Journal Writing: Stuck in a Rut?

Thursday, February 19, 2009
I'm an avid journal writer. But, there are time lapses in my multiple journals. It's the same with my blog. Some days I write eloquent essays that probably should've been submitted for publication. And on other days, I just rant about what is happening on the family farm or at speech practice.

Honestly, some days I'm not inspired. Writing is hard work (contrary to what a lot of people tell me) and coming up with fresh ideas can lead to frustration. More often than not, I come up with interesting ideas. But on those days when nothing seems to go my way, how can I acknowledge my existence as a writer? What if I don't think I have anything to say.

Write. Something.

In Note to Self: On Keeping A Journal and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Samara O'Shea, the author compares journal writing to a mix tape. You use other people's words and concepts to express your feelings.

What a great concept! The first journal I ever kept is filled with quotes, song lyrics, poems, and tidbits of trivial information. They document my life at that specific moment in time. When I reread what I wrote, I see an intelligent young woman who was ready to face the world on her own. And I also visualize a scared girl who wasn't always secure in her own skin.

O'Shea writes that writing other's words in your journal can help you find yourself. And I agree! She discusses several options in her book, including:
  • Poetry. When I look through my old journals, I follow the journey of poetry appreciation and notice that when in high school, I found comfort in poems that reflected themes of friendship and young love. When I was 20-something, I must have purchased a lot of "Best of" anthologies because I note several poems that are seemingly unrelated. And now, I study words and phrases by Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, and Brian Turner.
  • Song lyrics. In my first journal, only one song is printed among the pages. "Best of My Love" by the Eagles graces one page. While I enjoy music and sing off key to the radio or CMT, the lack of music in some journals tells me that I might have been in a dark period in my life. The music returned to life in one of my last journals. The songs printed on the pages include songs by Three Doors Down, Mercy Me, Hoobastank, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, and LeAnn Rimes. What does that say about my life?
  • Quotes. I have quotes from speeches, plays, movies, TV shows and books alongside the words of the famous and not-so-famous. A quote says a lot about the person you are and the person you will eventually be.

If you find yourself stuck in a journal-writing rut, consider penning someone else's words to jumpstart your creativity. It will put words on paper and serve as a benchmark for where you are at on a personal level.


Anonymous said...

I journal and I love this idea. It really does get the creativity flowing. Thanks, Annie!

LuAnn said...

I actually have three journals. The first is one my son gave me a year ago ...beautiful, leather-bound creation. Another I won in a contest ... sweet, flowery, pretty book. The third is a small 5x7 I picked up about a week ago to list random thoughts during the day. So, why haven't I written in any of them? Good question!

Rachel said...

I have been neglecting my journal lately, mainly because I thought I always had to write something of my own-- this really makes me want to pick it up again and write something fresh!

journaljunky said...

I am a dedicated Journal Junkie. I've written volumes over the last 10 years. Honestly, when I find myself with nothing to write, I simply write nothing. It's liberating to have permission to use my journal or not use my journal as inspiration decides.
I do sometimes record interesting, inspiring and wise quotes. Have not yet tried writing out others poems or song lyrics. Often if I'm scratching for a place to start, I ask myself a question and then journal my response. Thanks for the food for thought. Love Soli xxx

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