In this excerpt from a letter to a student in her online class Writing for Children, Helena explains her journal writing practice.
I write in my journal every morning. It’s something I’ve practiced for almost 35 years, is a way I collect myself, commune with myself and, frankly, God. All my hopes and dreams, my insights, all kinds of contemplation go into that pen-tip on paper.
Looking back at them is not something I ever do, but I do save them, though many were destroyed in a flood about 12 years ago. Spiral notebooks and ball point pen are like air, oxygen for me. I developed an ease, I think, with writing, with day dreaming through writing. I am very sure it led to my novel, Ruthie Pincus of Brooklyn, and to my development as a human being and as a writer–probably, too, to feeling a kind of ease in my own skin.
There are mornings that the insights are so luminous! Other mornings I write my wishes and dreams, particularly if I feel opaque, blocked or down. I reflect on good things, recall them, from the day before, and digest the wonder of them. I probably digest a lot of experience. I write letters in that journal, some I send and some I don’t. Sometimes I articulate anger at someone, and don’t send the letter. Or once in a while…well, I do.
I find that writing things through causes change. I wanted to journal for years, and I couldn’t get myself to. Then I went on a spiritual retreat that involved writing, and it opened something in me–after that I wrote every morning from then on.
Sometimes I write frantically, it seems, for an hour. Sometimes for a half hour. But sitting with it every morning is very important to me. When I teach writing in a brick and mortar classroom, I ask people to keep a journal, and, of course, people journal in different ways. Some write intermittently, but this is how I do it, faithfully, every day.
Helena Clare Pittman is the bestselling author of A Grain of Rice, in print for over 25 years. She’s the author/illustrator of 16 other books, including a prestigious “Smithsonian Book” edition and a recommendation by The New York Times‘ Best Paperbacks. Helena teaches widely at numerous institutions and is an Associate of the Center for Creative Writing. Her newest book, the novel Ruthie Pincus of Brooklyn, is available in a Kindle edition at Amazon.