027: Priming the Pump with Words

When I committed to writing again, journaling was an instrumental part of that process. If your decision to write is the seed, journaling is the water to nurture and grow that seed. Every day you write in your journal, you’re deepening your roots.

In the days before indoor plumbing, water needed to be pumped in from a well. You would need to stand at the well, grab the handle, and then pump it up and down repeatedly until the water began to spew out from the nozzle into a bucket. Once the bucket was full, you could stop, but that process needed to be repeated each day you needed water. That’s what journaling does for your writing. Those pages are the pumps that we lift and push. Once the flow begins, we have to stand ready in expectation capturing every drop. Ideas for books and stories will spew from your pages. Thoughts on how to improve your blog will show up. And then some days, nothing comes out but gibberish and run-on sentences as you’ll write to fill the pages and nothing more. It can be tedious and sometimes monotonous, but stick with it. Three pages go fast. Write them. In the same way, the water that’s first expelled by the nozzle isn’t drinkable. It’s murky from the settling, but after a few pumps it springs forth crystal clear and delicious water. The pages in your journal will be the same. The important thing is that you show up and write each day and prime your pump. My journal has helped me solve problems with my writing, answer questions within my relationships, provided me with ideas for my book, directed me towards business concepts, and has decluttered my mind so that I could write productively for the rest of the day.

 

Morning Haze

I would be remiss if I didn’t address a long-standing problem that I faced with journaling—morning haze. There was a time when I would open the journal and just stare at the blank pages. Even the stream-of-consciousness would dry up—a wordless bed. What do you do when that happens? You walk.

Walking opens your mental flow since it is physical by nature. I like to start at a moderate to brisk pace while taking in long, deep breaths. It’s meditative. Then I shift my thoughts to my goals and affirmations. I ask my mind questions, particularly if I’m feeling stuck. I think about my day and what my tasks are for that day. I let my mind wander as I observe my surroundings. I pray. From time to time, I listen to soothing music or a podcast. The end game is to open my mind and shake off the fogginess of sleep. After being on my feet for 30 minutes, I am usually ready to interact with my journal. Walking isn’t just a great technique for the morning, I even use this technique throughout the day when I need to work through a section of my writing, break up my day, or if I’m shifting gears — from working on my writing to planning my marketing. Those walks are done at a slower pace with the goal of resolving a challenge or simply refreshing my mind and preventing my body from being seated too long or giving my eyes a break from the screen.

Getting Started

Ready to start journaling? All you need is a notebook, a pen, and 20-30 minutes each morning. I put the date at the top of my page, and then I write up to three pages. Don’t overthink it. Don’t plan it. Just write. Capture every thought whether sequential or random. Let your mind function like the bucket at the well. Let the water flow, but collect and capture nourishing ideas that can be acted upon. I like to circle or star interesting thoughts as I go and write them in an actionable items notebook so that I have them for later. As a rule of thumb, don’t revisit the pages you’ve written for at least 3-6 months. Write them and forget them. Their primary purpose is priming your mind for daily creativity and thought exploration.

My 100-Day Challenge

When I decided to take my writing seriously, I put a dead- line on my journaling to test their power. I would like for you to start the same way. Try 100 days like I did, or you can do 30, 60, or 90 days. I like the idea of going longer because it gives you time to become accustomed to the pages — getting you past the frustration of them (remember the yellowish-brown water analogy?)—and experiencing the flow that leads to change. I chose 100 because it was a three-digit number, and it’s such a milestone number—100th anniversary, 100 years, 100 episodes, and so forth. Once you commit to a time frame, decide what it is that you want your writing to accomplish for you. This is the most important step. If you want it to end in a book, then say so. If you want it to end in building a freelance career where you can leave your current job, then express that. Whatever it is you want, you have to bring that intention — subconsciously or consciously — to the pages each morning. You don’t have to write about it, but it has to be running in the background. Then write. When you don’t feel like it, write. When you’re running late, pack your breakfast to go and then write. When you don’t know what to write, especially then, write. These pages will take you to where you want to go. Are you ready?

 

Photo Credit: JHerman87