Wordsmith Wednesday–Writing Journals


journal #19 random entry #2

Image by paperbackwriter via Flickr

Many how-to books on writing and professors of poetry or creative writing advise their readers and students to maintain a writing journal. It’s a practice I’ve found invaluable in the past and, with good intentions, I slipped a small note-book into my suitcase to bring along on vacation with the hopes of cramming its pages full of inspiration. I must confess, however, that the book is as blank as the day I left home as dozens of splendid images slip away into obscurity. And thus my creative muse remains dormant. And so, here on this public forum, I resolve to pick up my pencil and write.

My guess is that many, if not most of you, adhere to this practice on an almost-daily basis. Let’s revisit the value of writing journals and consider some key points that will lift it beyond a mindless routine to a helpful tool for inspiration.

What type of things can be included in a writing journal? Here are a few:

  • Outlines, ideas for articles, short stories or poems, brainstorming;
  • Dialogue and dialect that you’ve overheard in public places;
  • Notes and observations on books you’re reading, TV or movie story lines–what worked and what didn’t;
  • New words that you read or hear;
  • Sensory descriptions of places you visit or people you observe, gritty details;
  • Personality characteristics of people you know or meet, character development ideas;
  • Possible setting locations in which to stage your scenes;
  • First sentence, opening lines that might lead you to a story;
  • Overused clichés and common grammatical errors that you encounter;
  • Things you see or experience that may serve as a metaphor or simile;
  • Photos and images from publications that tickle your imagination;
  • Notes about writing how-to’s and poetic forms.

I like to use a sketch book with almost-legal size pages to rough-draft my poetry. This allows for sketching, pasting and all kinds of creative experimentation.

Please join in the conversation in the comments section of this post. Do you use a writing journal? What do you journal about? How often? Any suggestions that will help your fellow writers?

We look forward to anything you are able to share.

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20 thoughts on “Wordsmith Wednesday–Writing Journals

  1. […] Wordsmith Wednesday – Writing Journals (liv2write2day.wordpress.com) […]

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  2. Jamie Dedes says:

    Wise words for any day. I used to keep notebooks and scrapbooks and clippings of articles and 3×5 cards to article and fiction story ideas. Recently with downsizing and the reality of computer, I got ride of all of it. Now everthing is on computer. If I write notes when I’m out, I set up a document on it when I get home and then “file” it in a folder. Much of what I do I just do as a post on one of the blogs. So, in short, I’ve finally learned to incorporate the computer into my life. One thing I do find though is that just with paper records, I forget about that great idea until something happens to remind me. Anyway … just a few thoughts … I loved this.

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    • Thanks for sharing this, Jamie. I love the idea of incorporating into a computer document. I do keep a file for article, story and poem ideas but they are usually the result of a brainstorming session….I’m about due for one of those as I’m having a hard time right now getting back into the creative mode. Mostly rehashing old stuff.

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  3. Sharmishtha says:

    thanks for these amazing tips. i think they will be very helpful.

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  4. […] Wordsmith Wednesday – Writing Journals (liv2write2day.wordpress.com) […]

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  5. brian says:

    nice…i have several as well…i have a few larger ones that are either in my bag or at home…i always have a pocket journal…there are things duct taped in it that were inspiration…lots of random observations and turns of phrase that tickle my ear….

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  6. mish says:

    Thanks for sharing Victoria .
    I really need to get a proper journal going . Quite often , when I am out-and-about , I see or hear something , or an idea comes to mind – if not written down , it can disappear , never to re-surface again .
    http://writer-in-transit.co.za/bubble-bravado/

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  7. Sheila Moore says:

    I have so many different journals. One I use as a typical diary for personal rants, worries, gratitude lists, prayers to God and generally a lot of emotional processing in an unstructured way written for my eyes only.

    I have a journal for creative ideas (poems, paintings, articles.)

    I have one for novel ideas, outlines, resources, etc. (which is the closest I will probably get to ever writing a novel – 😉

    I have one for poetry drafting but I mostly do that on the computer now days as it is much more efficient to be able to cut and paste when rearranging verses and the convenience of having the wordprocessor’s thesaurus literally at my finger tips is worth gold!

    Thanks, Vickie and welcome back. Missed you at the Pub 🙂

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    • I have a few myself. Spiritual/introspective/Poetry/Other writing things. I like to have one for poetry that I can carry with me. It’s good to be back but I’m having a hard time catching up!!!

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  8. I find a big blank page intimidating–I am the compulsive sort who feels I have to fill the whole darned thing up to make a proper journal entry (and writing BIG doesn’t count). So I use those lovely weekly planners that have about an inch of blank space for every day of the week and lay out the whole week on one page (the adjacent page as some inspiring picture and quote).

    I use that space to note something NEW that I observed or noticed that day. For me, writing comes from observing. And I find that I need to be reminded to pay attention to what’s happening right before me (rather than dwelling in the past or “what-if-ing” about the future). The journal is short and becomes a rich source of writing prompts and ideas. It is also great practice in being in the present moment, even if it just to look for something new to notice for the short journal entry!

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    • I like that Idea, Lorna…of writing something new. Heather Seller’s, in her book “Page by Page” suggests writing 10 things that you’ve noticed each day in the evening. I found lots of sources for poetry ideas when I did that. Maybe I need to start something like that again.

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  9. lolamouse says:

    I do have a little notebook (unlined) that I carry around when I’m not at home. I write down my writing prompts in it, so I can work on ideas, write down lines for poems, etc. Sometimes I just doodle. My one rule is to use it only for creative things, though. No grocery lists!

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  10. Perhaps it’s more important for fiction than poetry. In any even, you and I (old farts) have more time to write things out as they occur to us than the poor working stiffs do. :0)

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  11. vivinfrance says:

    I know that it’s recommended to do this, but if I did, I doubt I would write anything else. I do jot down the occasional first line, idea, new or exciting word, but not in one place. Therefore I occasionally come across stuff I’ve written yonks ago and which suprise me – did I write that? WoW! And it does often spark new poems.

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  12. I mostly write lists: what bothers me, what excites me, what themes I feel most interested in exploring in stories (love, sisters, mothers, disease, absence, and food make that list), what writing projects I want to work on that week…even this comment is a list. I like the structure, and I also like the ability to map things together. Love + disease + food is turning into a story about a woman whose friend has an eating disorder, and who is struggling herself with the question of whether to try to intervene, or simply be a listening ear and nonjudgmental presence.

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