WHEN WE WRITE WORDS NO ONE ELSE WILL EVER READ—during our writing practice, in our journals, or as part of our morning pages—we might as well be using invisible ink. Yet, despite not having an audience, those words do have an effect. On us.
With no imaginary reader peering over our shoulder, we may dig into deeper truths than if we think someone will judge what we say. With no one to frown at our antics, we can be wild, exaggerated, unbound on the page—free to scrawl out first thoughts and leap to extravagant associations, rather than just dishing up what’s expected of us.
Maybe we use our invisible ink for writing practice, setting a timer, writing as fast as we can about a topic we want to explore, and not stopping until the bell dings.
What’s the hurry? We need to outrun the censor, scribble right past the spots our inner critic wants to stop us. Once we’re beyond his reach, chances are we’ll stumble onto something crisp and new, something that belongs just to us—something the censor considers dangerous, but which we know carries a vital charge.
Then we can bring this dynamic material back to a piece for our readers, where it will liven the same-old/same-old with the citrus-y tang of a fresh idea!
Keeping a journal
We might also keep a journal to record events of our lives. A daily digest of what we’ve done and how we feel about it can generate great trust within us. And a journal can also be both a record to look back on and a foundation for any other writing we want to do. Because once we’re in the habit of writing at all, all writing becomes easier to tackle.
At first glance, committing to morning pages—three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing—looks a lot like writing practice or journaling. But different from either, morning pages are meant to be written and then forgotten.
Personally, I just dump the contents of my brain on the page every morning for about thirty minutes and toss out my spiral-bound morning-pages notebooks as I fill them. I never mine them for ideas for articles or books. Still, reliably (as I mention in A Book Can Be Your Writing Coach), morning pages free me up for other writing tasks.
Tarot writing prompt
In this Eight of Pentacles, a journeyman works solo, laying one brick at a time to create the structure shown in his blueprint. He is diligent, focused, and committed. No one watches or praises him. Yet he is dedicated to his task—and will learn from it whatever it has to teach him.
Your mission, if you accept it, is to commit to making personal writing a priority for eight consecutive days. Then, assess your experience. What, if anything, has it taught you? Did you receive benefits you didn’t expect?
Like the steady-going figure in the Eight of Pentacles building his wall brick by brick, a regular personal writing practice builds our literary confidence—not just in invisible ink, but in the words we write for others, as well.
Check out these three diaries which, originally private, have been published (turning the idea of “invisible ink” on its head). A peek at these writers’ intimate thoughts may offer you inspiration to continue with your own private writing practice.
- THE FOLDED CLOCK, by Heidi Julavits
- ANNE FRANK: The Diary of a Young Girl
- A WRITER’S DIARY: Virginia Woolf