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    My daily writing--emails, journal entries, marginalia, more emails, blog posts, and tweets--shapes me as a writer, helping and hindering the big stuff I'm trying to accomplish. Every word counts.

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Journaling Tip #58: Install Pocket Doors

Fear drives me. But as anyone who’s known Fear will tell you, fear is an erratic driver (drunk-while-driving-and-talking-on-a-cell-phone-and-applying-mascara-and-shaving bad).

Lately, my fears have been: Fear of writing. Fear of being disorganized. Fear of writing something interesting and losing it, so why write?

I’ve missed journaling (i.e., the practice of journaling) that was central to my life for many years. I just sort of played in those journals and wrote a lot of short pieces. My purpose was not to write anything in particular. I did more or less plan to write poems, but I achieved that goal by sneaking up on myself, stumbling onto each poem and feeling lucky to find it.

Now that I’ve got some actual projects I really want to write, and especially because revision is a bigger part of the writing I *need* to do, I haven’t been sure how to use journaling. Organizing the writing of a novel requires a more complex process than writing stumbled-upon poems. I carry a small, bright red Moleskine and record ideas that come to me as I’m doing other things. Although I try to review these ideas every day, I often forget. I’ve gotten away from daily writing practice. If I’m not completely distracted from writing by my day job, I’m working on a writing project (maybe the novel, maybe something else), and although that can be fun, that kind of writing practice doesn’t always allow for a lot of play, especially if I’m in revision mode.

So at some point each day, I’ve got to play with words. And I’ve got to work with words. And fuck with them. Make art with them. Exploit any/all possibilities.

Beyond that, I need to keep track of what I write (and where I write it) in my journal. I don’t mean I’ll include the actual text, but I need to use the journal as a home base for my writing. The kind of writing I’m doing at this very moment belongs there, and some record of the rest (e.g., worked on novel for an hour and wrote three pages; wrote bazillion emails at work; etc.).

Taking time for that kind of recordkeeping (or even remembering to take time for it) is going to be my biggest challenge. I’ve got to do it, though. Keeping track of stuff is very important. I’ve been doing it wrong, with such a great, energy-draining attention to detail that I want to abandon it, and then, inevitably, I give up (gee, whaddya know?!).

Now, I’m a little more reasonable and am trying to keep my organization simple so it doesn’t take much time to maintain. I’ve also made a game of it (a mind game, but a fun one). I imagine my writing organized as it would be by one of those fancy-ass HGTV organization experts. There’s a big shelving unit with a bunch of baskets, each of which is devoted to a particular area or project. All I have to do is dump the writing in the appropriate basket and then go back to it when I want to retrieve it. There are always just enough baskets with the appropriate labels on them. And when it all becomes too overwhelming, I simply hide them behind pockets doors in the stylish NY apartment that needn’t be spacious because it is so brilliantly organized.

This mind game works pretty well. It helps me to stay organized with just enough order to find what I need to find, but keeps me from micro-managing. So far, it’s worked for two whole hours–not a record, but it’s a promising start.


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