Claire Corbett is teaching a four week course at Writing NSW starting on Monday 5 November. This interactive course blends approaches from a number of sources on productivity, incorporating insights from brain research that will help you harness your motivation and concentration. Ahead of the course, we spoke to Claire about the exciting world of journals.
When did you get started with keeping a journal?
I was nine. A family friend gave me one of those classic childhood diaries: olive-green cover, little lock and key. It was a day to a page, though, so I felt I had to write exactly one page every day. Not surprisingly, child-me couldn’t keep that up and yet it was incredibly important. It began a lifetime of ‘failed’ journal-keeping, every scrap of which helped make me a writer. Now though, it’s exciting to have at last found a way of keeping a journal that works, so practical and creative that I can’t imagine giving it up.
You’re a published author of essays as well as long and short fiction. How has journalling helped with your own writing?
I literally couldn’t write anything without my notebooks and journals. My daily journal is my ‘capture tool.’ It is always with me so that if I have an idea or find a reference, I can note it right away. Then it’s all in one place; I can trawl back and am often reminded of ideas I’d forgotten about. The Buddhists say ‘first thought, best thought’, and I’ve often found that to be true.
How does journalling increase creativity and productivity, or both?
Creative ideas arise from the subconscious and the subconscious often speaks only once and in a quiet voice. If you don’t record it, the idea vanishes. Secondly, important things are kept together, so ideas and insights spark off each other. These practices also increase productivity but many other features do also, such as ways of building good habits. The most important habit is taking a few moments each day to decide how best to use your time. That is the most intelligent thing it is possible to do.
Claire Corbett is a novelist, university lecturer, PhD student and was formerly a senior government policy adviser. She has used diaries, journals, project notebooks, appointment and work diaries in every form all her life. Her first novel, When We Have Wings, was published in 2011 by Allen & Unwin and shortlisted for the 2012 Barbara Jefferis Award and the 2012 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction. Her second novel, Watch Over Me, was published by Allen & Unwin in 2017.