Why you should keep a writers journal!
A writers journal
‘Writers should always keep a writers journal’. This was the first thing I ever learnt about writing but what did it mean? A diary? How could I draw inspiration from my day-to-day events? We write to escape the mundane, could we really find the next New York Times best seller amongst those ramblings?
Keeping a writers journal
The writers’ journal is not just a record of your daily events; it is a record of your daily inspirations. Have you ever caught one side of a telephone conversation and scripted in your head what was going on down the other end of the line? Named the one-legged pigeon hopping around the park and imagined him a swashbuckling pirate parrot wannabe? These little nuggets of inspiration are stored in our short term memory, chances are, by time you get home from work or have a chance to put pen to paper some hours later, these nuggets have crumbled away, and so has your interest in them. Your writers’ journal, on the other hand, is like a tangible long-term memory, eager for your scribbling and fated to protect them until you have time to nurture these nuggets into fully-fledged tales.
A writers’ journal, or notebook, jotter pad, thinking pages, bar napkins, whichever suits you best serve as your workspace. Your journal becomes your creative studio where you are free to create, play, make new discoveries, fulfill passions and explore your curiosity. It is also the perfect place to develop your writers’ voice. To experiment with new ideas and language, to set free those characters whizzing around your head and see how well they move across the page.
My own writers journal is filled with ideas and experiments. Whenever a thought pops into my head, before I give it a chance to finish out comes the writers journal. Some ideas only take up a few lines; others will go on for pages, maybe even some diagrams or doodles. I’ve got magazine cut outs, postcards and gift tags glued in amongst its pages. Anything that has created a spark is kept burning, alive. The best thing about the writers’ journal is just that, no matter how big or small the idea, you have the freedom in this workspace to scrawl until you can scrawl no more, or you fill every last page and have to run out and buy another one.
Do not just think these writers journals as just a collection of random thoughts or words, especially if you are someone who is inspired by the visual arts. Photographs, post cards, print outs, drawings etc, if it inspires you, get it in there. These journals not only serve as a holding pen for your next big narrative, but as an inspirational tool when the creative well runs dry. A powerful weapon in the fight against writers block, flip open your journals and re-read over your previous ideas, dive into the images glued in and see if it reignites thecreative spark. I always find it most inspiring going over some of my earlier writers journals, the oldest contain ideas I do not even remember thinking up! Though I have to admit, some of my earlier ‘experiments’ in these journals are more than cringe worthy, it showcases my growth as a writer, how my writers voice has developed, how I have moved away from some genres and dived into others. It’ also interesting to see how I have subconsciously developed and worked on older ideas without even realizing.
Your writers journal is your development log. As time goes by and you hone your writing skills, this will reflect in the writers journals, even if it does not seem so at first. Give it some time, and then compare your newest 'entries' to your past ones, see how they measure up. How have you developed since as a writer? What has changed? Have you gone from writing romance to political thrillers? Where and when did this change take place, and why? This is especially useful for those setting out to study Creative Writing at degree and masters levels, as you will be expected to asses your writers journey throughout the course. You are particularly asked to asses your process and progress through a particular piece of submitted work, your writers journal is a great way to show where it initially started and you can reference your journal in your bibliography for creative pieces.
Where will your writers journal take you?
Do not under estimate the value of these journals to develop, document and nurture your creative spark. Most importantly, have fun with it. It's your creative space, so set your imagination free, write in spirals, glue in postcards from far off places, and if you do happen to mention the weather, or what you're planning to eat tonight, just go with it, you never know where ideas amongst your writers journal pages will take you!
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