I started keeping a daily journal sometime around the start of July.
(Well, okay, it was the 7th. It wasn’t exactly hard to look up).
I’d seen the idea being kicked around (don’t say fad don’t say fad don’t) various writerly blogs, and neatly summarised over at Lifehacker.com. Being subject to regular crises of confidence and almost all of the possible manifestations of procrastination, I decided it couldn’t hurt to have a go at it.
Besides which, my wife gave me a spectacular leather-bound notepad for my birthday last year, and I’d been looking for a good project for it.
The idea is pretty straightforward: every day, I fill a page. No more, no less. It generally only takes four or five minutes, writing in my run-together block letter script that tends to look neater at the top of the page than the bottom.
What do I write about? It varies. Sometimes it’s just a rambling narrative about my plans for the day or a recap of what happened (depending on when I write). Sometimes it’s a one-sided problem-solving session about whatever piece of fiction I’m working on at the time. Occasionally I’ll use it to brainstorm ideas for short stories I have absolutely no time to write. Sometimes – often – it’s a stream-of-consciousness checklist of jobs to do, because I only tend to take jobs seriously when I’ve written them down.
Once in a while it’s a quietly furious rant venting my spleen at some grave political injustice. Those are more therapeutic than starting a fight on Facebook.
Most days, though, it’s an extended pep talk. “You’ve got this!” “Just take it one step at a time!” or the good old reliable “Kindly get off your lazy arse and make your damn word count, you lazy git.”
(Variants on that last one appear more often than I care to enumerate).
Strong advocates of journalling will go on about its supposed benefits, from organising complex ideas, to building mindfulness and self-awareness, to reinforcing successes and processing mistakes. I suppose I get a bit of all of those. It never hurts, in particular, to mark the occasions when I get something right – being a bit of a pessimist, I have been known to prioritise dwelling on the next problem over celebrating the wins right in front of me.
But the thing I get most from it is just keeping organised, staying on top of the work in front of me and reminding myself at handy moments to just stick to the plan.
Having kept a regular personal blog since late last century, I didn’t need to convinced of the virtue of regular reflection. But there’s an appeal to hearkening back to the technology of the previous – what, nine or ten centuries? – that I didn’t expect.
Pen to paper. Words on the page. Don’t worry about making sense.