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Mike Birbiglia's Wisdom on Journals 2 min read

Mike Birbiglia's Wisdom on Journals

Mike Birbiglia's new Peacock show 'Good One: A Show About Jokes' is a great look at the creative process.

By Cary Littlejohn

I've been on a bit of a Mike Birbiglia kick lately. I watched multiple of his shows as I traveled home from Wyoming last month. And I recently rewatched those same two shows to my girlfriend.

Whether he's your preferred style of comedy or not, it's undeniable that he's a master storyteller. The structure of his shows, the flow between stories and jokes, the callbacks, all of it works together to make for a compulsively captivating performance.

The process by which he creates his shows is the subject of a new show on Peacock, Good One: A Show About Jokes. The documentary series follows him around as he workshops his shows in front of live audiences.

It's a great look into the mind of a creative. Of particular interest is a segment of the first episode where he goes through old journals and talks about the process of keeping them.

A few of my favorites:

"A majority of it is just writing something down about how you feel and then re-reading them later and seeing if there's anything of value worth saying on stage."

This point just stresses the value of the writing often. The impetus for writing can't be the hope that everything that goes into the journal is going to be material; a writer has to journal knowing that the majority of it won't get used.

Along those same lines, I loved this one:

"In a full journal like this, there might be one line that's like anything."

On the theme of honesty in journaling, he said:

"Most of the time, all of us are being polite to either everyone we're encountering or some people we're encountering, and you don't have to be polite to a journal. It is the only thing that I can think of that is culturally understood that only belongs to you."

It's so true. If for nothing else, journals can feel good because of how unrestrained we can be. (For more on this topic, check out Birbiglia's Working On It podcast episode with another master journal-keeper, David Seders.) I felt particularly vindicated as I listened to these two hilarious men talk about the value of journals to their creative processes, considering my recent small victory of a week straight of morning pages completed.

The best thing he said was about creating in general, and the way to engage with the world that's always monitoring for material.

"With all of this you're creating clay to make a sculpture. But if you didn't have clay, you couldn't make a sculpture. And so this is the dirt."

Naturally, I took notes on the lessons in a new notebook (not a full-scale journal, but a new pocket notebook). Field Notes nailed it with their most recent quarterly subscription pack. Creativity and comedy gold are sure to follow.