Friday ‘Fess Up: The Writing Journal

This is my first Friday ‘Fess Up. Two (marketing) stories written and dispatched this week so not a bad week. And my editor said one of the stories I sent him was “superb” so I felt good about that for about 10 minutes before I remembered the hours that the story took to write and rewrite.

I started a writing journal in February this year to help me finish my master’s thesis and then work on the freelance marketing stories I’m doing on Belgian companies. The journal’s called “Notes on a story” and currently runs to about 7,000 words. Often my entries are just rants, only tangentially connected to the work I’m doing, but they still work as a way of unblocking the writing process. I usually start with the question, “How do I feel about this story?” and then take it from there. Here are some entries:

How do I feel about this story? Well I’m a bit intrigued by it. But mostly anxious. I’m anxious that I won’t have enough to say. That I’ll break my back and get to 500 words and then be totally written out. … There’s just so much you can write about a paper and pulp company before your eyes start to glaze over and you look for the tiniest excuse to go and do something else. …. But no. Stay here I will. I’m cold but I’m going to write for 30 mins about W. And try and balance the big picture with the details. Big and small. That’s the way to inch this baby forwards. Left brain and right brain. Plan and details.

How do I feel about this P story? Honestly not that good. I’m anxious about it – there’s a lot to balance. … It feels as if it’s all just so much effort today. I’m worried that I can’t do it anymore. The last story was a fluke. It practically wrote itself. This one is so much harder. And I’m less fired up. Given myself 60 minutes to try and put some stuff together but the urgency’s just not there. … For some reason I’m thinking about that hymn from Atonement, “Dear Lord and Father of mankind”.

I always feel nervous before every story – it’s what keeps me on the edge. Without it I’d just be rehashing old stories – plugging them in to the formula. …I want to write. I do write – and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. That’s part of the joy of writing – all the rewriting and wrestling with the text.

How do I feel about this B story? Yesterday I was depressed about it. Ugly pesticide company polluting the environment. Evil empire. Bad dressed up as good. Look how successful we are etc. But today I’m more accepting of the fact that a company can be not all bad and that it might have a lot to say for itself. And if I can do this story then it says something about my ability as a writer / journalist.

The writing journal is a bit like the morning pages in “The Artist’s Way”. Writing just has to flow without too much censorship, but the censor is always there, tut-tutting and saying, “you can’t say that”. The wrestling is as much with the censor as with the words themselves. But it helps to look at the big picture and the small picture and to keep plugging away.

I love Calvin’s take on writing 😉


7 Responses to Friday ‘Fess Up: The Writing Journal

  1. smithereens says:

    Your confession is very interesting! I’m quite fascinated by this idea of a writing journal, but I’ve always been afraid it might impede the actual writing (especially as I don’t have much time). How do you manage both processes? In parallel, keeping both documents at the same time, or just turn to the journal whenever you’re stuck?

  2. pete says:

    Smithereens – Hi! Yes, I use it mostly when I’m stuck but I suppose it can be good for putting down the rough sketch or plan of a story as well. It’s also nice to have some fleeting observations of the writing process (before, middle and after). I’ve liked reading other people’s confessions to see what strategies they use.

  3. Hi Pete, found you via LK’s Friday ‘Fess-up. I studied in Cape Town (now live in Germany), so your banner photo makes me a little homesick. I am also fascinated by the idea of a writing journal. Like Smithereens, I also don’t have much time for more writing (I freelance like you, am writing a novel and look after my three lovely but demanding children). However, I can see how it would function in the form of “pages”, and when I go on my retreat to Berlin next week I am going to try it.

  4. Litlove says:

    I don’t have a journal but I have usefully done morning pages in the past. It was a good way of getting all the rubbish out of my system before sitting down to try to write something more measured and reasonable! Very interesting to see snippets from your journal so thanks for sharing.

  5. pete says:

    Charlotte – Berlin, I am so jealous. And I’m so glad you studied in CT. I’ve heard San Francisco’s a bit like CT so I’m dying to visit there (only been to the East Coast). I look forward to hearing more about your novel. Good luck with the multi-tasking.

    Litlove, yes I’m usually a bit more circumspect about sharing my “rants” with the world, but I think blogging is making me over-share!

  6. Litlove says:

    I should add that your journal snippets are FAR more intelligent and interesting than anything I’ve ever written about my own writing process! And in the blogging world, I don’t think it’s possible to truly over-share.. 🙂

  7. pete says:

    Litlove, you are too kind. If I could only translate those 7,000 words into actual articles I would be progressing a lot better than I am now.

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