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What’s in Your Journal

August 6, 2009

Over the years, I have made many attempts to keep a journal. Lord knows I’ve had enough drama in my life to have plenty to write about. Every attempt last three or four entries and then nothing. I give up on it. Always felt wrong about it. Since I’m a writer, I should have dozens tossed in a box somewhere full of my thoughts and observations. I think what always held me back was the possibility of someone finding/reading it.

However, I realize I have been keeping a journal of sorts. Some writers keep a record of what they write, how much, editing, thoughts on what they wrote, etc. Every year, I buy a new day planner. I write down how many words I write per day, how many pages I read (if I’m reading a book), editing, submissions, and so forth. Any ideas or whatever are written in a different notebook. I’m working on my third planner and still have no clue why I even started doing it. I do think it’s good to stay organized.

So I ask this: what do you keep in your journal?

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Andrea hasn’t decided on a word processor yet, but wants to thank everyone who made suggestions last week. In the meantime, if you want to keep track of her comings and goings, follow her on twitter @sthrnwriter.
  1. August 6, 2009 3:03 am

    I use my journal for a few things. I keep track of things or emotions that I have. I also use it to take notes on things I read and to write down helpful tips I learn from various places. I keep lists in my journal – sometimes of things completely unrelated to writing (i.e. things that need to be done before a move) and sometimes of story or article ideas. Sometimes I have a single sentence in my journal because I started to write something and was interrupted. My journal goes everywhere with me. Now, here’s the strange thing. If something bad happens to me, I can’t write in that journal anymore and I have to get a new one. So, I have tons of old journals, most only half full. I have poems in there, short story starts, versions of chapters for different novels I’ve worked on… At some point I want to type the entries up.

  2. August 6, 2009 8:22 am

    From an early age I tried to keep a diary – several times – and always unsuccessfully.

    For the past year though I’ve managed to keep a journal, thanks to the realisation that you don’t need to write in it every day, and you don’t need one divided into days that restrict your space!

    Mine is a record of my thoughts, secrets and lies, notes about things I’m working on, ideas and inspiration, and the odd sketch too.

    I guess all writers want their journals published eventually – I think I’d like to be long dead before that happens, spare me the embarrassment. Maybe I’ll just burn them!

  3. August 6, 2009 9:00 am

    I have started and stopped journals and diaries many times in my life, writing down my thoughts or struggles on any given day. It was a place for me to work through the things that angered me — allowing me to “deal with things” without punching someone or saying something I would regret later. I kept it on paper until my sister found it and passed it around school. I switched to an electronic journal, using a password-protected set of Word Perfect 5.1 (for DOS) documents… then on an upgrade, the password no longer worked and I lost it all.

    Since then, I’ve started and stopped a couple of times but I’ve never really been dedicated to it, even a little bit. I’ve had the little voice in my head again lately, telling me to start another one, and I just started a new one yesterday. I intend to use it as a place where I can put down my thoughts about my job, things that frustrate me or make me happy on any given day, writing ideas, etc. The difference this time is that I’m not feeling pressure to put anything there — if I don’t feel like writing in it, I won’t. I think that spells a better recipe for success.

  4. August 6, 2009 10:48 am

    The other thing that has occurred to me is that Quakers have a long history of keeping journals, so perhaps I should not burn mine, but be a little more discerning about what I write in them? Or maybe keep more than one.

  5. August 6, 2009 12:22 pm

    I’ve kept notebooks for years, but it’s only been in the last three years that I’ve learnt to use them.

    I bought a big cheap coil notebook specifically for a vacation to Cuba. At the time I was working on a story set on a tropical island and I wanted to record all of my feelings, from the way the sand squished between my toes to how the heat wrapped around me like a blanket. After the trip I kept writing in it – anything that related to my writing; to do lists, story ideas, dreams, conversations overheard, character descriptions. Emotions where also recorded but not the events that caused them, only how I was feeling so I could use it later.

    After three years it’s finally finished and I bought myself a new leather bound expensive notebook to replace it… but it’s not the same. I haven’t been able to use it. I think it’s because it’s too nice. I may need to go back to the dollar store and buy another cheap coil one 🙂

  6. August 6, 2009 3:50 pm

    That’s a problem I had with writing morning pages as part of The Artist’s Way – couldn’t use a nice hardback pad that I bought, because it was just going to be filled with scribbles, and unselfconscious writing, and it felt wrong.

    Bizarrely, I have the opposite problem with journals! I tried it with just lined notepads, cheap paperback ones, and I couldn’t do it. It never felt like scrappy paper was the appropriate place for my personal thoughts. Now I’ve got moleskin notebooks, and I’m pretty good at making regular entries.

  7. August 6, 2009 11:32 pm

    I guess my blog is my kind of journal. Though there are some things I don’t talk about on there. A lot actually, like personal stuff. I like it and I think I’m better at keeping up to date with that one because people read it, enjoy it and it seems a bit more real.

    I once kept a private one for a few months, but it was hard to build it into a habit.

    I also have little notebooks for ideas and such, but they’re hardly journals.

  8. johnny permalink
    August 7, 2009 1:55 am

    Hello. Thank you for this great info! Keep up the good job!

  9. August 7, 2009 4:11 pm

    I’ve started and stopped writing journals a number of times. I have one, kind of like a diary, which I started in 2001 and have updated perhaps once every six months on average since then. I started off writing in it really regularly, and then just stopped. I still read over it occasionally though – it makes me feel somewhat better, since my thoughts were so much more scattered back then.

    It’s my plan to start a new journal (once I find one I like enough to write in) that is specifically related to writing and other creative endeavours. I’d like to have a place to record little thoughts and feelings, and observations, but I guess I’m just scared that I won’t bother with it; that I’ll have nothing to write. For a writer, I guess that’s a pretty sad state of affairs!

    Maybe I should buy a cheap, nice journal and just give it a shot. It might be worth it. It certainly won’t kill me to give it a go.

  10. August 10, 2009 3:23 am

    I’m the same as you Andrea, I felt guilty for not having a journal and I didn’t feel like a true writer. However, writing comes in a whole variety of forms and it doesn’t mean that just because you don’t log anything you don’t have inspiration. I always look back on previous work that has been stopped and started on my computer, this always brings back thoughts and ideas that I had and is stored in a place that doesn’t take up room.

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