CHASING DOWN THE MUSE: Journaling advice: Just do it

Inspiration is right before us. This line is posted right before me on this Tuesday morning as I sit down to write. I am late with getting this column in to my editor. Words like “too much” and “too little” flash before me as I begin. And, then, I spot the words “right before us.” Of course. Just below the posted words sits my journal, faithfully written in day after day. Inspiration.

For many years I was very spotty in keeping a journal. Almost anything could keep me from it and did. Then, several years ago, after taking a writing class, I became inspired to start up and stick with the daily journaling. Once a pattern of daily writing was in place for a while, the habit was set in stone. Journaling has served me well.

The fragments of awareness in the early morning, often pre-dawn-writings are certainly not earth-shattering, Pulitzer Prize-worthy jottings. Still, they are mine. They represent my thoughts and feelings in moments of mindful meditation. Like meandering footprints, the writing forms a meditative stroll of words.

At times, the journaling travels through a world of vision, dream, possibility; it is creation at its formless best. Sometimes, the writing may be shallow — filled with petty grievances or plans for the day. At other times, there is a deeper exploration — of my own conscience or that of a world of which I am a willing or unwilling part. What is important is simply sitting down, pen in hand and writing.

Thich Nhat Hanh wrote that “the purpose of walking meditation is walking meditation itself. Going is important, not arriving.” The journey, not the destination. How often we hear this. How true it is. It is all about being in the flow, being aware, just being.

What a great way to start the day. Also, as some folks do, to end it. It can be done at any time of the day. Personal preference can prevail. Julia Cameron, who wrote “The Artist’s Way,” recommends three pages of longhand writing. For the most part, I find this works well for me, though there are times when I extend beyond and times when only two pages will do.

This journal writing is not about rigidity (though it does probably help in the very beginning).

There are days, of course, when, like a blank white canvas, the page just stares back at me. Like that blank canvas, I just start. With a canvas, it may be a wash of color. With the journal, it may be simple, rote words like “breathe … relax … listen … let go….” Before I know it, the blanks fill themselves with thoughts and feelings and observations. I hear the first chirp of a bird. I write this. A car travels down the canyon, its tires swishing as it passes. I write this, too. I am in the flow … in the moment … mindfully aware. It is a start.

For those of you already immersed in journal writing, there is truly nothing I can tell you here that is new. But for those who, like so many of my clients over the years, are reluctant beginners, listen up — JUST DO IT. If you can bring yourself to do so, take this on trust: The writing of a journal will set you free. When you are reluctant to write, that is when you will find that it has the most value. So just begin. To use the metaphor once again, fill the canvas with something, anything. Begin.

As you create a pattern of writing, you will find clarity and calm, just as with any other meditative experience. It may be a mystical experience. It may be simple and serene. It will be yours, all yours. You will find inspiration — your inspiration — right before you.

CHERRIL DOTY is an artist, writer, and creative coach exploring and enjoying the many mysteries of life in the moment. She can be reached at or by phone at (949) 251-3883.

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