Do you journal?
Many creatives do, particularly creative writers. Several best-selling books on breaking through writer’s block and unlocking your muse advise daily writings in a personal journal. The process, we’re told, clears mental cobwebs, sparks ideas, and empowers the writer to overcome the fear of the blank page. Talk to any evangelist for The Artist’s Way and they’ll insist it works.
I am an abject failure at journaling. Yet I have overcome creative blocks time and again. As I’ve reflected on how I’ve managed to do that without journaling, I’ve come to wonder something else.
Is journaling really a cause that leads to an effect? Or is it instead an indication of a certain personality type, the spontaneous creative?
Back in September I hosted an interesting conversation here at The Artist’s Road about this notion of two types of creatives: those who plan out a path before commencing with creating, and those who prefer to go in blind and follow their muse. In my rant I decried this type of categorization–arguing truly successful creatives channel a bit of both–but confessed I am more of a planning type.
I believe that is why I am incapable of journaling. I want to plan out my journal entry before writing it, which kind of defeats the entire purpose. (A confession: This morning while showering I outlined and wrote this blog post in my head, and now am serving more as a taker of dictation from my inner writer. I even decided I would include this aside at this point in the post. I’m feeling very meta right now.)
I approach creative writing with a background not as a journaler, but a journalist. The best way to meet a daily deadline as a journalist is to plot out your story in advance. But you also need to be a good listener, to know when the story you planned to write takes an odd turn. That is my creative process for writing: outline my approach, start writing with relative ease because I’ve already mapped out a path, but stay attuned to the possibility of going off that grid.
I love The Artist’s Way; the title of this blog is an homage to the book. But when I first read it in the early 1990s it frustrated me, largely because I simply couldn’t connect with the exercises, in particular the journaling. When I started down this new path to an art-committed life late last year, I dug out my old copy–it’s telling I had held on to it all these years–and read it again. I completely skipped the exercises. What I needed from Ms. Cameron was not pedagogy, but inspiration. I found what I needed.
If you journal, and you feel it improves your creative flow, I am very happy for you. If you don’t journal, or have struggled with it, perhaps you should go easy on yourself. You’re not alone.
What is your experience with journaling? Do you think journaling is a tool for everyone, or is it rather a device that serves the types of creatives who choose to do it but isn’t a universal fit? I’d love to hear your thoughts.