I’VE BEEN DOING THIS REGULARLY FOR THE PAST 3 YEARS AND IT HAS WORKED SOME MAGIC ON MY PRODUCTIVITY AND PERFORMANCE.
Ever feel too scatterbrained to make sense out of what needs to be done, much less take the best next action step?
I’m gonna go with it’s not just me because diaries, journals, and sketchbooks have been around way longer than I have. Way longer. So much longer.
What I have come up with works really well for me now. Well enough that it might work for you too. Feel free to just pick out parts that inspire you to give a try. Add to your current journaling routine. Mix it up!
I’m just gonna spill the beans here so you can get the goods and go forth. If you want to stick around for the tantalizing back story, please be my guest.
I keep an open document in my internet browser to journal in at all times. No endorsement here from Google(yet…).
What I do is have a google document tab open so I’m always just one click away (and an internet connection) from journaling.
As an alternative, I’ve used a document to leave on my desktop. Which works better if there’s no internet. Any of the desktop publishing programs work. I’ve even used Notes for Mac.
Here is an example of my Just Write Zone document.***
Images from my document: JUST WRITE ZONE
What follows are my steps for creating your own Just Write Zone:
Create a new document for each month. Titled: Month, Year Write Zone. Example: January 2019 Write Zone — I start with month and date to keep organized for reference. I need to just delete some, I do not look back at them but once in a great while.
Date each day. Example: Thursday January 3, 2019. I wasn’t in the best headspace when I started this journaling style. Having recently found myself laid off from what I thought would be my “good career”, I was having trouble remember what day it was. Good times.
Start with 20 minute free write. Just spill out all the words in your beautiful brain out onto the page. Don’t hold back. Don’t edit. Just let it out.
See what ideas flow out. After, I often go back and highlight, put in BOLD to explore ideas of jotted down further.
I also try to give some gratitude. What went well in my day. What’s going well. A little self love. A proverbial pat on the back.
At the end of the day I create the next days heading. Separating days by inserting a horizontal line. I just added this next step as I listened to my Mom watching football. I write PRE-GAME and jot down the most important things I want to accomplish the next day. This really helps me prioritize. Today for instance; finishing this was most important after painting.
When I wake-up in the morning, with my coffee, I start the day with GAME DAY and go write into it. Ha! Word play and puns. Can’t fight that loving feeling.
After the month is up I store them in a folder by year so they are easy to find. Which again, I have very rarely ever gone back to. Sometimes I have though but months, not years later. I don’t even want to look at what I wrote 3 years ago now. I’m going to clean them out.
For me it is that this practice has helped me create both my blog, that this is part of, and a podcast and vlog. If you would have told me I would have been able to get my shit together enough to start a new career as a painter, blogger, vlogger, and podcaster 3 years ago I would have said you were crazy!
Free writing stream of conscious style takes practice. I loved this idea of freely writing without inhibition. Whatever the thoughts may be. I do use it as a safe, confidential space to express openly all kinds of things. I’m especially grateful to my journal for allowing me to express my anger and frustration. When I’m upset about something that has happened this is now where I talk it out with myself toward a resolution.
I upped my journaling game with insights from Susan David, the author of ***Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life. She shares what she calls, Pennebaker’s Writing Rules, from James Pennebaker, a University of Texas professor. Professor Pennebaker did 40 years of research to writing and the emotional process so we don’t have to.
What we do have is the benefits of both their expertise to get ourselves on our own best track.
Pennebaker’s Writing Rules combine setting a timer for 20 minutes and letting your current emotional experience spill out. No holds barred. No judgement. Get curious.
I am especially thankful for my Just Write Zone when a post on social media triggers me. I’ll rant in response in my safe space and leave the triggering post alone. Letting that count toward my 20 minute of free writing a day goal.
One thing that still cracks me up about embarking on this endeavor is that I still edit as I write and erase sometimes. I can’t believe it! Erasing in the Just Write Zone is not necessary. I now test myself to just let the words flow onto the page. Letting go of the details; sentence structure, correct spelling, embarrassing details.
INHIBITION WARNING: I have had my journal read before and I have also sabotaged my journal for a snooper. Now I just let it flow and let it go. I don’t have time for that. If someone reads my writing from this safe space and doesn’t like what they see, that’s on them. Their problem. Not mine. I am just right here in my free zone. My radical freedom at its finest. Laying out grand schemes, solving the world’s problems.
More often than not, it helps me get out anything that might be holding me back from my objectives.
It helps me stay on top of details.
It helps me remember amazing experiences I want to keep fresh so I can enjoy them in story form again and again.
Through this practice I have been able to create this blog. I fantasized about art I would make. How I was going to do it. Now, I have completed paintings for the first time in years. I’ve created a whole website and a virtual gallery to sell these completed paintings.
I’ve written down dreams and actualized them through writing about them first in my Just Write Zone.
I’ve taken this journal around the world.
I also have a sketchbook, a few really. Always a great thing to have at hand. I use it for both sketching and journaling. Taking notes on a subject or from a speaker.
I may be above and beyond in my note taking but it’s how I organize my thoughts and expand on my ideas.
If I had a dollar for everytime a random person approached me to compliment me on my sketches(just because they see me holding a sketchbook). Usually expressing something to the fact that they can’t sketch at all and wish they could. I’d have a decent bottle of wine with that cash and not once has anybody outwardly seen what I’m doing.
As an abstract artist, it’s most likely something unrecognizable and even when it’s supposed to be recognizable, it isn’t always good. Sketchbooks and journals aren’t just for the good. They’re for the everything.
I do have my journal and sketchbook by my bedside and on my computer desktop at the ready. I’ve created notes and video journals on my phone too so that I always have an option for recording that exquisite, bright idea.
At the same time I no longer beat myself up if I can’t get to either with an idea and it flutters away. Often times those ideas come back. Not necessarily right away, nor do I always remember if I’d even had them before.
After 3 years and thousands of pages of creativity unleashed, more ideas come to fruition by writing them down.
Better to have a place to put them and not need it, then to not have the perfect place for exquisite, bright ideas. If there is nowhere for it to go it could fly away, never to be actualized. Or worse to be caught by someone else. Sliced bread! If I would have only written that idea down and sketched it out! Never again!
That is the case here. I could swear I’ve had the idea to share this before. I’ve shared the idea with friends and family. You’d think if that was the case there would be evidence but none I could find so I started anew.
Starting anew. Something I have taken to heart in a variety of ways and can’t recommend enough. No matter where you might be in your life. Start anew. Start now. Use whatever device, trick, hack at your disposal to help keep you on track. For you. For us.
The ideas and thoughts in your head are worth it. My new thing to say is that they are exquisite. Just write them down.
Get to it!
Here is mine to just have. My gift to you. Copy, paste, convert, and go for it! If only it were that easy. Turns out I can’t or maybe can’t figure out how to share a useable document to copy, paste, convert so if you are wanting it, I am happy to email it to you. No gimmicky, sneaky bullshit here just a legit sharing of a .doc file and a .pdf for anyone who wants it. Just email me at email@example.com and I’ll send to you to start on.
Also, This document is revised right from what I do. It is an example not a requisite. I only say that because if you have more income or less. More bills or less. You might have an accountant or like my Dad, getting his accounting program of choice on.
David, Susan A. Emotional Intelligence: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life. New York: Penguin, 2016. Print. pp.93.