I love writing. I’m just going to come out and admit it. Some people despise it, and some people crave it. I definitely fall into the latter category.
Which is why I have thought that my new favorite writing tactic might not be applicable to everyone. Writing is my form of release (like watching T.V. is for some), weird I know. But, the more that I thought about it, the more I realized that this way of journaling is applicable to everyone — whether you consider yourself a “writer” or not.
Before I get into the details of what this mystical journaling tactic is, I want to explain why I started using it. This backwards way of thinking will be helpful in a moment — just stick with me.
Why journaling can help anyone–especially when you’re Stuck
I wanted to write a book. But, I kept waiting to start writing until the idea was perfect in my mind. I mulled it over in the shower, on a run, while working. I would finally sit down to write, staring at that blank page and think: this isn’t it.
Then, I would go back to the drawing board.
This would happen for weeks, months on end. Until I realized that it will never be perfect. And, honestly it wasn’t about the “perfection” — this avoidance was coming from a place of fear. This piece of writing was such a big deal to me, that no matter what idea I came up with, it would never actually be good enough.
This mindset trap happens to everyone — regardless if they’re a writer or not. It happens to entrepreneurs, and creatives alike. We’re so scared of what this big looming idea could possibly be that we never actually start.
And yes, I’ve heard all the advice in the book. Just go ahead and get started. Do something. Your first idea will change. Use the Lean Startup Method. I know, I know. But, I just couldn’t get myself past that advice.
Until one day, I just decided to brain dump. I gave myself no limits. I sat down early in the morning — after meditating but before checking my emails — and I journaled about nothing. Everything. Weird shit that was happening to me in my life. Things my subconscious was mulling over that just flew out of my fingers without even thinking about it.
And, it was beautiful. Beautiful in the sense that it actually made sense in a not-so-linear way. It was cathartic. And, I made connections that I never would have made if I consciously planned out what I wanted to say.
The Journaling Technique: Early Morning Brain Dump
Yes, I’m calling it the Early Morning Brain Dump (how beautiful).
Because honestly, that’s what it is. It’s an unloading of all the shit that’s built up in your mind, all the thoughts that have been swirling around with nowhere to go. It’s the No Judgement Zone. It’s the Figure Out What It All Means Later space. It’s 30 minutes of you and your hands and your mind whirling at lightening speed.
So, this is how it works: Wake up. Complete your morning rituals (e.g. things like meditating, watering your plants, whatever — no emails, or thinking things though). Sit down in a comfortable spot with a blank page on your computer/journal/whatever medium you like best. Set a timer — 30 minutes is usually best for me. Translate the thoughts in your head to words on a page (without judgement). Keep going when your brain wants to stop (this is often the best time). Timer rings — close the page.
Repeat this process for two weeks. I promise, within the first 3 days you’ll notice an extreme difference in your thought process. You’ll begin to see trends. You’ll start making connections that were never apparent for you during your conscious hours — that’s how I developed the story for my book (and dozens of other ideas) in the first 5 days of journaling.
Start your day with a clearer mind
One of the other interesting aspects of this process (in reality, it’s called the Free Write Method) is the feeling that you have after you’re done. Goodbye coffee. During my experiment, I started off my day with noticeably more energy and a clearer mind. I wasn’t walking around in a fog for the first two hours of my day, like normal.
But, I think one of the most important aspects of this journaling technique though is the timing. I played around a bit with when I actually journaled (morning, afternoon, evening) to see if that made a difference. I found that the time of sleepy consciousness, those magical morning moments between dreams and reality were most effective for me. I had the lowest ability to judge my thoughts — and they just flowed out of me. It also helped me start a more beautiful, productive day.
So, experiment with the Early Morning Brain Dump Method. See what you come up with. At the end of your 2 week experiment, pore through your (somewhat) incoherent notes, and see what trends start coming up.
I promise that a few new ideas (maybe even 101) will come to light.