A comment on my post last week made me reflect on all the gibberish and senseless whims that have been scribbled in my journals over many years. There was a time I once believed that very little of my journaling exercises could be used for any viable storytelling. The results always seemed to be tangents, unanswered questions, sentences that trail off to nowhere. Everything was incomplete or just lacking.
The journaling school that I subscribe to has the motto: “just write”. Allow the words to unconsciously flow onto the page. Place no rhyme or reason around what is being written. Phenomenal advice as this is a great tactic to “brain dump” your thoughts onto paper. Clean out those musty corners in your head-workspace. In the exercises of journaling, “just writing” is the easy part. No real cognitive thought is needed.
The hard part comes when reviewing the written brain dump.
One never feels less like a writer than at this moment.
The pages are often littered with gibberish. In a sensible brain, it is all useless scribble. Luckily we writers are usually not very sensible.
Instilled in each one of us is creativity. A spark that can light a fire from nothing. All that written gibberish is the smallest bit of kindling that can ignite a raging inferno.
The gibberish brain dump is not garbage nor should it be tossed out. Hidden amongst the scribble are little treasures that can be transformed into interesting characters, epic plots, enchanting settings. When those little pieces are combined, they create one mind-blowing story.
Still having doubts? Think about this: that gibberish you just spewed onto your journal’s pages has set a bar–a standard–for your writing at the very moment it was written. The only way you can drop below that standard is to, well, not write. You know that the next step you take is going to be a movement forward.
Don’t disregard what your “journaling gibberish” as fruitless. Here is an exercise to help transform your gibberish into gold:
- Get into your “happy writer zen” mode.
- Grab your favorite writing tool and some blank or lined paper.
- Just write– write whatever pops into your head.
- Now the important step: PUT NO THOUGHT INTO WHAT YOU ARE WRITING.
- Allow your stream of
consciousnessunconsciousness to flow uninhibited across the page(s).
- Once the brain dump is complete, do a quick read through.
- Make a screwed up face.
- Say out loud “What the heck is that about?” (or just laugh out loud as though you are about to be committed).
- Put away what you have just written and don’t look at it.
- Once 24 hours has passed, put on your writer’s hat.
- Pull out the written gibberish from the day before.
- Read and dissect what you wrote.
- Start to glean little treasures from what you have journaled.
- If you can’t pull anything coherent from the gibberish, follow steps 10-13 again until something viable comes to light (this may take several tries).
There is a reason that your brain dumped those specific words onto the page. That is sometimes the only way ideas will fall out as ideas can be tricky little things and like to become stuck when we put conscious thought to them. The product of journaling may be haphazard and convoluted, making no sense, but there is a reason for its existence. As the writer, you need to wade through that mire to find the treasure that lies buried within the muck.
Be patient with your journaling. Sometimes gibberish writing is like a lump of coal. It takes time to work it into a diamond. Also, don’t expect a mountain of “diamonds” to come from a one journaling exercise. You may only be able to glean one little thought, phrase, or item. And that is ok. Sometimes it only takes one little word to be the catalyst for a new world of storytelling.
I think I’ve got steps 1-8 down.
It’s the next 5 steps that are the hardest 😉
But I’m very good at the screwed up face.
Two summers ago, I was in a major writer’s funk. My agent and I came up with a more compelling idea for my novel, so I was scrapping 400 pages and started back at the beginning.
Another writer friend was facing her own funk (for other reasons), so we’d meet at a coffee shop the same time every week and do 15-minutes writing sessions. We’d write crap, then read them aloud to each other. Much of our words made no sense, but there were gems in there, too. We each helped the other acknowledge them. Those weekly coffee shop sessions helped us both out of funks and finish our books. Your post is so true, Amanda.
Pairing sessions, as you mentioned, are such a fantastic idea. Michelle, Robyn, and I have tried that via Skype a few times. What we would come up with made no sense at the time. Though I am now gleaning stuff from those old sessions and putting towards current WIP.
Sometimes you need a good writer pal to help you through all the muck and mire… and funks!
I’ll have to learn to be more patient with my gibberish! I’m really at good at number seven though! (making the screwed up face!)
Your comment on my last post was the inspiration for this one 🙂
Sometimes you just have to walk away from all of the gibberish and return to it at a later time to see the sense in it all.