Here's a little secret. This year, 2011, I experienced a huge epiphany on day two of my fake journal. (I started before April for logistical reasons, which means that on March 27 the light bulb turned on.) The epiphany was so clear, so loud and persistent, that I felt confident I'd learned what I needed from the experience and could stop. I didn't stop, however. I'm holding out for a couple more epiphanies, or so much irritation that I can't wait to get back to my own life full time. But I wanted to share thoughts with you on when to throw in the towel on your fake journal.
1. If you're uneasy, uncomfortable, maybe a little queasy, scared, frustrated, and your feet don't feel right in your shoes: Keep Working!
Don't quit on the time table of your internal critic or your subconscious or even your general habit (which might be to end things early). Quit on your own terms.
a. Assess the situation. Ask where the discomfort is coming from. Think about how you might be able to address that discomfort by changing media, making more time to work on your journal, taking less time to work on your journal, etc. Make a list of what comes up in your questioning and address it.2. If you have an earth shattering epiphany about your creative process—don't stop your fake journal. Keep going another two days while you take time to also think about that epiphany and what it means in your life. After two days of digestion, you'll know whether there is any point in continuing the fake journal, e.g., "I found out X, now what else can I find out?" Literally ask yourself that. (This is the position I was in this year.)
b. Consider ways to tighten up your goals by scaling back on the scope and breadth of your project. (Do 30 minutes a day, instead of one hour. Do one page a day instead of one page spread. Stick to only one type of medium. Stick with or return to a medium you are comfortable using.)
c. Focus on finishing the project rather than posting your results daily on a blog or website. For some people the scanning and posting adds too many extra steps to their already time-squeezed days. Finish your journal project first, then in MAY scan and post your results. The project is important—not when you post. (Alternately some people may find it helps to post everyday to get their momentum moving.)
3. If your whole life seems topsy-turvy, the dishes aren't getting done, and you feel so much stress some other aspect of your life is becoming unhealthy (e.g., you see your coffee consumption increase), back off of the project and participate three days a week, or even one or two days a week only. You'll keep up the momentum. You'll still learn something. You won't be giving in to your internal critic.
In any type of exercise, physical or creative, we have to push ourselves past our current ability and habits and patterns. It's where the growth and learning take place. But part of that growth and learning comes in the form of new knowledge about ourselves and how far we can push without collapse.
Keep that in mind as you work in your fake journal. You are pushing to get stronger, not to wear yourself out.
Don't quit—assess and stop on your terms.
As for me, yep, I'm still working in my journal, even though I have a sense of my limitations with the project and really want to start exploring the epiphany further. I know two things. 1. The epiphany, if genuine, will hold for another two weeks. And 2. I know enough about myself to know that there's more to come out of this process if I hold in there for the month. (I know this about myself because I've done these types of projects over and over again. If this is the first time you have done something like this you might be learning this for the first time.)
I also know I'll enjoy the completeness of it—we get so little completeness in real life. I also know that at the last hour, in the last push, some final barrier will part and I'll get even more. (Again because I've done this before.)
The deal is to know yourself, and to give yourself a chance to grow. If you want to stop, look at the steps above. Think again.
If you still want to stop after your assessment, do so on your terms, knowing that you do it because it's right to do so at this time. Take a moment to write down what you have learned, the difficulties you've encountered, what you could have planned for better, and so on. Basically take some time to honor the project by debriefing yourself. Allow an hour at least, and do it on the day you decide to end the project. It is important to do it when all of your reasons are fresh in your mind.
By honoring your project in this way you can walk away from it with self-learning, while your internal critic just stands there slack-jawed, and powerless.
Here's another secret, which isn't all that secret, because I've written about it here before. What you learn keeping a fake journal can be applied to your daily life, your real journal. If you have always wanted to keep a real journal but have always stopped for some reason, now is the time to set yourself a new goal, one month of real journaling. And during that month, if you feel you aren't going to fit it in your life, go through these steps and assessments.
Journaling isn't for everyone. People process their lives differently. You won't know if journaling is really an activity and process for you, however, until you really honor the process and give it a fair shot. Queasy stomach and uncomfortable feet and all.
The quicker you show up and assess journaling as it might fit in your life and process the quicker you'll be able to get on with it—or move on and find that process which really does speak to you and your creative needs.