The first recommended resource in “Slouch to 5k” (before we get going with the weekly activities) is a Craft Journal / Project Journal.
The Craft Journal / Project Journal is one of two fundamental keys I’m proposing for unlocking a stalled creative project, and I invite you to depend upon it as a regular support over the next 10 weeks.
Many of you will be familiar with using journaling as a tactic for supporting yourself and connecting with your life. The Craft Journal / Project Journal is different from ordinary journaling. If the thought of starting a journal right now is making you want to retch, because your experience of journaling is that nothing in life could ever be worse (!), please bear with me and read on to the end.
First, here is a photo of three different journals (weather-beaten, admittedly) that have rescued me over and over – (1) a craft/project journal, (2) a life/personal journal, (3) a work journal. Wait, you say, I just told you I HATE journaling and now you’re showing me a picture of THREE types of journal?? WTF is wrong with this man???
It’s ok. I’m only going to focus on (1) here. And I think I know why you don’t like journaling.
Let’s take ‘Morning Pages’, for example (Julia Cameron’s concept from The Artist’s Way). They are so widely known as to almost have become a cliché to some people – Ah, he’s/she’s/they’re going through their Morning Pages phase. Bring out the box of tissues. And the gin. As it happens, the daily Morning Pages habit (three pages of unfettered longhand – a kind of stream of consciousness) became stale for me until I discovered more unusual and structured prompts to respond to within the Morning Pages framework – via brilliant organisations like The International Association for Journal Writing and The Therapeutic Writing Institute (see their free course ‘J is for Journal’) or Reinekke Lengelle’s Career writing and her inventive pack of Career Cards. Until then, Morning Pages had become a place where I tended to vent and – eventually – bore myself until I lost interest. I have heard tales of this happening to other people too – I mean over a long period of years. I have written a little bit here about how to ensure journaling can stay fresh, creative and positive – you might find these ideas useful if you’ve found that Morning Pages don’t really work for you or they’ve become stale. There are also lots of other ways to make your journaling come alive – using collage, photographs, doodles etc.
But the Craft Journal / Project Journal is a more occasional and specific kind of journaling – unlike Morning Pages, you aren’t asked to do it every day. And, crucially, it is a dedicated place (i.e. a separate journal from any personal journal) in which you write only ABOUT your writing.
Here’s the secret: your stalled creative project wants to be written about. It wants a whole book of its own in which you talk about it and only about it.
In the Craft Journal / Project Journal you can mention any of the following:
- significant milestones for your creativity e.g. reaching a certain word count, a story acceptance etc
- reflections about “permission-givers” – creative artists/influences whose work can illuminate the way forward
- responses to specific cultural experiences – “filling the well” of your creative self by writing deeply about your encounters with culture
- you can paste photographs or images relating to your project/creativity – i.e. use the journal as a store of visual inspiration
- lists of what to include in your writing project
- decisions, dilemmas, insights about how to approach your project (style / “voice” / structure / form / point of view / characters / image patterns / rhyme / etc)
- eureka moments about how the hell we tackle this generally impossible thing called writing
- inspiring/insightful quotes from other writers
- anything that relates to research for your project
- doubts, hesitations, questions, frustrations, obstacles that are arising for you about a specific writing project – or about your creativity generally.
This last point is especially important. In other words, you “write through” the times when you feel stuck. You don’t just let the stuckness fill your head and paralyse you. You get your writing hand moving about this very topic.
This then, is one of two fundamental, ongoing tools I am recommending for the next ten weeks in terms of “unsticking the stuckness”, and firing up the engine your stalled creative project: a Craft Journal / Project Journal.
Not so earth-shattering? Well, sometimes simple ideas are immensely powerful. Please give it a proper go before you dismiss it. (If you’ve dabbled with one before, please try reconnecting with the concept now.) Let the Craft Journal / Project Journal become your writing buddy for this project – your non-human equivalent of the “believing mirror” (Julia Cameron, again). It can help you in two ways: (a) to get moving again (b) to connect more deeply to your project and to your creativity.
I invite you to try it for the next ten days – until the first of the ten main “Slouch to 5k” activities begins – and then onwards, in fact, as a support throughout the next ten weeks of activities.
PS – Do try to start a new, dedicated journal if you can. If getting hold of a new journal right now would be difficult, it’s ok as a last resort to fall back on (a) an existing journal or exercise book that you already use (b) a document on your computer, if need be (c) you could even use blank sheets of A4 printer paper and just paperclip them together for these next 10 weeks. I guess what I’m saying is, don’t let the medium itself become an obstacle.