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The Joy of Not Saving but Writing

8 November, 2013

blank journal.jpb

Do you have a collection of blank writing journals? Are they s00o beautiful that you have never written in them?

While cleaning out my filing cabinet today, I came across a forgotten book on journal writing, Stephanie Dowrick’s Living Words: Journal writing for self-discovery, insight & creativity. (Viking Press, 2003). Each chapter includes lined pages, for writing responses to prompts. The book was provided when I attended Dowrick’s one-day journaling workshop, which was hugely popular and mainly attracted women.

For me,  the day’s take-home  message was:  When you write, honour messiness, honesty, and serious intent.

Most of the participants would probably have agreed about first drafts being messy, plus the advantages of honesty. But  the idea of honouring our intent as storytellers? An interesting twist that day suggested that this aspect may be harder to understand and achieve.

When Stephanie asked us to undertake an exercise in her book, many people put it to one side and instead started to write on whatever they had brought along with them, such as their notebook or some sheets of paper. When she suggested using the writing space in her book, people looked uneasy. One protested that she wanted to ‘save’ the book, that it was ‘too good’ to write in.

Writing in a published book is usually a no-no. But the reluctance I sensed in the room could have been due to a different kind of trespass, that of inserting one’s ‘inferior’ writing into a ‘real’ (published) book, and as well, one created by a well-known, successful author. I decided I wouldn’t keep her book pristine  but make it  MINE, using it to explore–messily, honestly–myself and my writing.

Now, some years later, as I look through her/my book, I see I have  scribbled in brown, turquoise and black ink. Little is crossed out. Sentences and paragraphs jostle with dot points and diagrams. The pages are stuffed with other sheets of writings–lists of authors, books read, letters from friends, and even my entry pass to a memorable and life-changing bushwalk in remote Kakadu National Park.

Although at first it felt strange to write my ideas in this serious book, I soon came to enjoy using Stephanie’s prompts as a jumping off point into creativity, writing much more than I expected, even using the margins when I needed extra space.

If I’d saved the book, keeping it pristine while using a notebook to respond to the prompts, I’m not sure I would have felt so attuned to them.  And writing in such a lovely book helped me honour my ideas and identify a serious intent to write and explore.

If you have unused journals, why not start writing in them?  Even if you write your stories on the computer, you can still find a use for blank pages. Some people turn to them for their freewriting, believing that writing their first ideas by hand is best. I like to fill them with whatever captures my attention: poems, quotations, odd phrases, plus unusual photos and pictures, headlines, news articles, and names.

Whatever you do, don’t think about not using the journals. Left unopened, unused, they are simply negative energy—and who needs that?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. 10 November, 2013 6:56 am

    I have that book! And guess what, its pages are pristinely empty. You’ve inspired me to go and elegantly deface it. I’m sure that’s what Stephanie would want, come to think of it. And thank you for referencing one of my gurus – she has had a big impact on my life.

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    • 10 November, 2013 10:51 am

      Good on you. Which of Dowrick’s books do you especially recommend?

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  2. 8 November, 2013 12:57 pm

    Your voice as a blogger sounds different to me now that I know you better, Marsha.

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    • 8 November, 2013 1:30 pm

      Interesting! You’ll have to send me some details.

      Related to this is the fact that for some writers, their writing style is a far cry from their speaking style, hence the interest in hearing writers. And it can be disappointing if that aural insight doesn’t come through when the writer reads around. If I read aloud a story set where I grew up, I try to let my ‘inner Kansan’ emerge!

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  1. Stephanie Dowrick on daring to write Heaven on Earth | Stephanie Dowrick « How my heart speaks

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