‘Diaries’– #AtoZ Challenge

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I’ve always written a diary and now have a whole drawer of them under my bed, dating back to my teenage years. Looking back, I feel they’ve been useful in my writing process, partly because they’ve helped me to find my voice, but they’ve also been a form of therapy in that they’ve allowed me to work through various problems and issues in my life. Occasionally I’ll dip into them and read about the person I used to be. I’d tell my diaries everything, and when reading them I realise how much I’ve changed. At times I feel almost sorry for the person I used to be. I do recognise, however, that I needed to go through these experiences in order to become the person that I am today.

Up until a few years ago, I used to do ‘Morning Pages,’ a term coined by Julia Cameron in ‘The Artist’s Way.’ This involved writing three pages of whatever came into your head first thing in the morning and the purpose of the practice was to empty your mind so you would be mentally free to be creative. It really worked for me at the time but I no longer do it as I don’t find I have as much ‘mental clutter’ as in the past, so there’s less to get rid of!

I’m currently writing a novel which is based on a past relationship. Much of the story is connected with people and experiences I’ve had over the years and my diaries are a valuable resource as I’ve forgotten a lot of the details. It’s strange as I often feel that I’m reading about someone else. I vaguely remember the characters and events but they happened so long ago and I think I’ve changed so much since then that it’s almost as if I’m reading a piece of fiction, and I feel immensely grateful to have lived such a full life. I’m not sure I’ll go back to writing a diary, but maybe it’s something that all writers should do. It can be difficult when writing a story to really get into the head of the characters, but  regularly writing down how you, the writer feels can help immensely.

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The value of ‘stream of consciousness writing’

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Several years ago when I was trying to establish a writing routine, I picked up a copy of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. In it she suggests the practice of Morning Pages, whereby you do (longhand) three pages of ‘stream of consciousness’ writing every morning as soon as you wake up.

Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and
synchronize the day at hand.

I ended up doing MP for many years and now have hundreds of ‘word-full’ diaries and exercise books, which, if nothing else, serve as a nice reminder of how messed up I used to be!

My latest ‘habit’ is 750 words, which has a similar premise but is done online. Like NaNoWriMo, it awards badges for reaching milestones, typing fast etc. and these little incentives, makes it a very easy practice to maintain. However, I’m trying to use it in a slightly different way to Morning Pages. If I’m starting a short story or a piece of flash fiction or a scene from my novel, I use it to brainstorm ideas or word sprints and honestly, it’s tremendously effective. Yesterday, I did a flash fiction which I’ve entered into a competition and today I worked out the idea for a short story which I need to submit in a couple of weeks. Try it – it might give you the inspiration you need!