Monday, 22 March 2010

Journal Writing Prompt 3

Today, let's explore a bit deeper. Let us explore our higher values and beliefs. Here are a few questions to get you started, and go with them where you will.

Are you religious?

If yes,

How important is religion in your life?

Do you actively practice it?

Why do you practice it?

If no,

Why not?

Do you believe in higher power?

Are you spiritual?

Do you simply not acknowledge the possibility that there is no God, or are you convinced that there isn't any?

What makes you so sure?

Do you believe in higher power perhaps, but no religion?

Do you believe in karma? What goes around comes around?

Do you believe that your destiny is laid out for you, or is it something you shape?

Each of these questions could make up a journal on its own.

What's important is which one strikes a chord with you. Try writing answers to each of them - for some, you might stop after a sentence, having no more to say, but with others you might that your mind contains far more thoughts about the issue that realised.

There is no right or wrong. Your beliefs, your faith, your values are yours to choose. The purpose of this exercise is to explore it so you understand the reasons behind them, and by doing so, you understand yourself.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Adieu Moleskine - Hello Parchment

Here is my poor moleskine, which has put up with me for 6 months, with my thoughts and moans and experimental pens which left smudges. And I even made it fat. And now our journey together is ended, though it shall forever be a treasure.

And this is Journal 17. A handmade journal with hand decorated paper. I bought this quite a while ago - at least a year, probably longer - but couldn't use myself to write on these lovely pages. Sometimes, I get that with journals. For some of them, I just need to wait until I am ready to use them. But I am ready now.

Compared to moleskine it's got a lot less pages, and also I am writing much more into journal now, so I don't expect this to last long, but looking forward to filling it.

On practical matters:

Because it is handmade, it would not take the battering as well as the moleskine, so I shall not be carrying it everywhere.

Pages are very good quality, and thick, so all those pens that bled through in plain moleskine work well here. After a little test (it comes with a square piece with a note about the journal, but the back is blank so a good place to try out different pens.

Pentel Gel Pen and Zebra liquid Ink Roller Ball, as well as Gel Pens will be my preferred choice for this journal. They write well, don't bleed through, and liquid ink doesn't smudge on the page.
Parker and Watermen Fountain pens don't work so well, because the ink doesn't come out dark enough on these pages.

It is a very light journal, so it would be easy to carry it around if I wanted to. While it is not as flexible as moleskine in terms of just leaving it open, it is comfortable enough to write in.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Journal Writing Prompt 2

Take a moment to relax, think and drift your mind back to the past - think back to your childhood.

What is the first memory that comes to mind?

As soon as one does, note it down and then free write. Don't try to force yourself to remember all the exact details.

Catch that memory, and then follow it where it leads you - let the words flow - even if you begin to write about something completely different or irrevelent. Keep writing. continuously. Do so for at least 10-15 minutes, longer if you have time. Don't analyse.

You may be surprised by the results. one memory can often unlock the doors to other memories that you may not have thought of before, or it could lead to something that relates to you today.

Follow up exercise:

Bookmark the page. Few weeks or even a month later, begin the journal entry with that very same memory and then free write. See where it takes you - one memory could end up leading you to totally different directions depending your mood, emotional state at the time.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Journal Writing Prompt 1

Look around the room. Pick an object, any object that instantly appeals to you.
- Did you buy it or someone gave it to you?
- Do you remember what you felt when you first got it?
- How do you feel about it now?
- Is it something you would ever want to part with?
- Does your feelings or lack of them for this object tell you something about your current state of emotions, your life?
- Does it make you feel good in any way?
- Does it give you negative feelings?

It may seem like a trivial thing, but it is through parting the trivial that we reach deeper dimension of our selves. Try it, and see what it tells you.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Does Your Practical Life Take Over Your Creative Life?

Most of us are forced to deal with practical matters of life - a day job, which has no room for creativity, family to look after, home to care for, errands to run, social life to keep - you may have any or even more than these issues that seem to fill your days, and sometimes you barely know when one day ends and another begins.

Life begins to feel like an endless parade of time that is outside your control. At the end of the day, when you drop on bed with exhaustion or sit in front of the TV because you have no energy for anything else, pursuing your creativity might be the last thing on your mind.

Do you put it off till tomorrow? Perhaps till the weekend? Or till you go on holiday? Or even until the retirement?

Annie Dillard - a woman with extraordinary talent for words said, "How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our life."

Okay, that does not mean that you give up all your responsibilities, send the kids to foster care, and go off in Himalayn valley to pursue your creativity.  No, what that means is that give your creativity the same importance as you do all the other things in your life. If you are an organised person, who makes to-do lists, regularly schedule time for creative pursuits.

On my lists, journaling is a scheduled activity. I may write 10 pages if I have time, or I might write 5 lines if I am in a hurry, but putting it on the list tells me that it is just as important as writing or editing my book, or all the other millions of things I need to do.

On occassions when I left Journaling off my goals list, thinking I will get to it if I have time, it always got neglected, because there never was a time. Or I would do it at the sacrifice of my other goals, and then feel guilty for not meeting those goals. So now I schedule it.

Why is it important?

Understanding self, measuring the progress of who we are, where we are going in life, and whether we are going where we want to, is a life time process. Recording one's life is a life time process. To neglect it, for me, is to neglect myself. Most of us - even those without any immense truama in their lives - have great many suppressed emotions and/or memories. We do that for different reasons, and how much depends on the personality. But our creative pursuits - whether it's journaling, painting, dancing or anything else - it frees our self. Here, we are not following any guideline. Here, we are not doing what the boss told us to do. Here, we are just picking up a pen or a brush or dancing shoes, and let the inner-self take over. We are taking the time to connect with ourselves.

How could that not be a priority?

So make time for your creativity. Whether it is 10 minutes a day, or an hour every week, give it an important place in your schedule, and you will be giving importance to your inner-self - that one that might be not be visible all the time, but it is what makes you who you are, and has the power to turn you into who you want to be.

Friday, 5 March 2010

A Writer's Journal - An Essential Tool

I did this as a guest post for Editing Hat. But I think it might be of interest to people on this blog too.

A writer’s journal can be an essential tool for any writer, at any stage, writing in any genre. I will share my views and experience on it, and I hope you will enjoy the post, perhaps find something useful, and share your views.

The Journal

Depending on your life style, it could either be a notebook, a binder or a computer. Though I think most people, except for the extreme hermits, would need a notebook of some kind when they are away from their computers.

I personally use a moleskine because I love the quality of their pages, sturdy covers, an elastic band around it to keep notes and things from falling out, and a back-pocket to keep more notes which I might have ended up scribbling somewhere else despite the best intentions to keep everything in one place. (When an idea occurs at work, I can’t very well take out my writing journal, so a hasty scribble on a post-it has to suffice)


You have a journal, but you don’t really want to go through the whole thing to find a page, or if you have been keeping them for a while, several of them. So basic organisation is necessary.

If you are using a binder, you can simply have dividers, and label each section – plot ideas, future project ideas, character notes, editing tips, new techniques learned, etc. You can have as many categories as you like. It has to work for you.

If you are using a PC, you can just keep separate files, or using excel, you can have a column where you add tags, so you can find items by that. Using things like y-writer or liquid story binder, you can have separate notes.

I keep two pages free for an Index at the front of my moleskine, and add to it as and when I have time. That way, I know exactly what’s on which page.

You could, in theory, keep separate journals for separate books, but remember that the objective here is flexibility. I don’t know about you, but my mind doesn’t always obey me when I say I want to think only about a specific book. So if I am carrying around a journal for Book 1, but my mind decides to bombard me with ideas for Book 2, then I am buggered. So I find it easier to keep just one writing journal. To make things easier for myself, besides having an Index, I also title each page clearly, usually in large letters, so just by flipping through it, I know what I am looking at.

I am personally of the opinion that keeping a hand-written journal is much better than a computer one. For one thing, you can just flip through your journal during a quiet moment, and might find ideas that you weren’t particular thinking of at the moment, whereas people don’t usually go around opening unneeded files on the PC.

What if you don’t have a journal?

In writing, or in any art, there are no necessities besides basic supplies. People wrote things before computers and type-writers, even before electricity. So obviously you can manage just fine without keeping a journal.

But keeping a journal could make things easier for you – and it could be an excellent record of your growth as a writer. Do you ever look at something what you wrote years ago, and wonder what the hell were you thinking? I certainly do. But what I don’t always remember is what did I know then? What techniques did I learn over time? How did I learn them?

Why is that of any use? You might say, once you know something that’s what matters. How you know it is irrelevant. Perhaps. But besides having a keen interest in understanding my own mind, this recording also tells me what works for me and what doesn’t.

I use my journal essentially to capture or explore ideas, rather than facts. I use it when I am trying to get to know a new character, work out kinks in a plot line, scribble new ideas that occur to me for novels I may or may not write.

I also use it to write things I learn about writing craft that resonate with me. Techniques I would like to refer to later, or inspirational quotes.

It’s my creative soundboard. It’s also something very tangible that shows me how far I have come, and on the days when either inspiration or motivation is low, there are plenty of ideas in there to mine.

How about you? Do you keep a writing journal? Would you give it a go?