Journal Addiction

We’re still in the start of the New Year in the longest fucking month in the history of ever. I swear folks, it feels like January is never going to end. And since we’re still here at the beginning of things, this post is going to be related to resolutions and new projects. There’s a lot to be said about both and though many of you have your own thoughts about these things, I figured for those of you that are wondering, I’m going to put my foot in the door and talk as long as you’ll read.

            The first thing that I suggest we consider is the idea of the writing journal. There are numerous people out there, myself included, that carry around a notebook to write down ideas for later use. And this is good. This is something that I suggest everyone do. I would also suggest it is small enough to fit in a pocket as many of us are caught with inspiration at the weirdest of times. Right now, I’ve got a full-sized notebook and I’m happy with it because most of the time I’m teaching college English, so there’s no room for me to pause, tell everyone to shut up and I hate them, and then write something down.

            I do tell them I hate them. It feels good.

            Anyways, stop buying journals.

            I don’t want you to buy another journal until you’ve filled up the last one. There are numerous people that buy writing journals because they want them so bad, write about ten pages in them and quit. I’m going to suggest that you don’t do that anymore. Focus on one journal at a time until it is full. Label it, mark the pages, do whatever you need to do to keep it organized, but do not buy another journal, no matter the excuse.

            The reason being is that I had, at one time, six journals that I was writing in. I had one for every type of writing as well as an idea journal. And at the time, I thought that was really neat, and to some of you, that’s how you work, so continue to do that. What I found though, was that by having so many going at one time, I felt as if I’d never fill one up.

            If you haven’t ever filled up a journal from cover to cover, I suggest you do it sometime. It is one of the most accomplished feelings I’ve ever had. Although it was all for personal use or had some garbage written in it, it was still finished and shelved.

            So the first step in this would be to determine if you really want to keep a journal. Sometimes we do things because we are told to do them not because we need to do it. There are some writers out there that can just file their ideas in their amazing heads and move on. But with three children I find it hard to keep on track. So I need one.

            Once you’ve decided you want a journal, then make sure that you keep ONLY ONE. Meaning that if you have a ton in your house, get rid of them. I don’t care how just get rid of them and make sure that is your only option.

            Then write, write, write, write.

            The second thing goes along with this, and that’s the idea of starting new projects. I know that most of you have projects going on right now in different stages. And I think, once before, I’ve talked about knowing when a project is dead. So let’s say that your ideas are healthy and everything seems to be going well. That’s awesome! Keep it up. I have the problem of running a bunch of ideas at one time and again, like the journals, I find that nothing will ever be finished. So I would suggest that you again, think about working on one project at a time and making the other projects impossible to access until you’re finished with the current. I’ve managed this once and it turned out wonderful.

            So as we start the New Year, focus on simplifying your workspace and work. Remember that we do better when we focus on a single task at a time. Even though we hate it. Try it out. Start now. I know January seems almost over, but I’m sure we’ve got another six fucking weeks of this left.

Music & Writing- the lover’s quarrel

There are two things I love in life– music, and writing. I love some other things, but those are irrelevant right now.

I’ve always felt what I would call a ‘lover’s quarrel’ in putting the two together though. Kind of opposite to loving, let’s say– wine and cheese because those are two very different substances and they actually go very well together.

Better analogy: Singing and dancing go well together– if you’re talented. They require different parts of the brain and body. Music and writing require different parts of the body too, but I would argue that they share the brain and maybe that’s why I have such a hard time with listening to music and writing.

I feel that I am both alone, and not alone on this topic.

According to an article by Mary Lee MacDonald, there is a lot of research on the topic and it includes a multitude of varying factors. One study done in 2001 by researchers S.E. Ransdell and L. Gilroy, found that “Background music significantly disrupted writing fluency.”

Another study in 2016 by Kristian Johnsen Haaberg found that students used music “as a tool during study situations to increase well-being and motivation, to isolate themselves in a personal ‘bubble’, and to avoid other temptations and feelings such as hunger or boredom.”

MacDonald’s article goes on to further explain variations such as the genre of music and volume. Then she conquers the question– does music help or hurt? In her case, she was able to find that at one point, a certain soundtrack did help her revisit a feeling or state of mind and helped to complete her prize-winning chapbook, The Rug Bazaar.

After this, she references an interview with Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita and Pale Fire, who was asked about writing and music. He said his ideal writing arrangement was “an absolutely soundproofed flat in New York, on a top floor—no feet walking above, no soft music anywhere.”

By the end of her article, she sides with silence: “I’m with him. To write from that true, deep place, we must coax ourselves into a state of deep meditation. We must make friends with silence.”

Then you have people like Stephen King who apparently jam out to metal music while writing, but let’s be honest-– at this point, after all the books he’s written, his brain is just a production factory of words that’s probably running on auto-pilot. But hey, whatever works, you know?

To pull my thoughts together– I think music can be helpful to writers when needing inspiration or brainstorming, or as MacDonald used it- to revisit a feeling or state of mind. But all-in-all, with whatever type of writing that you’re doing, creative or academic, I believe you will be much more focused, clear-minded and productive in silence.