Keeping a journal has been an essential piece of my writing process, since the moment I became a writer all those years ago. Putting the pen on the page and letting my thoughts spill out before me is not just comforting, but helpful – even if I am just doodling or writing about how much I dig the pen I’m using.
Journaling been so many things to me, but the three things below are what I find most important about my journaling journey.
When I am working on a project (personally or professionally), I often start with brainstorming. I will literally just start writing down topics, key words, random thoughts, or any tangent of an idea that I’m having at that moment that is connected with the task at hand. When I take to my journal to hash out potential ideas for a blog, poem, or for a process at work, I let my pen narrate my thoughts. It helps me to visual the ideas I have, either in front of me on the page or displayed on a white board. And because I love lists, it helps me organize my thoughts and formulate a plan to move forward.
LOGGING LIFE, EXPERIENCES, AND PROJECT PROGRESS
I have more notebooks than I need, so I usually use them for separate things. I have a journal for personal thoughts, a small journal I keep in my purse for musings on the fly, legal pads for outlining, etc. I also write down big things that happen during every day life, so I can look back and see how I changed, for better or worse. When I got married this past spring, I recorded our weekend and the epic road trip that followed, so my husband and I could read it later and remember exactly how our marriage began.
A few years ago, I decided to dive head-first into fiction and began writing a novel (and I won’t lie, it’s taking forever because, you know, life). I started a journal for that project mainly to chronicle my thoughts, shortcomings, and victories while working on the piece. How wonderful it will be to look back on that journal when I finally finish the book, to see how I grew as a writer. And who knows, maybe I’ll find gems years later that prompt the next endeavor!
Ah. Therapy! Perhaps the most important reason why I keep a journal. Since I was a pre-teen, I have written down my thoughts to sort through them. Those angsty teen (and let’s face it, early twenty-something) feelings I had were always worked out between the pages of my private journal. The things I went through as a kid, teenager, and young adult – I was able to sort through the weird thoughts and feelings by writing down how I felt in the moment. I don’t know where I would be, emotionally and mentally, if it weren’t for my journals.
One of the most therapeutic exercises I’ve done is not even keeping some of those pages inside the journal. To work through the tough stuff I write down exactly how I’m feeling. Maybe it’s directed at a person, or just how I’m feeling in general. When I’m finished, I make a deal with myself: once I destroy this paper, I will let it all go. That’s when I rip it to shreds. I flush it down the toilet or I burn it. It’s a strange relief, I must say. It honestly helps me move forward.
What are your reasons and how does journaling help you? Even if you aren’t a writer, give it a shot. You might be surprised with where journaling will take you!
This post was originally published on the VINAzine <3
Me? I feel like I’m a shitty journal keeper. Personal journaling, that is (unless you count Twitter). I’m pretty consistent when it comes to jotting down my thoughts about my writing journey. I opened a journal I started last September. I’ve barely filled a third of it with personal notions. In fact, most of the entries end are about writing (which is great). Some of my personal life seasons the pages, but not enough. But who really decides what is actually enough – the journaler or the possible reader?
The term journaling can be used loosely, meaning anything from penning some brief thoughts to writing down daily gratitude and grievances. A lot of well-known authors have kept journals about their writing process while working on a project (or just in general). Teenagers begin with their diaries, working out their angsty or whimsical points of view (hello, this was totally me as a kid). Some continue into adulthood recording every detail about their lives for their own benefit, and others find their passion for writing and use it as a tool to keep them going or better understand their personal writing process.
Writing has always been therapeutic for me. With that said, I don’t really know what holds me back when it comes to writing about my personal life. I have an empty journal on my bookshelf just waiting for me to write in it the story of my life. There, I could write about all the things I don’t want to talk about with others (although I know I should – honestly, it’s just easier for me to bottle it up, place it on a shelf, and move the fuck on). Maybe I will soon, but maybe I won’t just yet. While I like the idea of a great-grandchild finding my diary several years after I’ve left this life, I’m so undisciplined about writing every detail down in my journal at the start or end of each day. It’s all in my mind, but that’s lousy for those I leave behind after journeying toward the great unknown. I also fear there is nothing exciting about my low-key, fairly drama-free life, but I guess that isn’t up to me to decide in the end.
One thing I know I will do is continue to write about my writing process and journey down this long and crooked path. My struggles with writing fiction as a bred nonfiction writer and poet at heart (even if it is shit) have been a big focus as I’m working on my first serious attempt at substantial piece of fiction. I actually enjoy the complicated process of crafting a well-written story. Yeah, I’m a glutton for punishment… I’ve much room to improve, especially when it comes to structuring the story. My biggest issue is wrangling all the random ideas I have about the project on hand and getting them on paper. I just have to suck it up and try my best to make it happen.
I feel I am becoming better at the fiction writing process. I owe that to the story I am writing and the copious amounts of fiction I read. I think about it all the time’ it needs to come out. I’m desperately coaxing it out of the dark corners of my mind. Some days, I have major breakthroughs and I feel as though nothing can stop me. Other days, life happens and I am at a standstill, which can be discouraging.
I keep writing and I keep reading. Even when I don’t want to, I do it. I feel guilty that I don’t write more; however, actually sticking to a writing schedule is helping ease that guilt. Keep pushing. You’ve got this. Work this story out – it could be really great – just something I tell myself almost daily.
This isn’t a resolution to be better about writing about the everyday. It should be, but I figure if I’m writing something every day, I’m on the right track when it comes to polishing my craft, regardless if it focuses on one genre or another…
…Because writers actually write – every day.
They move their pens, they type on their laptops or typewriters, they push the pencil, and they write shit down every single day. Some have a purpose when they journal and others just free write. Some start with freewriting exercises (writing prompts or whatever they can pull from their mind at the time) and it turns into something profound. That’s me, minus the piece turning into something profound! Pages of prompts could eventually turn into great stories – flash-fiction, a memoir, a novella/novel, poetry, or even online serialized literature. That’s my hope, anyway – it’s enough to keep my pen pressed to the paper.
Today wraps up the last day of the Labor Day weekend holiday. To kick off the weekend I had oral surgery to remove a couple of wisdom teeth, so I’ve been confined to the couch for most of the holiday watching Netflix and napping. When I wasn’t doing one of those two things, I was writing.
Taking a break from my book, I decided to use writing prompts instead this weekend to keep my pen moving. I do this often with the idea that some of the prompts could turn into something substantial – either to add to my current project or to keep off to the side for a new project or story. At the very least, I’m writing!
This weekend, I used 712 More Things to Write About, put together by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. This book is slowly filling up over time and is one of my favorite resources for journaling. There are a few other versions of this book and I can’t wait to get my hands on them once I finally fill this one to the brim!
You are sitting in a café in Barcelona. A man approaches your table, sits down, and slides an envelope in front of you. As you go to open it, he tells you to wait until he is gone. He stands up, scans the surroundings, then walks away. How long do you wait to open the envelope? What are the contents? What happens next?
Describe a room where a murder took place in three points of view: from the maid’s point of view prior to cleaning, from the murderer’s point of view after the crime, and from the victim’s point of view prior to the crime.
Write about a chance encounter at a cemetery.
The first prompt above is something I dreamed up, and the other two come from the book I mentioned before. To shake things up this time around, I’m going to share what I wrote for the third prompt below.
Lizzie picked herself up off the ground and wiped her eyes. It had only been three months since her fiancé, Ben, was killed in a car accident on Route 44 outside the city. Right after it happened, she visited his grave three to four times a week… now she was stopping by once a week to begin moving on with her life because it just became too much. She knew she needed to let go because he was never coming back.
She replaced the wilted rose from her last visit, kissed her index finger and touched the cold marble slab that lay before her. She thought of their last moments together and how happy they were. Before the tears could start, she quietly said she loved him and turned to walk away.
As she made her way back to her car, she saw a man a few rows away. He looked like he was leaning on a headstone. He stood up and Lizzie could hear him get louder as his body became more animated. She couldn’t hear what he was saying clearly, but it was very clear he was upset. She kept walking toward her car but something inside her made her stop and walk toward him instead.
“Excuse me… are you okay, sir?” she asked, timidly.
“I’m… no, no I’m not okay… I’m far from being okay,” he said, placing his head in his hands.
As he moved behind the grave, Lizzie saw the name of a woman on the headstone. The dirt was semi-fresh and she noticed the death date was just a few weeks ago. Lizzie introduced herself to him and asked if he wanted to talk or if there was anything she could do for him. He began talking almost immediately – his name was Jack. He was a newly single father of two after losing his wife in a car accident. The driver of the other car was drunk and slammed into her van – luckily, the children (Sarah and Jane, twins) weren’t with her at the time.
Lizzie moved to stand next to Jack and put her arm around him while he stared at the ground. After a moment of silence, she started to share the story of losing Ben just a few months earlier. He too was killed by a drunk driver on his way home from working the night shift. Sharing tears and memories, the two continued to talk for another thirty minutes before Lizzie asked him if he wanted to get a cup of coffee and talk some more. Jack accepted the invitation and the two walked together toward the parking lot. This marked the beginning of a new chapter in each of their lives.
Remember, you aren’t restricted to specific length with these prompts. Just get that pen moving – that’s what matters. Who knows, the result of the prompt I shared above might turn into something useful for a story later down the road. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to see where this story goes… Maybe Lizzie and Jack find comfort in each other and begin a wonderful life together – either as friends or more.
Please share what you dreamed up in the comments section – I look forward to reading your work!
Happy Monday! Oh, who are we kidding? Monday is probably our least favorite day of the week. To combat the Monday blues, let’s do some writing to start the week off right! Here’s my latest round of writing prompts, gathered from the web and the back of my brain. Give these below a shot if you need some inspiration!
Write about something you know really well from the perspective of someone experiencing it for the first time. (Source
You stumble upon an abandoned house in the country, far from anywhere. You wander inside to take a look around. What’s left? Offer speculation about why some of these items are left behind.
Gender switch: think of a favorite story. Retell it with the main character being a different gender. (Source
Remember, just pick one at random and write for 15-30 minutes. Let your pen (or keyboard) take over; get the work of your great imagination on the page! Don’t forget, if you have any to share, email them over or drop them in the comments. Happy writing!
Happy Saturday, fellow writers! If you’re sitting around with writer’s block and need something to get your pen moving, I have just the thing: Brainstorming First Lines.
I have a confession: I struggle with first lines. When I sit down to write a fiction piece, I usually just dive right into the story and go back later to finesse the beginning – just like what I do when writing nonfiction. I want to draw the reader in without being cliché… but for me, sometimes that’s easier said than done. (Ha! See what I did there?)
Earlier today I started out with something that described the weather. How boring. I mean, really? I couldn’t continue, so I deleted the draft and started wracking my brain. When my writer’s block kicked in, I took to the internet. (I love the Internet. Seriously. It has literally everything.) I went through a few random generators on some random websites found via Google Search to help get some words, phrases, and lines to help me generate a story. ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT, I thought.
I jotted down a handful of lines I found that I felt had some promise. That’s when I figured I should share with my writing friends. Anything to help the creative process!
Here are some of the best lines I found that make me want to stop everything and write something down:
1. She knelt on the carpet of her new living room, a big cardboard box in front of her, unwrapping ornaments.
2. He was stunned. The stranger in front of him looked exactly like the girl he’d been dreaming about.
3. As he took in the view from the twentieth floor, the lights went out all over the city.
4. It was up to her to investigate how the accident had really happened.
5. The attack was over in seconds.
6. He watched, helpless, as the door closed behind her.
7. She felt for the lock in the dark.
8. More and more people were refusing to obey the laws of the land.
9. Under normal circumstances he would speak his mind, but, with a gun against his head…
10. He had waited twenty years to return it.
If any of these intrigue you, start writing and see where it takes you. If you want to see more variety or find something different, just do what I did – hit up Google and search for random writing generators to get some more ideas and prompts. Maybe you’ll find something for your next brilliant masterpiece. That’s what I’m hoping for, anyway. Have a lovely Saturday and happy writing!
I have written for years. If I had to state an age, I would say I started writing seriously when I was in middle school, writing hopelessly romantic sappy poems to the silly crushes I had then. I remember keeping a journal and writing about how in love I was with boy number 1, 2, 3, and so forth. Ah, to be twelve again. When high school came, I decided to take a creative writing class. I also started to learn the research writing process for a U.S. History course, and found that I really enjoyed the work.
Fast forward to college years, and my writing has improved drastically in many areas. I even discovered that I started developing my own process. As I type that sentence, I think to myself… wow – my own personal writing process. Well, to tell you the truth, we have never thought about it until we started discussing it during a graduate course I completed last year. I have always been one to write a thought that I have passing through my brain, and sometimes I find it difficult to keep them all together. I am the proud owner of many journals and online blog postings, both on my own blog and other websites. I sometimes cannot stand how my thoughts are scattered into so many areas, but I also find comfort in knowing that my work is spread out. It leaves me with room to reorganize as I go. Refining the thoughts in the attic of my mind is a task I find I do daily, but I suppose that is a writer’s life.
My personal writing process always starts the same way – freewriting. (more…)