This article was first published January 4, 2014 as “10 Rules For Keeping a Journal in the New Media Age.” I haven’t always lived up to its goals throughout the year but when I’ve most needed to get focused again in my creative routine I’ve returned to the structure and rules it provides. I’m republishing it again with my younger brother Jeremy in mind — he’s recently started writing more diligently, providing some popular articles for PJ Lifestyle. But there are other writer friends too who I’m thinking might find it useful too.
I have decided to accept my limitations. With the nature of my editorial work across the PJM network of sites and the unpredictability of the usual day with The Wife in her final year of graduate school it has proven difficult to stick to a daily reading/writing regimen. Some days the editorial load is heavier than others unexpectedly, other days where I intend an even reading/writing split one or the other might end up predominating. If I’m in a research groove, finding new connections across books and finally beginning to grasp difficult concepts then I’m going to run with it. Likewise when the writing muse bestows her blessings you don’t tell her to shut up.
There’s a factor in all this scheduling and productivity planning work that often gets overlooked: moods. So much of being a creative person is about learning to channel one’s emotions into art, writing, and communicating. We have to learn to recognize what state of mind we’re in at any given time and then take advantage of it. Reading, writing, editing, and publishing are all four different processes. And I’ve found that circumstances and subjective moods lend themselves to each task differently. The state of mind one needs to edit an article is not the same as for writing or for researching.
One thing I’m going to try and do more this year is focus on each individually. Helping me do that will be a closer focus on using the handwritten journal as a catalyst to organize the day and facilitate more writing. Here are 10 ways that I’m going to do it, in the style that I’m going to explore this year — creating combinations of photographs, blogging, and embedded video juxtapositions.
1. Write a list each day of what you want to get done and then DO IT.
2. Use a Pomodoro Timer to organize your day into 25 minute chunks of efficiency!
I’ve grown fond of the free iPhone app.
3. Organize the seven subjects you want to learn about into seven piles of books and then assign one to each day.
4. Use Instagram to share the interesting passages from your daily readings, thus gathering information and insights from others and connected with likeminded seekers.
As I wrote about in my New Year’s Resolutions post, on point #2, I do intend to create more Instagram accounts but for the time being you can follow what I do at http://instagram.com/thothandmaatmarried The account is named after the two ancient egyptian deities of writing, order, truth, law, art, and a host of other good things. I use it to try and build bridges across the conservative and counterculture communities, as well as advocate for unity across Pagan, Christian, Jewish, Secular, and Occult traditions.
5. Go to the library fanatically for more books. At least once a week.
6. Handwriting is a dying art that can be resurrected and I intend to contribute. I’ll try and write down more questions and thoughts and quotations throughout the day to provoke debate and discussion.
7. At the end of every week day publish a blog post compiling all the tweets, notes, and excerpts of stories worth remembering.
8. Write first drafts in long hand in your journal.
9. Do not be afraid to get ritualistic with your writing.
I’m now going to admit to one of my weird writer/editor habits with the hopes that perhaps it might be of use to others: I change hats depending on what I’m wanting to focus on doing. Literally. I put on a different hat when I’m writing long, serious pieces, a different hat when I’m blogging and surfing the web, another hat when I’m researching through books, and a fourth when I’m editing and scheduling articles. I strongly recommend the practice to others — self-engineered superstition to trick one’s brain into being on good behavior. Give it a shot.
10. Most of the time if I’m editing or researching I’ll be fine with any kind of sound in the background — talk radio, a movie, etc. — but if I really want to focus and get serious writing done then my album of choice since it came out has been the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania.
My friend Chris Queen just got done blogging through all of it each Sunday last season. A great album to get lost in and emerge with with some words on the page.
Best wishes for 2014 everyone! Have any writing tips of your own? Please leave them in the comments; I’m going to continue to revise and expand this writing plan as the year progresses…