While teaching my first journal writing class for mothers, I realized we had a problem. I looked around the room at pregnant women and new mothers with journals full of writing, which was good, but no one wanted to share anything, which was bad. We sat in relative silence, listening to the sounds of nursing babies. I thought: “Maybe teaching this class wasn’t such a good idea.” Then, one of the students asked, “Has anyone read Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions?” Everyone else chimed in with enthusiasm, saying how much she had loved the book.
Suddenly, I knew what the problem was. The students were using, consciously or unconsciously, Lamott’s journal about motherhood as a model for their own journals. They didn’t want to read out loud what they had written because their journals read nothing like Anne Lamott’s.
When I talked about how no private journal, not even Anne Lamott’s, goes directly to press without some editing, I felt a lightening of the mood in the room. When I held up my own journal and showed the messy pages, the cross outs, the scribbles, the doodles, the mothers actually started smiling. By the time I had them take a pen and scribble on the first pages of their nice, new journals they had bought for the class, they were laughing.
The pressure was off. It didn’t have to be perfect. And neither does yours.
Anyone can keep a journal. Journals never judge you, or critique your writing style, or correct your grammar. They always listen in a silence that you can fill with your own thoughts, dreams, worries, hopes, and doubts. Your journal can become an important memory place for your pregnancy experience if you can give up the idea that it must be perfect.
In fact, giving up on the idea of perfection can help you to be more relaxed and content in general. So make being imperfect an art!
Buy a special journal for your pregnancy. Start four pages into your journal so you don’t feel you need to write a stellar introduction. I have found that I love first lines. In fact, I love them so much that I will spend hours on just one. In the short amounts of time I have in which to write, I can’t spend that much time on a beginning. But starting four pages into a journal or six lines down on a page helps me get going.
Write on scrap paper you pick up where ever you go that you later stick in between the pages of your journal or collect into a folder or binder. I once had a friend who wrote his poems on cocktail napkins. When they were done, he stuck them in his pockets or gave them away. He said it freed him from the pressure of being a POET. You can do the same so you can avoid the weight of being a WRITER;
Start a journal on the computer. When you feel blocked, turn off the computer screen or cover it with a towel so that you can’t see what you are writing. Then just type. You can go back to fix typos, but for right now, just get the words flowing. I use this technique when I feel that I have nothing to say. I am always surprised that I have much more to say than I thought!
Start a scrapbook journal in which you put pictures or memorabilia on one side and writing or drawings on the other. Write with crayons, magic markers, colored pencils, or special pens. Write upside down, in circles, or in the margins. Play with it; make a mess! The more colorful, chaotic, full and wild you can make it, the better. It should look like a child did it. I find that thinking and creating like a child helps me get beyond myself. If you have older children who like to draw, let them help you!