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.