Call it a daybook, a journal, even a diary if you want. I don’t care if you call it your little black book of secrets or your “journal down the yellow book road” (yeah, I did that once — the cover adorned with pictures of Ozian munchkins and wand-twirling witche s– and I still don’t regret it).
What you call it doesn’t matter. What you do in it does.
And that, my Fellow Writers, is where I believe we have the problem.
The number one reason why people don’t write daily is because they are afraid of the personal commitment and that fine line we draw distinguishing perfection from failure. We make it a black/white contract with ourselves and commence severe self-punishment when we miss a day.
Believe me, it happens all the time. At the beginning of 2011, I set out to write every day on my blog. I was perfect for 97 straight days. After the streak ended in mid-April, I posted another 17 articles — the rest of the year. That’s right. I let the line separating perfection and failure define my blogging so strongly I barely produced any solid personal blog writing after I broke the streak.
Now, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t daybooking in other places. And, I did publish and post here at Write Anything and at other blogs.
But my own blog? Totally neglected because I let it get to me that I crossed the fine line between perfection and failure.
That’s what we need to obliterate, Fellow Writers. Erase that line completely from your mind, your psyche, your past.
It does not exist in your writing Present.
Now, there will be days when, for whatever reason, it doesn’t work out for you. That should just make you even more eager to return to the page the next day (so much to say in just one entry!). Rather than beat yourself up over what just happened, put the pen to the paper and resume the regimen of daily writing.
It’s that simple.
Here are three things (without the nasty fine lines I talked about earlier) that you can do to help you write (nearly) every day: Place. Space. Trace.
Your words, ideas, story lines, and abstract ramblings and doodles all need a place, a home to call their own. I know some writers love to tell stories of how their best ideas were jotted down on a napkin while their kids spun round and around on the local merry-go-round. It’s so romantic, isn’t it? Chances are, that napkin was taped and prominently displayed on the next page of that writer’s daybook/journal. You need a house where all of these ideas can hang out with each other, where connections begin to happen between notes jotted here and there, where you see and feel and hear your muse forming, taking shape, and finally thriving. Think of your journal as the physical manifestation of your muse, always by your side. Give it a life, a purpose, and it will stay with you forever.
Now that you have your Muse-book, find the space that you need to feel uninhibited when writing. True — you will probably be writing down snapshots of ideas and quotes along the day’s journey, but you still need some muse-time to write that bigger entry each day. Find it, and make it special as only you can. Some writers crave clutter, to surround themselves with the warmth of CD stacks, opened books lying on top of each other, magazine clippings, and pictures — lots and lots of pictures. Others go for the white desk, in the white room, with the iPod hidden behind a neat stack of books as the mellow acoustic sounds of William Ackerman fill the room. Still others need to be outdoors, or in the bustling craziness of a corner cafe. I cannot tell you where to write, but I can tell you that finding your space to write, and creating the right atmosphere and environment for your muse to thrive, is essential.
The question of why we should even be writing every day is valid. I hope we can all agree that writing daily strengthens our voice while instilling a solid discipline of putting the pen to the paper; it creates confidence and an open mind to take some necessary risks. In the bigger picture, though, and in the longer run of our lives as writers, it helps us more accurately capture our lives in a way that (when we choose to share our polished products) leave a trace of who we are, how we view this world–today–through our eyes, and why we matter in the first place. It is this trace that provides hope, understanding, and belief to the generations yet born. It is this bold, risk-filled trace that gives license to those around us, present and future, to write their own observations, share their own stories, and make their own differences in this world.
Place. Space. Trace.
Develop the muse daily, surround yourself with the things that bring you the greatest strength, and have the courage to tell the world about it. Nobody can tell that story but you. Don’t deny the world the chance to read and understand how all this looked, right now, and right from your very own eyes.