Journals

An excellent way for reconnecting with your inner self is to write in a journal. I tell both writing students and therapy clients to start writing in a journal. It doesn't have to be one of those fancy note books or one of those expensive handmade books. Just buy a simple notebook, preferably one you can carry around with you at all times. A journal is a wonderful tool for helping you monitor yourself— what you're thinking, feeling, and dreaming about throughout the day and night. Get into the habit of writing in your journal every day. Record your thoughts, feelings, ideas, and even your dreams (both the day and the night ones).

Some writers who've consulted with me have kept many different journals for specific reasons. One woman had a dream journal, a daily journal, and a journal for childhood stories. Another writer had an idea journal recording dialogue, concepts, and plots from his daily life for use in his scripts.

I wholly recommend journals for non-writers, too. They are a wonderful bridge between your external and internal selves. The only caution is not to write in your journal just when you're feeling depressed. Many people use a journal to dump their feelings and it gets to be a bad habit. To counteract this habit I suggest that you buy a journal and call it your "Joyful Journal," and write about only those situations that make you feel good.

Another type of journal you might want to create is a writer's journal. In this type of journal you can make different headings and sections according to dialogue, plot, ideas, characters, settings, and atmosphere. Keep this journal with you and you'll be surprised how much more observant you'll become of people, places, and events throughout your day. Writers need to be keen observers of human behavior. What better way to heighten your ability to record human nature than to write in your journal. You'll be pleasantly surprised how many ideas you'll get for your future screenplays just from being aware of your surroundings and the people in them. You'll see how much material you'll discover at work, from friends, family, and in your personal relationships.

A young man who was working on his masters degree in film school asked me to consult with him on his final project before graduation—a short film. He couldn't think of anything to write until we had a session in which he told me about a couple of his dreams. I suggested that he begin to record his dreams in a dream journal and then read them to me. From writing down his dreams as soon as he awakened, so not to forget them, he discovered a dream which he could use as the basis for his short film. He wrote his short film from his dream and when he completed it, his film won several awards at film festivals. He would never have achieved writing about something that came from the inside out and was meaningful to him without first creating his dream journal and making the commitment to use it as a writing resource. His short film stood out from the rest because it was personal and passionate to the writer and therefore to the audience.

Another client, an experienced professional had already sold several screenplays. She came to see me because she felt her writing was shallow and wanted to write with more emotional intensity. We began working on her childhood experiences which she recorded in her personal journal. One day she brought in a particular traumatic event and we discussed how it related to her childhood. She took the germ of her painful childhood experience and wrote a screenplay from it. The script emerged from her passion, her childhood, her truth and her emotions. She wrote about something that came from the inside out and was meaningful to her. Her screenplay was made into an award winning film which stands out from other films, because it's personal, passionate and honest.

I have consulted with many experienced professionals who have already had success yet when starting a new script become blocked and unable to write, because they're afraid to connect to their inner world. Although they know craft they avoid tapping their inner feelings and resist getting in touch with their emotions. Their writing remains stilted, their characters cliched and they'll have problems selling their script, until they're willing to express themselves and reveal who they are through their characters.

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