Sunday, December 18, 2011

Journalling and blank page fright

New year, new diary! Is anyone planning to journal more in 2012? The good people at Taschen sent me a Keel’s Simple Diary (volume 2) to try out. It’s a hardback guided journal that comes in six colours. Each page has space for a date (you don't have to work through the book in order) and a set of surreal options to tick. There's a quote, and some brief prompts to fill out -- you can get the idea at the Keel's Simple Diary website. It's a pleasing little book -- but aren't all new diaries? Holding it made me think about my own experience with journalling, and I felt an essay coming on...

I'm not very good with a plain notebook: I suffer terribly from blank page fright -- that's why Three Beautiful Things has a simple but loose instruction.  Every time I feel inclined to stop I think “What sort of a loser fails to find three things they like in a day. And what sort of rubbish writer would fail to articulate those things.”

Three Beautiful Things has one serious limitation -- it is not a place to write about the grimy, grotty and depressing (unless the day has been particularly rotten). But Fiona Robyn overcomes this with her Small Stones, "a polished moment of paying proper attention". They can be about anything that catches the eye (or the ear, or the nose. Fiona is running a River of Stones during January to encourage more people to give it a go.

I was doing well with Morning Pages, a habit left over from The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I filled page after page with early morning chatter and I was certainly writing, but words that I was not going to look at again. I prefer words that continue working after they hit the paper, so I made my own story diary by writing a prompt at the top of each page and... well, just going for it each morning. Plenty of good story seeds resulted, and every time I dig back into the books I find another exciting project to explore.

If the thought of a whole page daunts you, there are other options. 
Keri Smith’s works  How to be an Explorer of the World and This is Not a Book  are both in my library, embarrassingly un-used. I think Explorer's focus on actual collected objects didn't work well for me -- I'm more about words than things. But I would love so much to be the person who accumulates and is inspired by found objects. My ownership of this book says more about the person I want to be than the person I am. Having said that, it's full of ideas that apply to anyone who wants to look more closely at the world, and I've adapted some of the thought experiments and exercises to my own ends. This is Not a Book issues prompts with which to journal, or even just experience.

Follow these links to Amazon if you'd like your own copies of Keel's Simple Diary or How to be an Explorer of the World or This Is Not A Book or The Artist's Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self.


  1. Hmmmm.... I have precisely that same problem, Miss Clare! I used to be an English teacher so the assumption is that I write and read all the time. Truth is that I never have, but I enjoy it. The blog has become my journal. I have intermittently done something on my blog called 30 Words. I distill something into exactly 30 words. Hard for a wordy like me but it forces me to be concise and precise. Hmmmm... I might be inclined to take up this challenge of the small stones but translate that into my 30 Words posts. I have wanted to find a way to get those back to a regular feature and this might just be the way! Thank you for the nudge!
    Enjoy the day.

  2. Ohh, I forgot another led-journalling experience of mine, Erin.

    Have a look at these --
    30 words is very good discipline for any wordy person. I think this practice made me a better writer.


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