There are three things no one tells you about how to form a habit of writing—particularly in a journal, which I think, anyway, is the most fertile loam for stories, poems, profound realizations, and anything else one could desire to write. These insights run counter to a lot of the advice I read in articles and books on this subject, but the only argument I’ll offer is that my advice comes from over twenty years of non-stop journaling, and represents the key elements I’ve found are needed to free your inner record-everything deep-thought beast. Without further ado, here are my biggest tips for becoming a hardcore addicted-to-writing journaler.
6:00 AM. Winter in rural China. I wake up in darkness, alone, in an unheated dormitory room, boil water for tea in my contraband kettle. Throw on my heavy winter coat, scarf, gloves, two pairs of pants, two pairs of socks. Stumble downstairs to the dining room, where watery rice porridge and boiled eggs steam from their bowls. I steal an extra egg (only one per person allowed), I eat standing up, leaning against the window. A red sunrise is quickly overtaken by fog, as it had been every day this winter. I toss out my eggshells, and head outside where the dogs huddle in their houses.
The daylight is waxing again here—we've crossed over the Solstice and winter has officially begun, but spring feels already on the way, with warm, sunny days and that fresh, lush, greenery smell in the air.
Where I'm from, May heralds the deep of spring: cold rains and riotously colored blossoms. Evening comes, and the sun lingers on and on. I think that was the hardest thing, at first, coming to Australia. Spring had been blossoming into summer—and suddenly, upon landing among the submergent coastlines of Sydney, at 4:30 PM, the light was gone. It was as though night were a blanket pulled over my eyes. No cold air to tell my body it was winter—just a daily, evening blindness.