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Journalling Thoughts

I am going to try a change in my journalling method. Instead of writing three pages of longhand, which takes me about 35 minutes, I am going to write in three bursts of ten minutes on my computer. I don’t intend that there should a gap of more than a minute or so between the writing bursts because what I am trying to achieve is a greater focus.

Of course the usual rules about journaling will apply. No going back or correcting. Keep writing and don’t think. And above all I must resist the temptation to think about how it might look if I published it in the blog. In any case I have absolutely no intention of publishing more than the occasional extract.

There’s quite a different dynamic between handwriting and writing on the computer. Some people say that one should write with the screen switched off so that you can’t look back and see what you have written. I think that’s taking it a bit to the extreme - on the few occasions that I have tried it I have found it rather disconcerting. It results in a lot of uncorrected mistakes of course, but also there is a sense of being in darkness, of wandering around without being able to see one’s way. The results aren’t too bad though once they have been edited. But I don’t really like doing it that way.

I prefer to type on a screen where I can see what I am writing. It helps me to keep some sort of shape and focus. The one thing that must be borne firmly in mind is that editing must be left until afterwards. If something comes out of the journalling which seems worth preserving, then it should be reshaped later, not at the time of writing. Writing and editing are two separate operations which should be carried out at two separate times.

I’m now wondering if be better to write several ten minute bursts throughout the day? A ten minute article or thought is just about the right length for a blog posting, and for a longer article one can always string several together.

Reader Comments (6)

Mark, reading this post I get a sense that you are not clear whether you are journalling for yourself or to produce articles for a blog. I guess you might approach the two differently (eg how you organise your time, and what you journal on), and so not being clear might not make it very effective? Anyway, keep us all posted on how it goes...
February 27, 2007 at 9:43 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi Rose
Hi Mark -- I'm guessing you're interested in shaking things up to see what will happen. What I think you might find in a typing-burst is that you won't be thinking as much. As you know, writing by hand slows your thinking down, and doing that for 35 minutes is almost like meditating. Also, I often find I get my best ideas near the end of the third page!

So, the benefits you got from journalling by hand for 35 minutes may elude you if you're typing in 10-minute bursts. But other benefits may accrue, so I'm interested in the long-term outcome of this experiment.
February 27, 2007 at 20:37 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brown
Hi, Naomi

I am quite clear that I am *both* journalling for myself and to produce articles for my website/blog/etc. I have frequently had ideas during journalling which later find their way into the public gaze. However because they are in longhand, I have to type them all out. And because the 35 minutes it usually takes me to write three pages is relatively unfocussed I have to do a lot more editing too.

However like most things I try, this is an experiment. I am not wedded to it forever if it doesn't work out!

February 27, 2007 at 20:47 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi, Mike

I think you are absolutely right to say that the results will be different. Typing has a quite different dynamic from longhand, and 10 minute bursts are quite different from 35 minutes too.

What I'm interested in finding out is whether the differences are beneficial or not.

February 27, 2007 at 20:49 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Mark. I think the benefits may be that you'll get lots more disparate ideas or idea clusters in 10-min sprints than in 30-min marathons. Whatever you had been working on before or other concerns of the day will have "seeded" your consciousness and might be ready to pop out.

I predict shorter bursts may inhibit deeper understandings of a topic because not enough time has been spent laying down those tracks in your neural pathways. You wrote somewhere about how you felt that you thought *differently* after a year of the 3-pg journalling, and that has stuck with me, for some reason. I also predict you won't see that kind of change with the 10-min sprints (but that kind of change probably isn't needed at this point in your personal development).

The value of freewriting for a long period for me is that it burns all the trash out of my system so that the good stuff (if there is any) really does shine out. (I write fiction as a hobby and the process is similar there.)

Thanks for providing a place where folks like us can ruminate about these issues (though I think chatting about it in a pub would be more fun!).
February 28, 2007 at 15:00 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brown
I suppose journalling makes one more conscious and aware, and allows space for insights - what goes on when we're not thinking is an interesting moment. We get so identified with our inner conversations.
April 24, 2014 at 17:30 | Unregistered Commentermichael

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