Journaling – Prime the Pump for Your Writing
Image by joeannenah
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of participating in a journaling workshop with Ann Bracken, an expressive arts coach and the owner of The Possibility Project. Ann led us through a visualization and several journaling exercises, and I learned a lot about how journaling can help me get into my creative groove.
I have to admit that I almost didn’t go to this workshop. I’m not much of a journaler and couldn’t imagine what Ann might share that would change my mind. Thankfully, my need to socialize with other writers won out, and I went despite my doubts. Immediately after the workshop ended, I approached Ann and asked her if I could use some of her journaling exercises here at Write Out Loud. She agreed, and then I asked if I could interview her so that you could all benefit from her expressive arts coaching. She was all for it, and I hope you get as much out of meeting Ann as I have.
Your business, The Possibility Project, focuses on using the creative arts to help others tap into their potential. How do you feel poetry, drama, writing and other creative pursuits unleash the potential of people who don’t consider themselves to be inherently creative?
That’s a good question. I think everyone is creative in some way. Many of us limit our definition of creativity to mean producing art that is sold in the marketplace. This does everyone a disservice and is a narrow view of human gifts. So when I work with people, I often challenge their old definition of creativity, especially if they don’t see their own talents and abilities in that area. Once people open up the way they see themselves, they engage more freely in work involving poetry, drama, journaling, and improv.
Journaling seems to play an integral role in your programs and coaching. When I think of journaling, I think of my middle-school diary where I wrote paragraphs about my day, my latest crush or my plans for the weekend. How do you define journaling?
I define journaling as any kind of writing activity that helps you get in touch with your inner self. To do that, people often need a time-limit for writing so they know to make a short sprint count. In addition, I often use a simple prompt, such as an interesting quote or a question about where they are at the present moment.
How can journaling help us in our lives, and particularly in our writing?
Sometimes just by committing troubling or challenging things on paper you gain new clarity and insight. Using a journal is helpful to writers because inspiration does not usually come in one discrete moment, but in short bursts of fleeting thought. Many writers use journals to record character impressions, scene details, sense memories, and flashes of inspiration that occur randomly through the day. Journaling is also useful as a way to loosen up before working on a new project. It helps to prime the pump.
What is it about journaling that you believe makes it an effective tool for helping us “prime the pump,” as you put it?
I think journaling helps primarily by getting things out of the amorphous realm of thought and into the concrete realm of paper and pen.
I’ve often felt like unless I could do it every single day, and with a very specific goal in mind (like recording my daily activities), journaling was pointless. How would you respond to that?
Many of us have very strict rules for ourselves related to success and failure. To impose a rigid notion of what makes something valuable can often stop us from ever getting where we want to be. I suggest making your journal a place to explore as ideas, thoughts, and situations that occur in your life. People who reframe their notions about journaling often begin to see their journals as friends instead of as another place to produce and perform.
Since most of my readers are also writers, do you have any other suggestions for tapping into our creativity other than using journaling?
The brain likes two things a lot: questions and pattern-breaking or novelty. I recently needed a new opening scene for a novel I am writing. I got very stuck and began rejecting every idea that popped up. I just wrote the following question in my journal, “What would make for a compelling opening scene?” I put the journal aside, knowing that in time, several ideas would germinate. Then I began working on an altered book project for a recent trip I took to Spain. By engaging with paint, glue, collage materials, and ephemera from the trip, I moved away from writing and into another kind of creative pursuit. I opened a space for new possibilities through the process of fully engaging with visual art materials. The next day, without any more effort, I had a great idea for creating the scene.
So sometimes, the best thing we can do to tap into our creativity as writers is to try something in a different creative realm. Great advice, Ann. Thanks for sharing your views and inspiring us to look at journaling in a less restrictive light.
If you’d like to know more about Ann and The Possibility Project, please visit her website. Ann is currently offering an eight-week program for women in transition called the Three Pillars of Hope. If you’re interested, you can contact her by email.
Ann shared a couple of excellent journaling exercises with me, as well, and I’ll be sharing those with you over the next week or two. Stay tuned for some great ways to prime your writing pump so that you can Write Out Loud.