Private Journaling in Community

Like a lot of you, I resonate with The Artist’s Way, a book by Julia Cameron. The primary practice is ‘morning pages,’ a private, stream-of-consciousness, write-anything-until-you’ve-written-three-pages approach to daily journaling. Ideally first thing in the morning.

The benefits are wonderful. First, it clears that static and noise out of my head. Clarity of thought and intention require some measure of inner peace and this journaling is a way of unloading my mind. Second, writing three pages as quickly as I can teaches me that I can generate fresh content at will, that I can achieve a creative flow. Most of what I journal is garbage and rightfully so, but the practice has still taught me to get into the flow.

As a writer, which is something we all do whether it’s our medium or not, I find that composing text can be paralyzing, but editing is easy. So, knowing that I can get the ideas out quickly and edit with confidence later is empowering.

Now the trouble. I very much enjoy writing longhand in physical journals. There are a lot of advantages to that tactile approach, including, for example, the ability to noodle around non-textually. But… I have not been able to turn that longhand writing practice into a habit that stuck. And that’s the real trick, isn’t it?

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that I am what I habitually do. Writers write, composers compose, painters paint. So the habit is the key thing. I am the things that are integrated into my life.

So how do I make morning journaling a habit? Put it someplace I can’t avoid, my workstation. My friend and colleague Damien and I built our own journaling web app at so that we could solidify the habit of writing every day.

Damien took to it immediately and has written religiously, three pages every single day for a year and a half now. Astonishing. During this same timeframe, and I don’t think these facts are unrelated, Damien has written a screenplay on the side.

I have written my earlywords quite often, but have been having trouble being as disciplined. The way I’m built, the trick is to know that somebody is paying attention. Support. That someone cares whether I’m on the path.

I recently invited a few more of my creative friends into my ‘circle of peers’ at earlywords—Claudia, Matthew, Kimberly, etc. They can see whether I’ve done my early words today. They can see my current streak and how I’m doing this month. They can poke me and encourage me. And I can do the same for them.

Three things have changed in these few weeks since:

First, I have become more consistent writing my earlywords. For the first time, I have a 14-day streak of writing every day.

Second, I have been more creative in my medium (music composition). As a bonus, I notice that my work (software) output is also higher. The work flows more easily in both areas of my life.

Third, and this I didn’t expect, I started sharing drafts of creative work that I’m working on with my earlywords peers. An orchestral sketch here, a quartet idea there, an art song, etc.

Sharing drafts of my creative work with friends has gotten me thinking about building tools that facilitate the practice of interdisciplinary mutual mentoring. Perhaps that’s the next bridge to cross for the 52 Sketches project.

— Rob

this post on twitter