of the homework assignments I give is to try to get them into the habit of journaling. I not only give the assignment, but I try to get them to see why journaling is such an important aspect of life for every writer.
When I began taking writing courses such as the one I teach some 15 or so years ago, I lost count on how many of those teachers told me how important it was to journal. The only problem was, they did not teach me why.
For budding writers, journaling helps solidify two ideas: the first being that a person wants to write everyday and the second being that they can write everyday, and for those of us who make our living at writing, we know that writing everyday is necessary in order to become better writers.
I always advise my students to try free-flow journaling. Free flow is allowing one’s mind to guide the pen or fingers on the keys to write whatever comes to mind, uncensored and unedited for a specified length of time, usually no more than 5-10 minutes.
Besides developing the habit of writing, journaling also helps us come up with story ideas and even write stories that may, someday, be of interest to the generations that follow. Journaling can lead to writing stories of particular family memories that would be of interest to our children. It can also lead to writing of feelings and memories of current importance, such as the events surrounding 9-11, Hurricane Katrina or the current political climate. In an age when emails have almost totally replaced letter writing, 100 years from now, our journals may be the only pieces of history written by ordinary citizens that students and historians can use to gage what our lives were like.
This weekend, after my class had re-assembled for the last of two meetings, one of the class members said that she actually gleaned three story ideas from her week of journaling, and she learned the reasons why journaling is so important, particularly to writers. She also reminded me of something as well: while we writers who write for pay are always on deadline and therefore, must always treat words at a premium, free flow journaling allows us to release our creativity and write, once again, without inhibition.
On this gloriously beautiful Sunday morning, I am going to dust off my journal, turn on the timer, and for just a few minutes write whatever I want.