For years and years and years I kept a journal – which was like a private blog, before blogging existed. And no one read it – it was written for me. I wrote long-hand in various old exercise books, spiral bound note-books, hard backed art journals. I wrote it daily, charting my moods confessing thoughts and feelings, examining my life. Right through high school, university, into my first jobs I wrote in it fervently. I followed the advice of Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron. I wrote freely, sometimes in verse, shaping myself and my world into words. Perhaps when I started, the thought crossed my mind that I was record-keeping. That I was writing letters to posterity. But, that soon gave way as I got more and more interested in the act of writing itself. I was in love with the shape and texture of the words.
It was not until recently that I gave myself any credit for the work that went into this journalling. And not simply because of the accumulation of words, but the practicing I was doing, the trialling thought into expression, the word associations, the way I was learning to fictionalise my daily life.
Probably if I read those journals now they would make me shudder. (I suspect when in a fit of tidiness that strikes about every five years my father got rid of many of them, so they are lost to history – which is probably just as well.) What matters is that I was writing: that I wrote. Not the artefact of the books themselves but the experience writing them gave me. So that my later self could reach for the words, the way to shape that thought into language. The way to tag that character, open that descriptive paragraph.
So, to writers just starting, or those who are experiencing difficulties I would say begin a journal in an old exercise book and write (even just a little) daily.
Sometimes it feels that you have to write terribly to get anywhere near writing well. You need to clear the debris that’s clogging up your head. Keeping what may start as a record and act as a filter for the shite you need to get out before you can get at the good stuff.
I think this is what Ira Glass is talking about. He advocates working hard and keeping faith with yourself.
What else can you do?
Ira Glass Talks the Gape between your KILLER taste and the reality of your work.