There is a special magic that comes along with documenting your everyday musings and experiences. However, journals are often stereotyped as adorable little notebooks filled with perfectly organized, dated, written entries that require a great deal of time and an even more immense sense of personal commitment to maintain. “Journals” are supposedly ravenous entities screaming, “feed me!” every time a new memory or observation encodes itself into your brain.
In some environments, keeping a consistent, daily record of your everyday thoughts and experiences may be extremely useful and worth your while, such in a study abroad or travel-based setting. But how can journaling ever be compatible with the stresses and demands of everyday campus life, you inquire?
In fact, I’ve often found that journaling can help you untangle that twisted knot of thoughts contributing to the writer’s block that’s impeding your current paper. But perhaps you don’t have the time, energy, or motivation to commit to a so-called “traditional” journal during college. After all, that 20-page research paper should probably claim precedence over freelance scribbles.
This may require broadening your horizons and dismantling that stereotype of the cute-little-notebook-companion. Perhaps you’re interested in engaging in creative self-expression during those scarce free moments, but don’t have the time to actually develop it into a dedicated hobby. What follows are a few quick tips and ideas to help inspire you to dabble in occasional, stress-free, fun self-reflection! :
1.) Your journal is there when you need it.
Oftentimes, it can be extremely difficult to find a spontaneous, creative moment. To reiterate, journaling does not have to require a huge commitment, especially as it pertains to college life.
2.) Abandon your rampant perfectionistic tendencies.
Focus on release. Think of grammar as a afterthought if you find yourself struggling with perfectionism. Refraining oneself from adhering to a specific format, structure, or style can be an incredibly liberating experience.
This goes back to defying the stereotype of the “traditional” journal. There are numerous ways to free your creative inhibitions, some of which don’t even have to be verbal. Treat your journal like a scrapbook if you feel this really whets your creative juices. I recently received a “junk journal” from Etsy and have been literally stuffing it with various ticket stubs, greeting cards, and other paper scraps to help me preserve particular memories.
Dream journals, whether handwritten or online, are also a fun, less time-consuming alternative to traditional journaling.
I’d also recommend these books by Keri Smith as extremely fun creativity starters:
Altogether, journals can be a fun and fantastic medium to express yourself in a multitude of ways. Don’t think of journaling as just another thing to heap on top of your already overstuffed to-do-list, but rather as a spontaneous opportunity to help you gain inspiration or insight whenever a spare moment might arise.
~Sarah F, peer tutor
“How’s your paper coming along? How many pages do you have by now?” A fellow classmate inquires in a friendly, conversational tone.
“Umm…I have one page…” I reply.
(Insert eye-rolling from the other party here.)
“But it’s due tomorrow! I never understood how people can wait until the last minute to work on their papers.”
“No! It’s not like that! I actually started a week ago, but ummm… ermmm… I know what I’m going to say; I just haven’t actually written it down yet.”
Yeah…likely story, the classmate implies with her supposedly knowing smile.
I originally wrote a page or two on what I thought I was going to say, but decided later that it was a predominantly a piece of disheveled crap. Well, maybe there’s one solid idea hidden inside the incomprehensible text like a tricky Easter egg, but I still end up deciding to erase most of it and essentially start over. I KNOW the ideas are lurking around in some secret mental corridor. I just can’t happen to find them in that moment.
Courtesy of: http://writersrumpus.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/don_t-be-a-slave-to-writer_s-block.jpg
I mean, I can’t just open a blank word document and magically churn out a polished paper. Stare at the screen. Throw a pen across the room. Ergh, so aggravating! So how do you deal with a congested mind? Perhaps you’ve struggled with the daunting enigma that writer’s block is yourself. In fact, Writer’s block often shares a intrinsic relationship with the overall writing process. What follows are a few tips to combat writer’s block by relating it to some of the various stages constituting the writing process.
1. Experiment with Outlines and Handwriting
Already stuck before you’ve even started? Experiment with outlines, maps, and writing by hand. Scour the web for new and unusual frameworks in which you can brainstorm and sort your ideas. Organizing that amorphous mass of ideas into a new, appealing structure may prove beneficial.
2. Write or Die!
Write or Die is a free, twisted little internet application that draws from principles of operant conditioning you probably learned in your intro to psyche class. In other words, punishment is warranted if you stop writing. I personally prefer kamikaze mode, which erases your writing word by word if you stop for even just a few seconds. Write or Die is actually intended for creative writing but I’ve found it to be an incredibly useful tool for freewriting preliminary drafts.
The objective of Write or Die and freewriting in general is to capture your stream of thoughts on paper before they escape from you and disappear forever. Rawness is key, while refinement will eventually follow.You may find it liberating to spit out a torrent of words without consciousness of editing or grammar. However, there is usually at least one solid idea you can extract from that jumble of nonsensical words typed under the inevitable pressure and doom that Write or Die imposes on you. In fact, I am typing this on Write or Die at this very moment.
3. Write on Your Own
Keep your train of thought flowing as a writer to help loosen your condensed blob of ideas. Keep a journal, a blog, or try your hand at creative writing. You may find that scribbling a page in your journal or adding a new blog post can help diminish your paper anxiety and loosen up your chunk of thoughts, however random or irrelevant it might be. It is all about learning by doing.
4. Devise Your Own Idiosyncratic Habits
Develop fun and/or idiosyncratic techniques to help keep your waterfall of inspiration flowing. I prefer wearing a hat when I write because hats are awesome. I guess you could call it a literal “thinking cap” if you want to be corny about it. Dig out your lucky pair of writing socks and make it a a technique of self-motivation. You can ascribe meaning to any article of clothing by remembering all of those difficult moments of writer’s block you’ve already surmounted in the past when you wore that special hat or lucky sock. You have overcome writer’s block before, and you are certainly capable of triumphing again!
5. Take Breaks or Sleep it off
Sometimes writer’s block is a sign that you need to refresh your mind. Take a break. Indulge in some quality “me-time.” Utilize those off-moments as a source of inspiration. The shower, for instance, is brimming with intellectual revelations. Take a walk. Ponder deep writing thoughts in glar. Or if you are simply too exhausted to engage in any of the above…
Never underestimate the value of a high quality nap. Naps can actually help diffuse all that clutter that’s clogging your flow of thoughts. I confess that that is based on personal experience and not a research study, but naps are still worth considering if you are desperate!
6. Create the Right Atmosphere
There are many excellent blog posts on creating the “write” atmosphere available for you to check out, so I won’t divulge into verbose detail. Acquire self-knowledge by assessing the relative values of different spots on campus and determining the environment(s) in which you can concentrate. Experiment with additional elements of atmosphere, such as classical music. Figure out the time of day or night you work best.
7. Employ Writing Center Techniques!
You can emulate several of the techniques you find here at the writing center, such as reading out loud. Try discussing your topic with friends and classmates. Simply discussing (or ranting, whichever you prefer) your struggles and frustrations with friends can also serve as a mental decongestant.
8.) Make a Writing Center Appointment!
The Writing Center is here for you during any stage of the writing process. We can assist you in your struggle with writer’s block and help you transform your stagnant stream of thoughts into a waterfall flowing with inspiration.
—Sarah F, peer tutor