As part of our Arachne 5th Anniversary celebrations, we’ve asked all of our authors to come up with a blog, that might have something to do with writing or anniversaries. Some of them responded! This one is from Scott-Patrick Mitchell whose poem we published in Shortest Day, Longest Night.
This July I celebrated a really important anniversary as a writer. It wasn’t anything to do with love or marriage or raising kids, although you could say it contained elements of these. No, this July I celebrated the 20 year anniversary of keeping a journal.
What started in 1997 as a recommendation from a university lecturer has turned into a love and obsession spanning two decades. My journals have become a crucial factor to my development as a poet, writer, creative and thinker. Journals are where words first fall, scattering across the pages in a scribble and scrawl, writing and drawl. Here, I unearth the bones of poems and concepts, draw mind maps and lists of things to achieve, collage cut ups when my brain won’t poem.
Since beginning the process, I have completed 75 journals, roughly 3.75 per year. When it comes to my journals, I know exactly which one contains which draft. They’re my own personal database, a seed bank of potential new ideas in the advent of my own personal blocks and apocalypses.
I thought that, for Arachne Press’ fifth birthday, I would share an insight into my own process of journal keeping. So, my basic rules for journals are:
I always use blank paged journals. I don’t know about you, but lined pages remind me of high school. There’s something a little restricting about a lined page: my brain keeps thinking it should be writing a list, filling up the lines or, worse, completing homework. Unlined pages liberate my imagination.
A pure blank page reminds me of a page in a book in the moments before the ink of words are printed into it. As such, my mind opens and I fill the page however I want. If lined pages work for you, that’s awesome. But if you struggle with them, maybe switch it up.
At the beginning of each new journal, write a list of things you’re interested in exploring in this edition of your practice. You don’t have to stick to this list, but it works as something to come back to if you ever get ‘stuck’.
Speaking of getting ‘stuck’ – or as we call it, writers block – one technique I use to overcome this is collage. Cut up images from a magazine, instinctively, and make an image. Then, write in response to this image. Use the adage ‘first thought / best thought’ for this exercise.
Make up your own rules. Your journal is a safe space for your writing. Be wild, be formal, experiment, try. Explore. Allow yourself to be messy. And tidy.
On completion, title each journal. Go through it, find a common theme and from this, create a title. The title makes it easier to remember which journal is which, which draft is where.
Hopefully, these insights might be of assistance to other writers, especially those in the early stages of their career. And remember, these insights might not work for everybody, but will certainly provide you with options.
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