24 January 2022
Lucy Van Smit, author of A Writer's Journal Workbook, explains the benefits of a writing journal
What could I possibly say to entice you to journal on your writing in 2022? Goodness knows, who can find time to think? Let alone write, as we hurtle into another turbulent year? Why journal on your writing - when getting out of our pyjamas to do paid work is a triumph? I get it.
Until 2020, I doubt I could have kept up a writing journal, even if someone said that it would save me years of time and bother. Here’s what I know now:
• A Writing Journal is Your Superpower
• And One of The Best Kept Writing Secrets. Ever.
I can’t begin to explain how the magic happens without sounding certifiably woohoo, but here goes - you start out in conversation with your writing – but it’s as if the universe is listening. And answering. ‘Hotdog we got a live one!’ is a quote from the famous anthropologist Jean Houston which refers to someone waking up and realising that the universe is conscious too. Weird, right?
Yet, everything I asked as I wrote A Writer’s Journal Workbook got answered. But not in the rational way I expected. Sometimes, the insight was symbolic. Or someone says exactly what you need to hear at the right moment. I’d never had so many insights. I had tried journaling in the past, but could only do the morning pages for a couple of weeks, and then give up.
So, what was happening?
Intention and paying attention
Writing insight has to do with intention and paying attention to the answer. Years ago, my meditation teacher insisted spiritual guidance works on invitation only. You have to ASK for help.
I find it is the same for writing and that a journal does this implicitly. You are always asking questions. How do I write this better? How do I outline my book? Where’s the best place to start? I just didn’t realise that I could ask the universe for this kind of help. Don’t worry, if this sounds too far out for you, it was a stretch for me too. The premise for the Journal Workbook is simple.
A little Know How helps a writer to Survive
The right Approach shows you how to Thrive
Yes, you need basic survival skills as a writer. And you must learn and practice your writing craft. I love practical tips from screenwriters, poets and novelists to inspire you. My favourite is David Whyte’s Start Close In. His poem reminds us to go slow and to stay close to ourselves.
Writers are brave people. You step into the unknown when you write. To survive in the wilderness, the priority is to find shelter - before you do anything else. The most dangerous place for a writer is often our own mind. This is where your writing journal comes into its own. A simple practice called ‘Inner Hygiene’ helps to declutter and rewrite old stories. This creates a safer space to write.
Thriving is all about your approach to writing. You need sensitivity and awareness to land your writing. Your secret advantage is your Beginner’s Mind. Stay childlike, curious and play as you write. Notice what lights you up and take Joseph Campbell’s advice to Follow Your Bliss. This simple process rewilds your creativity. Remember to start small.
Creative writing is usually taught in a workshop format, students submit work to be critiqued by their tutor and peers. Not many of us can afford to go back to school. And in a Writing Journal, you learn to workshop and to trust yourself.
The Naming Game is a simple practice that grounds you in the present moment. You start by Noticing and Naming the Things around you, then you find you notice and name emotions, behaviours, relationships. How you think and respond matters; it’s what makes you a writer.
You matter. What you have yet to write is important. Your life needs you to be a writer. Our world needs you to be that writer.
Set this intention as you write: What am I trying to say here?
The answers will come to you like magic.
Lucy van Smit trained as an artist, then travelled worldwide for NBC News and Canadian Broadcasting. She’s made multiple TV documentaries on authors such as John Le Carré, Martin Amis, P.D James and Ian McEwan. Her debut novel, The Hurting, won The Bath Children’s Novel Award. Lucy lives in London and currently working on A Writer’s Soul Journey. Agent Sallyanne Sweeney at MMB Creative. Lucy can be found on Twitter and Instagram.
A Writer’s Journal Workbook by Lucy van Smit is published by Bloomsbury and out now (Paperback: £12.99)
Wanting to find your creative flow? Try these top tips for writers to unlock your creativity.