My thoughts on writing tips found online and in published works (with some random thoughts thrown into the mix).

Friday, March 9, 2012

Keeping a Journal

When I was very young, my step-grandmother gave me a diary for Christmas. It had a very tiny, fragile combination lock that connected the covers. I immediately ran back to the spare bedroom, sat in front of the lighted Christmas tree, and wrote until my tiny hand cramped. I was so excited to have something to write everything down in! Now my thoughts could be recorded and I would be able to seal my memories in ink for the rest of my life.

Fast forward to fourth or fifth grade, nearing the end of my time in elementary school. My diary was stuck in a corner of a shelf, dusty from being touched once every couple of months. I wanted so badly to write everything down, but I lacked the discipline. However, I watched the movie Harriet the Spy, and my vigor was instantly renewed. Not in a good way, though. Despite the fact that her log of people got in her trouble, I was hooked on the idea and started my own journal about my classmates. I wrote down why I loved them, why they annoyed me, why they were ugly, or why they were beautiful. I made fun of them, I praised them, or I dismissed them. Soon enough, I received a similar fate: my notebook got in the wrong hands and ended up with the principal. My gentle, old, almost-retired principal stared me down and I started bawling as he told me that what I had done was wrong. He made me feed it to the industrial-sized shredder in the office and promise that I would never do that again. My spark for writing in a journal was crushed.

When I was nearing the end of my high school career, I started writing again in earnest. I filled the back of every class notebook with famous quotes, my own poems, and notes to myself. I documented traumatic experiences and squealed about the good things that happened in my life. I wrote angry notes to people who had betrayed me (such as when I found out my boyfriend and one of my best friends had been hooking up behind my back for months). I scribbled about what I wanted the future to hold and how scared I was that my world could fall apart. While it was mostly typical teenage problems, it still got me back into writing on a daily basis.

After I entered college, I started to study Creative Writing in earnest and quickly forgot about writing daily. I would write poems and short stories when I was bored in class, but other than that, my writing was restricted to the required homework. The creative pieces I came up with for my Fiction and Poetry classes was more than enough for me. I would try to record my thoughts in a notebook, attempting to keep them all in one place, but I just could not find the interest required to do it consistently. Somehow, by going to school to study and perfect my craft, it smashed my passion into oblivion.

Now that I have graduated, I have started to turn my love for writing into a more manageable task. While there are many bloggers, writers, editors, and publishers out there that advocate keeping a journal or diary, I had to learn to tweak that to fit my own needs and habits. I am not the type who can write daily about my life. I've tried again and again, but I just can't do it. Instead, I keep the journal by my bed, because most of my ideas come to me when I am falling asleep or waking up. I write down snippets of dialogue, story ideas, or the starting lines of poems. While I rarely ever finish these one- or two-liners, they allow me to look back through and find inspiration when I need it.

Recently, I was starting to have trouble finding things to blog about. I want to keep this blog about writing and editing tips, on helping a writer through the process, from the first inkling of an idea to promoting and selling the finished product. I soon started drawing a blank when I went to write a new blog post. That night, however, I had an idea hit me. I sat up in bed, grabbed my journal and pen, and wrote it down on a fresh page. From there, more ideas hit me, flooding my mind with things I could write about. I tried to keep up with my handwriting, and now I have over three pages of potential topics. Whenever "writer's block" starts to hit, I reference this list and I instantly have several starting points to choose from.

My advice for my readers today is to find your own style. While it is good to read other blogs and writing tips, to take their ideas for success into consideration, it is just as important to mold their tips into something that works best for you. Don't be afraid to deviate from their suggestions. What works for them will not work for you, and that's not a bad thing! You just have to find a way to take the gist of what they are saying and fit it to your own lifestyle. Be true to you and you can never go wrong.


  1. Great post for inspiration! I keep not one but two journals with me; one for random thoughts & info gathering and the other pertaining to my sci-fi story and characters. It's a must for any writer because you never know where an idea may hit you.

    Keep up the great work!

  2. Love the post. I never kept a journal, but always felt as if I should. I wrote stories compulsively though, often using myself and my classmates as characters, until one of my teachers pointed out that people could get the wrong idea (I often used the same classmates as the stupid henchmen that inevitably died a slow and painful death).

    Now I have notebooks in virtually every room in the house and a bunch of files on my laptop containing notes for characters, locations, plots and the occasional descriptive passage that I like!

  3. I have stacks of journals and i still find it one of my favorite ways to 'unload', reflect or even pray.