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.

Wordsmith Wednesday–Kindling Creativity

The flame of wisdom

Image via Wikipedia

Many of us experience creative slumps, but I do believe that there are steps we can take to invite the muse back into our writing lives. Here are just a few remedies that have helped me in the past:

  • Brainstorm with a friend, or alone if you prefer. This is especially effective if you are writing fiction and the story line has come grinding to a halt. If you participate in an on-line community, you may discover inspiration with the help of one of your blogging buddies.
  • Switch genres. Move outside your comfort zone and write a brief poem, short story or an article…whichever you don’t write on an ordinary basis.
  • Go back to a piece of writing that you previously abandoned and revise/edit/resuscitate.,
  • Take a break. Go for a walk in nature, browse a museum or art gallery, a thrift store or garage sale. You will find a wealth of subject matter to explore.
  • Choose random words from a dictionary or book and use them as in a paragraph, poem or flash fiction.   Allow your subconscious to do the choosing. You will be surprised to find that a theme often emerges.
  • Put your manuscript aside and take a break from writing for a day or two, or longer. But set a deadline to return.
  • If you write poetry, try a form that is new to you, or free verse if you usually write form poetry.
  • Maintain a daily writing journal and every evening jot down a few details of things you’ve observed, tidbits of conversations you’ve had or overheard, events that took place. When you’re stuck, go digging in your collected musings for something that ignites a spark.
  • Keep a file of work that you’ve edited out of previous manuscript or poems. Go back, select one and use it as a launch pad for an entirely new project.

I hope you find something in this to jump-start your writing if and when it stalls. Would you do me a favor? If you have suggestions or technique  that help you, would you share it in comments?

Thank you as always for visiting my blog.