Practice Shouldn’t Be Perfect

When I enter a bookstore or gift store, I’m immediately drawn to the journals. They come in all shapes and sizes, lined and unlined, covers for every taste: flowered, funky, silly, or serene. Slick, soft, leather, marbled, gilded, and more. I’ve purchased many journals in my life. To me, they represent expansive possibility. I line them up on my shelf and admire the beauty of their eclectic spines. They make me feel like a writer.

Yet…when I open one to the first empty page, I freeze. I’m afraid I’ll ruin it. The journal is so special, so pretty, that I only want to fill it with brilliant words. My ideas are never “perfect” the first time they come out of my head or my pen. Plus, when I write longhand—especially when creative juices are flowing—my handwriting gets big and messy. I couldn’t do that to the crisp white pages between such beautiful covers.

Five years ago, I challenged myself to fill a journal. Instead of random thoughts, I decided to fill it with poetry. Problem was, I didn’t write poetry. Thanks to a weekly group of writers from grad school who posted a poetry prompt each week, I made myself try. No matter what I wrote, whether I thought it was good or not, I put in the journal. I treated it like a scrapbook. Some poems I wrote directly on the page. Others I typed and pasted in. I added photos and stickers and pictures to accompany the poems.

I was going full steam for a while, then I slacked off, and sometimes weeks and months passed between poems. But when the prompt, or a moment in life, or an image I imagined inspired me, I wrote my impressions and treated it like something special by calling it a poem and pasting it in the journal. This weekend I pasted a poem on the last page.

After five years, I have finally completed a journal! Reading back on it now, I’m grateful for the moments I captured. Some of the poems describe times good and bad. Some make me smile, some make me sad. One won an award, some have bits of brilliance. But none of them are perfect. It’s their imperfection that makes them a true reflection of me, the past five years, and my writing practice.

So many more journals to fill if I can muster the courage (and hopefully it won’t take another five years)…


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  1. Janet Lawler February 14, 2021 at 1:20 pm · · Reply

    Congrats on filling that journal! I recently organized shelves of books in my office and found 4 journals I haven’t ever written in either! You have articulated something I never realized – that I find them precious and perfect while blank, and it does seem a shame to start writing in them! But your blog posting has given me courage. Thank you!

  2. I have so many journals too beautiful to write in, just sitting there being their beautiful, empty selves. Your courage may be just the inspiration to dive in and let them blossom the way they’re meant to!

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