Monday, April 13, 2015

Keeping a Writing Journal

Like most modern writers, I mostly write on the computer. But computers, and even smart phones have many limitations. The internet is full of distractions, and constantly staring at screens can give me a headache. Moreover, there are times when I like feeling a pencil or pen in my hand, or when my creativity flows better when I'm physically writing, not typing. For these reasons and many more, I often write in a paper writing journal.

I jot down story ideas, outlines, notes on topics interesting to me, and random thoughts that pop into my head. When I get struck writing or feel like I'm out of ideas, I look through my journal for inspiration. It's immensely helpful for coming up with ideas for blog posts or working out tricky plot questions. Since writing on paper feels more private than writing on a computer, I often feel like I can take more risks in my journal. I can notice problems but give myself time and space to think about solutions. Often, the writing in my journal is fragmentary and chaotic. I doubt much of it would make sense to anyone else. But as a way to brainstorm, it's amazing.

It's true that I can take notes on my phone (in fact, I sometimes do), so I don't truly need a physical journal. But it feels more satisfying to write by hand. My journal has a weight and substance that a phone doesn't, and it never crashes or runs out of batteries. Also, if I'm caring for my toddler, she's much less likely to want my journal than my phone (she loves my phone and pretends to call people all the time :).

Many famous writers kept journals to record their lives or work out their ideas, including Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Dostoevsky. Aspiring writers are often told to "write everyday," but we all know how difficult that can be. Keeping a journal or diary allows us to write regularly with any pressure or expectations. It's a great tool for all writers.      

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