When I walk with people who are hoping to discover their true selves, I recommend keeping a journal. Not any sort of journal, but one that captures their specific journey. It's journaling with purpose.
Writing our thoughts down changes our perspective. It brings clarity, forcing our ping-ponging ideas to align, flow down our arm, through the pen, and onto the page.
Two sound pieces of advice for beginning writers are these: Read broadly, and keep a journal.
I've discovered the joy of journalling not only my personal history, but my books as well. Each book I write has its own accompanying journal dedicated to it. I don't write anything else in there, only bits and yawns about the book. I scrawl title ideas, names of characters, plotting and character webs, bits of dialogue, scraps of scenes or even scenery. I plot the book in the journal (yes, I plot long-hand), I lay out the bones of the book in my journal so that I can flip through, find a particular bone and chew on it (Margaret Atwood says all writers are bone chewers. That is what we do for the most part, chew on bones).
I've found a journal to be a helpful friend. I know where all my random floating bits of ideas are. I'm not rifling my desk, I'm calmly flipping pages, confident I've captured my hope somewhere inside the journal.
A journal is also a respite from the clacking keys, the bright screen, the blinking cursor. Picking up a pencil (always in pencil for me - it is a personal metaphor for the impermanence of life, and the permanence of ideas) is a connection, an organic motion that allows me to interact with the images in my mind in a way the blessed computer cannot provide. There is something about reading the raggedly drawn words that breathes life into the thing.
Keeping a journal for each book creates an intimate bond between me and my story that I haven't found when I'm typing on my computer. With a journal, I can tuck myself away somewhere, curl my arm around it and scratch and peck, doodle and draw outside the lines. We've all heard the saying, 'think outside the box'. For me, journalling my books is tangible knowledge that there is no box.
And for fun, here is a link to a gorgeous blog of an artist who journals as art, sent to me by my wonderful friend and fellow writing, Kathleen Popa.
I bid you good writing.