Druid . Day 7 . The Journal Muse

Ask Dr. Druid .. 66 Days from Lead to Gold 

Day 7 .. The Journal Muse

This piece will grok better for you if you read it
with your mouth as if out loud.
[Ask Dr. Druid is designed to begin at the beginning. Click here.]



    It’s time to get you going on a journal. You may already keep a journal, but having kept a journal continuously for over 30 years, I’ll tell you my details, and you can refine what you do or begin anew as the case may be.

   I have only two agreements with myself. I will write the full date and something every day. I may write, “I’m too beat to write.” In truth, with that allowed, I have almost never written that sentence. I may write a paragraph or pages, but I have kept faith with the Muse. It is the fact of keeping faith that matters to the Muse I think.

   Why do I always put the full date? Because I have sheaves of journaling which say 03/15 or 11/22 and I have zero idea now what year they were in. Of course it was clear as a bell what daggone year it was when I wrote the entries, but a few years down the road I had no clue. You will love yourself if you start now putting the whole date: 03.15.07 or if you’re not in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />America 15.03.07.

   I’m going to give you the exact details of what I do, but you can adjust anything except the full date and the some words every day.

   I’ve done all sorts of journal containers, fancy and plain, but for years now my favorite is to take acid-free laser typing paper and fold 12 sheets in half. This makes a 48-page little journal that’s handy to write on in bed.

   You do not need to do these refinements before you start but in case you want the handiest stuff down the road, I actually went to TAP plastic and for a coupla bucks got them to do me up a 1/8″ clear plastic sheet 6″ by 5″. They always have scrap of this basic clear plastic 1/8″ material which you can get them to cut down. I quickly sanded off the sharp edges and corners. I used an old empty video tape box to hold under this sturdy clear plastic sheet and now I have a nifty and very light little desk that I can use to perch my journal sheets on however I’m lying in bed or elsewhere. You’ll see when we start keeping notes on our dreams how darn handy this arrangement is.

   I use a softer lead wood pencil #1 or in an auto pencil #2B because it writes dark with no effort. I use pencil because when I’m taking dream notes, the pencil doesn’t care what angle I’m writing at. I buy auto pencils and throw away the lead they come with and replace it with the 2B soft lead. This lead only breaks if you push as hard as you used to to make the harder lead look dark.

   Just start a journal today. Worry about the details later. I just put the details here so you can play with them later if you want. I like this 48 little pages format so I can decorate the first little page as a new cover fairly often. As I go along, I number the pages with little abstract decorations. There was a period when I just printed up numbered pages from a master I did on the computer, but I like doing the numbers by hand lately.

   I happen to have a little digital clock that has hours, minutes, and seconds. For some reason, I find it amusing to most always put down this exact time when I begin. It’s interesting later to see the difference between after-midnight writing and afternoon writing. Totally unnecessary, but oddly interesting. I never cheat on the numbers to make them more cool.

   Never ever let anyone ever look at your journals while you’re alive. (When you’re dead, they’ll just have to deal with it and you’ll be beyond embarrassment or shame.) If you must share something from your journal, copy it out. You need a place to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Write only for yourself in your journal or anywhere else for that matter. Get over imagining some audience you want to please. You won’t please them anyway. You can’t worry about your girl or boy friend, your spouse, parents living or dead, present or future children, or History. You’ll get a personal truth detector eventually. You’ll feel when you’re beginning to fib or lie in order to please or placate or not offend one of the above. Stay ruthlessly true.   

   Of course you can do journaling directly on your computer, but then you will need a separate journal or log to keep by your bed for dream notes. (If, as my friend ChanceLucky does, you keep a blog that blog article counts as journaling on the days you write for it. However on the days you don't blog, you need to do a journal entry, however short and sweet.)

   In your journal or log, grammar and spelling do not matter one bit. When I take dream notes or travel notes or am particularly rushed or tired, I only jot down phrases. You can always do up sentences later but with dreams and travel, you want to make sure you get down the impressions.

   We’ll talk more specifically about dream journaling another day. Log whatever you want, but something every day. There is no single thing you can continue or begin that will make you gladder down the line than keeping a daily log or journal. When you look back even 2 months from now, you’ll be astonished at what you would have forgotten if it hadn’t been noted in your journal.

   Now, a log is not a diary. It can note something from the day. Or it may address something unrelated to the day at all. What will keep you doing a journal for perhaps the first time in your life is that you may write “I’m too beat to write.” Somehow the permission to not be meaningful or important or articulate allows you to sometimes actually be articulate and meaningful and important.




     I’ve taught writing for years and when I began teaching journals, people would ask, “What can I write about?” I used to give some lists of clever or lovely or interesting things for them to write about. Then when they finished that list, they’d come back and say, “What can I write about now?” Finally I realized that they would ask for lists forever. I learned to say, “Whatever you want.” It drove them crazy at first.

  One poor high-school senior thrashed about like a caught fish on a dock. He wrote ghastly little pieces like “What I did last summer.” When he finally ran out of topics he imagined I might like, he began to write stuff so real that it was breathtaking. I had another kid who wrote night after night in tiny engineer’s handwriting about stereo components. It was riveting. Because it was his passion. In a month or two, all my students began writing stuff as compelling as any author on my bookshelves. When it got real – to them.

   I never ‘correct’ journals, and with your Inner Perfectionist off grogging out in Fiji make sure you don’t become some imaginary inner teacher either. The only remark other than an exclamation point in the margin I ever made in a student’s journal was “Be more concrete. Instead of just saying it’s a beautiful day, mention the strawberry ice cream cone and include the bluejay you saw.” Poet Marianne Moore said that poetry is ‘imaginary gardens with real toads in them.’

     Be patient with yourself and you’ll develop your own voice. In the meantime, just put the full date and write something every day. Some days it’ll be pedestrian. Some days it may be literature. Never worry about that. Only worry about keeping faith with the page. The Muse will love you.

   I’m convinced that if everyone on Earth, Vuravura, Jeegoo kept private logs or journals, we would quantum leapfrog into a much saner planet. Your log will become a refuge, a forge; you will find solace and record thrill and the fascinating ordinary.


Ask Dr. Druid, 66 Days from Lead to Gold, Secrets of  Alchemy You Can Use, a druid shaman’s playbook .. Intro; Prologue; Day 1; Days 2 & 3; Day 4; Day 5; Day 6; Day 7; Day 8; Day 9; Day 10; Day 11; Day 12; Day 13; Day 14; day 15 Review 2; Day 16; Day 17; Day 18; Day 19; Day 20; Day 21; Day 22; Day 23; Day 24; Day 25; Day 26; Day 27; Day 28; Day 29;
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5 thoughts on “Druid . Day 7 . The Journal Muse

  1. What a fabulous post! I have had a journal book I purchased about a year ago and I have been meaning to start writing in it regularly. I think , no, I will do it now since you gave a wonderful little secret of being able to say, “Too tired to journal today, ” just to put anything down.
    I was always afraid that on days I had nothing to say that I would feel compelled to just write things that are not very interesting just for the sake of writing.
    Thanks for putting things into perspective!

  2. Dr. Druid,
    I think the important thing is to find what works for you. It actually helped me to keep my “journal” as a blog for a seemingly contrary reason. It's potentially public, not private. Of course, if you ever look at the actual number of folk who read most people's blogs, it's basically private anyway.
    I'm not sure journaling is the only path….I could see taking photographs, playing music, dancing, sewing, gardening, etc. playing a similar role. I do think though that there's a close relationship between “expression” and “observation”. People like to call it self-expression, but it's really almost the exact opposite, at least for me.

  3. Dustin — Thanks so much for visiting. I'm so thrilled that you're taking up your journal. There is no daily act that you can do that will more gladden & fascinate you later. You keep faith with the Muse & the Muse will keep faith with you.
    CL, tho I find your insights so excellent & all but unfailingly useful, we'll have to disagree on this one. A daily essentially private log or journal discovers personal structures and informations in a way that nothing you imagine becoming public can. It has to do with excruciatingly ruthless truth.
    Let's say that your CL blog writing (& wonderful it is) is your version of 'photographs, playing music, dancing, sewing, gardening.' Nothing is any finer than writing for honoring the Creative Heart of the Universe, the great gift we all get if we but pursue it with devotion and doggedness. However, the function of the log that 88 Days is asking for is not to develop one's writing chops, but to remove the veils from the really personal until you get excruciatingly honest between you and you.
    Only 'potentially public writing,' one's equivalent of sewing or other art, could get sometimes directly interwoven in one's journal. To put it another way, if one is doing potentially public writing, one also needs to set aside definitely not possibly public logging time just as the sewer or photographer would.
    The use of a journal to the progress of the 88 Days will also pick up one's dream observations soon and other lurching kindergartennesses that one would never make public.
    I'm really glad you brought up this one potential confusion. Only public writers would have this murky area of overlap. If you call your blog writing 'gardening' or 'playing basketball,' and keep some space for never public personal logging, you too will begin to feel the difference in inner posture towards the two kinds of writing. It's as if with one's public writing however intimate and truthful, one is ready or able to 'defend' it. The logging I'm talking about is beyond over under any defending.
    I think the bigger challenge for us all is to make arrangements so our log is actually guaranteed to be private. It can be hideously tempting for one's significant other to take a peek at one's log. The implicit or explicit insinuation is that 'if you really love me, you'd share these secret thoughts with me.' I'd make it clear that the process you're experimenting with requires that you have a place to write that no one ever looks at ever. To feel sure of this, get a little combination lock box from Office Depot or wherever, if necessary. The more absolutely private a log is, the more useful it is to you. Not so much that you might be hiding scurrilous behavior or thoughts, but that you will be able to be cosmically trivial if you want.
    There also is a difference between a log you write with your pencil or pen in your hand and one you type. Accesses different depths in the brain.

  4. Writing with a softer, darker lead pencil definitely makes writing at odd angles while lying down much easier. Very good tip. Noted.
    I also appreciate the built-in excuse (“I’m too beat to write”) which trumps the other more slithery excuses which I have used to submit to that seductive God Inertia and not “keep faith with the Muse” at all. Very very clever, pogblog. I am indebted to this counter-fiendish trick.

  5. Always lovely to hear you, temps. Looks like you're letting the bon mots roulez too! The dark lead pencil (#1 wood, #2B auto) will become even more essential when we get to remdream notes. But as you say, the pencil works for all lying down at odd angles. I used to break my wrist shaking a ballpoint to get the ink re-flowing.
    I was so grateful to finally outwit Inertia. It really can't get a serious tentacle-hold when you can rope-a-dope it with the “Too beat to write today.” I continue to be surprised at how seldom I actually use that No Shame excuse.

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