Why I Keep Ugly Journals

There are many reasons excuses for not writing.

Most recently, I was stuck with the silliest excuse: I could not write in my journal because it was too pretty. I know it seems ridiculous but feeling resistance to writing is too common. When I can blame that resistance on the journal, I’ve effectively let myself off the hook.

The culprit for my writer’s block was a beautiful leather-bound journal with paper so thick and lush you could use it to remove your eye-makeup.

The cover was hand-carved with a large Celtic tree in the center and vines around the edges. The artist that made this journal put a lot of heart into this design and this product – which is probably why I bought it.

But something happened in my subconscious when I sat down to write in that beautiful journal.

I imagined perfectly formed haiku and quotable passages that would impart some deep wisdom on the world for many generations.

I imagined some stranger finding this journal in 100 years and reciting the great works that were transcribed within. And, well, how could anyone write anything under that kind of pressure?

The reality is that journal writing and first drafts are often ugly. If we are going to write anything of value and depth, we have to allow that ugly writing to come through first – and often. We have to learn to write uncensored and without expectations. Only then will we have the material to shape and mold into a good writing.

My solution

I gave the journal to my 9-year-old niece (who, I’m proud to say, uses it very often). I also refined my journaling system and got notebooks that served my specific writing.

You can read about my journaling system here.

In the meantime, consider your own writing practice. Where do you do your best writing? Have you ever been stuck in a rut? What reasons excuses are you still allowing to keep you from your best writing life? Tell me about it in the comments.

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