If you remember a while back, oh let’s say four years ago, I wrote about the benefits of keeping a Progress Journal.
The purpose of a Progress Journal is to keep track of your ideas for either a work in progress or an array of ideas you may want to use at another time.
Today I want to introduce to you a spiritual successor to it called The Shadow Journal. (And for those of you who have been reading since 2014, I sincerely thank you for your readership!)
Giving Your Shadow Side a Megaphone
When I first conceived the idea of The Progress Journal, it literally was used for freely expressing my ideas, both good and bad, in order to separate the wheat from the chaffe. Eventually, though, writer’s block reared its ugly head much more prominently the more I discovered ways to combat it.
While I only alluded to it in my 2014 post, I want to elaborate more on a simple, but profound idea now in 2018:
Write your most deepest, darkest, disturbing fears.
About yourself, your stories, and the world around you.
We all have doubts that hold us back from progressing in life and our passions, possibly due to an excess of pessimism, and often times it’s due to not acknowledging they exist. Maybe you’re like me and choose to overshoot the optimism in an attempt to override the pessimism. It’s obvious how dibilitating pessimism can be, but so can optimism when not balanced with reason and logic.
So instead of looking at pessimism as an enemy, maybe you could try welcoming it as an inconvenient, yet helpful ally. It may have valid reasons to prevent you from writing what you want to write, or maybe it’s all a bunch of bullshit.
Whatever the case may be, you may never know unless you take the time to confront your Shadow Side, the source of your resistance. Write down every single negative thought that it fills your head with and let it out of your system.
Maybe your Shadow Side thinks your story sucks. Maybe your Shadow Side thinks you’re not capable of writing something as good as you intend. Or maybe your Shadow Side just thinks you’re an absolute waste of life who has no right to write.
Now while I am here to be the guy to tell you that it is Your Write to Live, I think you can never truly appreciate life unless you come to accept that death is its eventual end.
Writing Prompt #1: For 10-15 minutes, or for however long as you need to, let your Shadow Side say all the nasty things it says to your mind on a daily basis. Don’t let it hold back. Let it say the worst possible things and give it the space to voice its opinion.
Confronting Your Shadow Side
Now while it is incredibly discomforting to do this, believe it or not, this is what I have to do every time I sit down and write my novel. I let all of my fears and doubts out on the digital page so that it no longer lingers in my mind.
If you’re familiar with Carl Jung’s theory on repression, many writers are actually victims of their own repression. It’s the reason why so many don’t get published, let alone even let themselves begin on a project.
So once I’ve let my Shadow Side say what it needs to, I allow it to make me feel like absolute crap, but only one last time.
Because then I examine its opinions and compare it to the evidence as I reasonably can. While there’s no way to ever objectively determine what the truth is about the world and myself, the most educated hypothesis, tested through and through, is the best shot we’ve got at making sense of the chaos of existence.
I’m not going to lie, there have been a handful of times where I truly believed what my Shadow Side said and ended up staying in my rut. I’ve written stand alone Shadow Journals and chose not to work on my novel at all because I truly believed in giving up.
But more often than not, I come out victorious because I confront my Shadow Side head on. I listen to what it has to say and maybe it’s right, maybe I do have to do the tough thing and start a chapter all over again, or even kill a character and remove their role from the entire story. Hell, it’s actually thanks to my Shadow Side that I’m on the fourth draft of It Starts: at Home since it tells me that I can do way better than my most recent attempt at a draft.
Hell even right now my Shadow Side says I shouldn’t be hyperlinking to my second draft chapter sample because it’s so baseless and contains little to no significant plot elements.
But then my optimism is hard pressed to remind me that it at least encapsulates the chemistry between my lovely young protagonists. After all, I have it up on my site for a reason as a comparison for what I am capable of writing now. It’s a sign of my growth as a writer to humbly remember where I came from.
So be tough, but fair with yourself.
Writing Prompt #2: Take that same Shadow Journal entry and consider what your Shadow Side had to say about you and your work. What things are they right about and what are they absolutely wrong about? Take what they’re right about and improve, and prove them wrong on every other front. I promise you will come out feeling stronger and much more confident with yourself…
…Until Tomorrow, Of Course
Now here’s some good and bad news:
A one time Shadow Journal entry is not enough to keep your confidence up.
You may have to do it once in a while or every day.
Whatever the case may be for you, I’d suggest accepting and appreciating this push and pull between yourself and your muse. Whenever your Shadow Side gets in the way, let it. Maybe it’s just a child conceived by yourself and your muse that simply needs a gentle guiding hand to comfort and civilize it.
Feedback and critcisms are always welcome so feel free to tell me if this post, or any of my other posts have helped you out.
Or maybe I suck ass and I need some “brave” keyboard warrior troll to remind me of that.
Either way, leave a comment below and I will see you guys next week!