This started as my contribution to The Group, a July 2008 mostly daily blog, but I re-read some of it and think it's good stuff, so I'm going to write more.
I own a lot of journals. I own a lot of really nice, fabric covered journals. I own a lot of really nice, fabric covered, linen paged journals with notes on the first few pages and nothing after that. They are in various sizes from pocket-size to full letter size. I also own a whole bunch of spiral-bound notebooks, cute teenage girl ones in bright colors and some of the sensible single subject kind from college, and several faux-marble-covered composition books, too.
I love the potential of an empty journal. I like holding it, riffling the empty pages, imagining myself Ralph Waldo Emerson (I just read a blog post today about him at zenhabits.net) or some other brilliant person, stopping in the middle of my day to write a random, insightful thought, or sitting in Starbucks (one of the ones with the big comfy chairs), chai tea latte on the table next to me, scribbling away creating the genesis of my next novel.
I fantasize about a lot of things I'd like to have happen, or things I'd like to go back and change, but that vision of me writing - and I mean real writing with plot, theme, allusion, conflict, resolution, denouement, the whole shebang - in the journal is probably my strongest, most long lasting one.
I still have the journal from 1976 (I was 7, you do the math to figure out how old I am now) when I first got the bug to write in a diary. I got two pages in and stopped. The next journal I have is from the early '80s. Every few years, I start again. There have been years when I bought multiple journals, thinking I'd do several journals - a food journal, a fiction journal, a self-improvement journal. Ha. Just more pretty bound books for the shelf, those became.
My longest sustained journaling period was the 12 months or so before I got divorced, when I was in graduate writing school and trying to emulate The Writer's Way and write 30 minutes every morning. The multiple stresses of small children, failing marriage, self-employment and graduate school gave me plenty to emote about every morning. It wasn't the amazing production of genius writing I imagined, but I assumed that once I'd cleared the dead leaves away, fresh new growth would appear. Instead, it just sort of fizzled out, like the previous attempts.
This, of course, is another in the systematic attempts to get the engine started and keep it running. I know this can work. I've had long sustained writing bouts: the aforementioned morning writing; the thesis project for the writing degree; and National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). And all those previous journaling forays have presumably led me to here, the way that my failed 16-year marriage, house in the suburbs and bickering pre-teenage children got me to the love of my life (hi, honey). So, let's just hope I've learned some kind of lesson, developed some kind of writing muscle memory, and see if this can be the consistent effort that leads to the real writing.