Writing Exercises: "Q & A for Journal Writing"

As I warned last week, I wanted to keep pounding at the topic of journal writing for writers so hold back those groans and still those threatening eye rolls because I am keeping to my word! All joking aside however this is really important information for writers who are starting out, so hold tight my fellow savvy story tellers because this information needs to be shared. If it has not become obvious in the last few posts I am becoming much more free range in my discussion of Áine Greaney's book so if you prefer her words over mine you can purchase the book at most book stores and online, otherwise I will go through this Q & A answering the questions she wrote and answer them for myself, while doing my best to talk through her answers as well. Anyway, let's get this Q & A started.

1) What kind of journal should I buy?

This is the most obvious question any writer will ask, whether you're deciding between a physical or online one. If you have ever been to a bookstore (huge ones like Barnes & Noble, Indigo or Books a Million), or privately owned (like Murdered by the Book or Blue Willow Books -Houston, Texas locals) you'll have spotted regular blank journals and specialty journals.

Some of these journals have daily writing prompts, some of them are specifically travel or classic diary types and some are even dream journals. If you are gravitating more towards a specialty journal, you would need to go this route. Otherwise, the thing to remember about journals is a $3.00 composition notebook works just as fine. The other thing to remember when you are picking out your first journal, is that only you know what works best for you. So whether those gorgeous notebooks with the Italian leather binding are what you need to get cracking on your next story, or that bulk packet of four or more composition notebooks are more you style, the important thing to remember is that its your journal and it needs to work for you.

2) What about those wellness journals with specialized writing prompts?

As Greaney states in this answer, these journals are specified as logs for eating disorders, depression, cancer recovery, etc. If you are looking for one of these Greaney cleverly offers the advice to look up who wrote these prompts. Are they someone with clinical expertise? Many of these particular journals are written by national or nonprofit organizations with small presses. More importantly they have been thoroughly researched to provide aid for the journal writer who fancies these particular journals.

3) I type so much for work that I've lost the art of handwriting. What about online journals?

If you're a tech savvy writer, the solution is pretty much in the question. Online journals are available for this particular reason anyway (refer to previous blog post for links to online journals).

4) Won't someone read my secrets and deepest thoughts?

Personally I have never considered this a threat because even my fiancé, whom I love more than life itself, respects that he is not allowed to thumb through any of my journals without my permission. This, as a writer, I feel is a boundary you have the right to establish with anyone and everyone. That being said, I feel as well that Greaney is spot on when she says "you will not write if you fear prying eyes."

Most of the online journals I provided (if not all) require a log in and password so that that takes care of itself. As for physical journals, I keep mine in my office at the end of the day and that's that. Boundaries towards my journals calm any worries I once had but if you need a safe place save a shoe box for your drawer in your side table or closet and hoard those secrets!

5) Isn't this just navel-gazing--not writing?

Not my wording question-wise but this thinking needs to leave your head right now. I draft chapters, characters, plots, entire novels in my journals. This tool, as I said in previous posts, is practically your bible. You need it to filter out creative ideas that may not have anything to do with your current project. You need journal writing to sort things out because its simply too much to have to do in your head. If you are a writer, you need to be able to get your thoughts down or risk loosing them forever.

6) Yeah, but how can my journal writing transition into publishable work?

It's a fair question because the same can be asked of rough drafts. Most of your journal writing will be personal but as I mentioned earlier, this is a tool that helps a great deal when it comes to arriving to that final draft. I would advocate (as I suspect you know) that its worth the extra time spent writing in the long run.

7) How do I turn my journal entries into personal or memoir essays?

I'm not a memoir person so I'm going to let Greaney take this one. If you read back through your journal entries, you will notice recurring themes (Admittedly we all do that as writers). These are these that are uniquely you. And these are the themes that you should be writing about. Write a list of these themes. Or, if you use blogging software or online journals, you can tag and track those themes.

8) But really just tips from this blogger.

I think you get by now why I find journal writing so important for writers and this will be the last I discuss the matter for a little while. You can stop shaking your fists to the heavens any time now, I know this is disheartening news. I will conclude this post with a few tips concerning journal writing and keeping that really work for me. Who knows? Maybe they will help you out, too.

The first tip I have involves my own borderline hoarding of journals. Hoarding in this case may be a strong word, but over the years I have accumulated a bunch of journals of all different shapes and sizes just waiting to be used, or used more than half way. You, of course, don't have to stockpile like I do, but the reason I do this is because I want to never find myself to ever be without a journal. Every purse, tote bag, backpack, satchel, you name it, has a journal and a pen inside. My car has one of each as well.

Like many of you, I am the most forgetful person when it comes to remembering to pack what I need for the day. There's nothing more frustrating than opening your purse and finding you brought the pen but not the paper. This had been happening to me so much at one point that I had to start placing journals in every one of my bags so I could literally never leave the house without one. That being said I applaud the journal keeper who can keep track of their one journal at all times because my brain just will not let me do that.

One other tip I have when it comes to journal writing is work hard at getting yourself into the thinking that journal time is your time. There are no rules to how to write/doodle/chicken scratch in your journal. It is nobody else's business what you do with those pages, not even mine. Own your journal writing and enjoy the heck out of it because that is a moment of pure freedom that will totally be you.

With that, log onto that website or scurry over to wherever you were planning on going to buy that first (second, third, hundredth) journal and get writing! Freedom's waiting and your creative brain (and heart) will thank you.

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