Writing on Writing? Somewhere in Perth, Part 3

In response to last week’s post, a friend made the very reasonable suggestion that readers may be more interested in my retreat than my reaction to Miranda Seymour’s biography of Mary Shelley.

While I agree,  work on my novel has stalled due to recurring anxiety and another problem I’d rather not have to deal with. While I can handle both, they have interrupted my work. In the meantime I’ve diligently maintained my version of a writer’s most important tool: the ‘Daily Pages’, or my version of it.

person holding blue ballpoint pen writing in notebook
Photo by picjumbo.com on Pexels.com

In 1992, Julia Cameron published a book recommending artists practice various techniques and exercises to help them become more self-confident and access their creativity. Cameron’s ‘Morning Pages’ are ‘stream of consciousness’  reflections written in longhand, on any topic that may help an artist

 

 clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the [working] day at hand.

Cameron was not the first to recommend this practice (nor did she claim to be). Writers in particular use various methods to ‘kick start’ their writing sessions; open any book on writing and you will invariably find a section on keeping a ‘writer’s notebook’, ‘writer’s journal,’ or similar. My own journey as a writer was encouraged when reading Steinbeck’s Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters when I was still a teenager. Maybe that’s why I find writing about writing easier than writing a novel?

There is no one way to keep a writing diary, morning pages or daily pages; my problem, born of writing a personal journal for over thirty years, is my daily pages often lack any reference to my novel, how I structure it, develop my characters or explore my themes. I tend to focus on my private life when I’d be better served planning and shaping my work, and thinking about what I am doing and why. This is important during the writing process, and more so at the editing stage.

What I needed was ‘technical’ prompts to help me think about my novel and how it might develop. Earlier this week, while struggling to work on my novel, I created the following list of prompts to help stimulate my process:

Record of Current Writing Project: ideas, influences, inspirations, mythological themes or structures to explore; prompts used; proposed and modified schedule; which stage I’m in (in terms of pre-writing, planning, drafting, crafting, structural and micro editing); work to do on genre, plot, conflict, character, setting, theme, dialogue, symbols, sharing/seeking feedback; time frame (drafting, editing, ready to read, ready to go); feedback from readers…

I now have a focus for writing about my writing. For example, the theme I want to explore is that of the lost or wandering child: what or who does she encounter that helps or hinders her journey and how am I expressing that? Where am I in terms of my time frame and do I need to return to the planning stage before I can continue?

woman wearing beaded white necklace
Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

I hope these prompts will ensure my daily pages won’t just be a rant about my current problems but a way to think about and re-engage with the work I’m here to do.

 

Your comments: I’d love to hear from other writers on how you reflect on your work in progress. Do you keep a writer’s journal? If so, why? If not, why not?

2 thoughts on “Writing on Writing? Somewhere in Perth, Part 3

  1. Hi Janet,
    Finally got around to comment.
    Sounds like your journaling practice assisted in your writing with a good map of your way forward.
    Hope your recurring anxiety & other problem are alleviating.
    I have felt a little unstuck recently which I have put down to ‘over reading’ other’s posts which at times has been helpful but at others I felt I was allowing ‘networking’ to take over (a tendency I am prone to anyway).

    since my return from Gambia two months ago In a sense I have been trying to catch up from where I left off at the end of last year but I realise I can never do that as time has moved on, things & people have changed & so have I.
    Mum’s third anniversary of her death is on 20th August & since then I feel as though I have been ‘here,there & everywhere’: – 2015 local weeks break oct, Gambia Nov, Rome with brother for Christmas, 2016 – visits to different parts of Ireland to see relatives in May, met brother in London for long weekend as felt lonely in july. 2017 – Feb- three months in gambia (delayed visit due to incumbent president), sept Wales three day pop & arts festival rained off & Nov 1 night in Blackpool for Labour conference (should have been 3 nights but stressed & came home). Now I want to ‘touch base’, a term my brother in particular finds peculiar.
    I have been doing well really, focusing on day to day life back here and being selective about the people I engage with, just prioritising meeting friends who energise me rather than leaving me feeling totally depleted.
    My journaling has been quite ‘hotch porch’ . I have been reorganising my old journals and have eventually put my printed photos of Rome & Ireland trip in albums. I now realise I need to maintain my morning journal when possible to enable me to function effectively.
    On the whole I have found this person centred approach has led me to this conclusion.
    Abit wary at present re privacy on hhis domain.
    Regards
    Margaret

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  2. When I was working on Sea Jade I got in the habit of looking at every chapter I wrote and writing down all kinds of questions that came up about the scene. It helped expand both the story and my word count. Helped me think about things I would otherwise have just glided past. 🙂

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