#atozchallenge D is for Dump Pages

A core habit shared by many successful writers is the keeping of a daily writing habit, often in a writing journal.

Daily writing exercises of a certain page length are often prescribed as a method for writers to “dump their worries” or “dump their brains” before moving onto the real writing work. Today I am going to quickly discuss these tools.

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My Tempestuous Relationship with Journaling

Journal hate

Tempestuous – the word came home this week on my ten year old daughter’s spelling list, along with scrupulous, vociferous and pensive. She couldn’t find the word in her school age dictionary, so asked me for advice. I attempted to provide a definition that didn’t talk about Wuthering Heights or Downton Abbey too much, but just found myself…going there, you know? My writing (and bad boy attraction) notions got the better of me, and hey, I was cooking at the time, too.

My daughter was forced to attempt to write the definition in her own words. She put down:

Tempestuous: a love that runs hot and cold.

(As a ten year old, she uses the term love without grasping the larger concept of relationships – and I want to keep it that way for a bit longer because goodness knows everything her life is expecting of her lately leaves little room for just ‘being a kid’).

For tempestuous, the teacher came back in red scrawled writing with the words: “a storm”. All the other spelling words were regarding morals, and emotions, and states of character and (imo) were perhaps not words you would normally see being used in a ten year old’s (or indeed, my own) vocabulary, in the first place. Not in a million perfect storms.

Naturally,  I was completely stonkered that this particular one was defined suddenly by a weather system. (I am now trying to think of a weather example that could be considered scrupulous, but I digress…)

But a weather system I certainly have with journaling, or in particular, concepts like morning pages.

In this case, I preach, but am not converted. Look away now, if you don’t want to see my shame.

Confession time:

I’ve tried journaling, free-form writing, morning pages, on and off, for over a decade. I’ve joined Artist Way groups with the best intentions. Several times. And dropped out. Several times. (Including *cough cough* another one going on right now).

My hand has ached until I can no longer write, outputting those 3 pages a day of morning pages.The gig was probably up as soon as I started calling them “mourning pages.”

I have tried keeping electronic journals, notebooks, secret lock and key diaries (when I was twelve, okay!) and I still try.

I have found some success in holding a project writing journal within my current writing project (using Scrivener for all the files). I only recently took that daily journaling or dump pages out into a specific journal program which allows for a calendar and entries with auto-dates on them. That app is on trial only, and I’ve been humming and ahhing for weeks over whether I should purchase it.

See how I play and let the whole concept fester?

Moving my journal notes over to a diary program was perhaps a mistake, but then I’m not in Scrivener (my writing program) or a writing project everyday,  either. (If Literature and Latte could add an auto-date function or hot-key to new text files in the next gen of Scrivener, it would be heaven).

On some weekend days, I don’t even boot up my laptop. Therefore I don’t journal. On the days I do boot up my laptop, I don’t necessarily click the journal icon staring at me.

Can you say the word: resistance? (And what weather system is that, dear teacher?)

All is not a failure, however. Despite my tempestuous relationship with maintaining a daily journal, I have come to accept that for me—this is all okay:

  • I gain benefits from dumping down thoughts, moods, problems from the day, and combining those dribbles with actual planning and thoughts relevant to the writing tasks at hand. It’s a tool for the proverbial “load off” the mind if my husband isn’t around to cop it.  I don’t mind having to shift some of the more useful writing ideas across when needed.
  • The dump pages let me get some worries off my mind, and also to celebrate and write gratitudes for some success during the day.
  • And if I miss a day (or four last week) I’ve grown to appreciate that sometimes I don’t need to journal – sometimes days are ticking along so well, or the opposite, and journaling about them will just interrupt them un-necessarily. You’ve got to live, to have something to journal about, after all.
  • Sometimes I hate my journal’s guts and wish it would shrivel up and die.
  • And sometimes it’s just too sunny and dazzling, when I want rain and moodiness. There, I’ve completed this thing with a return to my daughter’s teacher’s metaphor.

Do you keep a writing journal / dump pages / do morning pages? If so, how’s your relationship going?