Thursday, January 19, 2017

Meta-journaling: starter dough for the writer inside

On lazy days, when my creative daimon has given me time off and is not breathing fire down my neck, I fool around with old journals. I might take part of a dream report, marry it with another, and let them consort with a new idea that is skipping at the edge of my awareness. Suddenly I find I have a new story, or some pages for a new book. This almost never feels like work. When it catches the interest of the daimon and he is on me again, the play becomes the work that isn't work because it is the Work, what we are called to do. The practice can be called journaling from journals. Thoreau did this, and so did Jung. Thoreau journaled all the time. He wrote down his observations of nature, his thoughts and dreams, his notes on his constant reading. Most interesting, he journaled from his journals, picking over old volumes, plucking out promising bits and pieces, copying them out and marrying them up as fresh drafts. It became his habit (as biographer Robert D. Richardson Jr. reports in Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind) “to work back over his journals…to reengage old subjects in the light of new interests, to revise and recopy his own earlier journal work, measuring, weighing, culling and sorting his materials…taking up earlier threads, reweaving and combining them.”
Jung's Red Book is the magnificently illustrated journal he created from his "black book" diaries, which remain unpublished). I highly recommend the practice of journaling from journals. As you pull together threads and themes from multiple entries, you find you are making a personal dictionary of symbols and even unveiling the hidden logic of your life story. You'll discover that your journal is a data base in which you have gathered evidence of "supernormal" phenomena such as precognition, telepathy and mutual or interactive dreaming. As you notice recurring symbols and situations, you break loose from the dumb wheel of repetition and put yourself on a spiral path of growing awareness and self-evolution.      For any writer, as for Thoreau, it opens treasuries of material and above all it supports the writing habit. Playing around with old notes removes the terror of the blank page. When you dip into an old journal, you are never at a loss for a theme. The simple processes of selection, arrangement and retitling will fire the imagination. Before you know it, you’ll be in the midst of writing something new. If you have a writer or artist inside, you'll find that old journal entries can be great starter dough. As you push and pummel and play with their shapes, suddenly you find there are a dozen loaves, or a layer cake, on the rise in your creative oven. So: don't just write your morning pages. When you decide to make time for the practice, play with your pages from other mornings, mix and match, cut and paste. Your creative spirits will come closer, guiding your fingers, whispering in your ear.

1 comment:

Jcade said...

thank you for your work and your blog. This post explains why I've had the urge, after decades, to dig out case loads of old journals. I love the idea of mining them for themes as a basis of insight and writing inspiration.