Monday, August 2, 2010
Posted by Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford
As an adult, I play only for fun. My competence level is probably about what it was when I was in seventh grade. I haven't attempted scales since, and I can't say I've missed them.
I think of keeping a writing journal as the writer's equivalent of a musician's disciplined practice routine. Unfortunately, "discipline" and "routine" are problematic concepts for me and have been all my life. Right now, I am teaching an online class; I have an article due on Monday; I have a full-time job; I have two kids whose favorite word most days seems to be "Mommy." Writing time is precious. Some days I fall into bed too tired to brush my teeth. (Thus, I'm sure, my long chronicle of dental woes.)
I know that disciplined writing practice outside of my current projects is simply not going to occur. Unlike flute-playing, at least I do write all day long. If my writing "muscles" aren't well limbered by emails, thank-you notes, and the 20-page outline (or two) that I write weekly, then spilling out words in a rough draft can count as my morning (or, more likely, late-night) pages.
In high school English, we were required to keep daily writing journals for two years. While sometimes the process was therapeutic, I was never moved to voluntarily continue the practice. I was not a child who had a diary, who enjoyed corresponding with pen pals, or who did a good job of keeping in touch with my farflung fellow military brats.
Now I keep an open idea file on my computer filled with vaguely indecipherable notes, scraps of character descriptions and plot outlines for about a dozen different projects. Such is my "system." Could it be better? Surely. But as I tell my students, the process is highly individualized -- do what feels comfortable and refine as you go along. I'm hanging in there, and that's about the best I can do.
Speaking of writing journals, don't forget about TeachingAuthors’ latest book giveaway for Karen Romano Young’s intriguing graphic novel about a girl who keeps a doodles-and-writing journal, Doodlebug: A Novel in Doodles. Entry deadline is 11 pm (CST) Wednesday, August 4, 2010. If I did keep a writing journal, I know it would be full of doodles (and I can't draw!). And if I could enter this contest, I so would. I can't wait to read this book!