This week several new workshops started so it was an especially busy week yet also quite enjoyable. I love meeting new writers and guiding toward a writing goal. I also receive a lot of questions about journals. The topic causes anxiety for some people, especially when I encourage them to begin (or continue) journaling.
Keeping a journal is the best way to harness thoughts, memories, ideas and dreams. Those penned experiences will provide plenty of details to add realism to your stories. Journaling also serves as “training,” to help you find your writer’s voice, among many other writing skills. The more you write, the more developed your natural writing voice becomes. Because journals are private, we let our subconscious guard down and allow thoughts to flow and so our natural voice emerges.
You don’t need to write daily, and the entries you make may be of any length you desire. One page or ten? It’s up to you (and what you have to say about whatever you write about). Your journal entries do not need to make sense as far as transitions or sequence either. I often use // in the margin of my journal to indicate a change in thought or when I’ve returned later in the day to add new thoughts or ideas. I put an asterisk next to ideas or dreams that I think have story or article potential.
I usually reread entries every few weeks to add idea notes in the margins or highlight pieces I think may be useful in the near future. Sometimes entries during the course of several weeks or months show how an idea slowly developed and I’ll start a new entry commenting on this, which then reminds me where the idea sparked and where I see it is possibly leading. Usually a lack of time prevents me from outlining or drafting these ideas right away, so using the journal helps me document them for later development.
I also do writing exercises in my journals, practicing different story elements – dialogue, description, sensory details. I find it helpful to clear my mind by writing ideas down before bed-time. When I’m under deadline, journaling helps me clear my thoughts so I’m able to focus on the project at hand. It’s an essential tool for many writers and fun “basic training.”