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Journaling: Friend or Foe? (From a rank amateur)

May 4, 2012

Up front, I will be honest. I don’t journal. I mean, holy crap, I write a blog that’s published with my work on a nearly daily basis. I work out almost every day. I coach Little League. I do other FWA stuff. And I have a day job. And sometimes I sleep.

That doesn’t leave a heck of a lot of time to jot down my deepest, most intimate thoughts in a format that I can then go back and use to help make my work deeper and more meaningful. I don’t write about how something happened in my life and how that kind of challenge can help may characters’ lives a little more harrowing.

I have journaled in the past–and I was a lazy journaler. My writing because relatively formulaic in my journals–which means I was sort of missing the point.

That was a long time ago, and I’m starting to think it’s maybe time to start again. I’m not convinced–and once baseball season is over, I have some other things I’m penciling in for the time previously taken up. Little things–like working on my work in progress. Doing some ab work so I don’t make people dry heave at the beach.

But, if I were to journal, this would be my approach:

  • My journaling goal would be five days a week. At first, this might seem like a sure way to not journal for very long. But I work out six days a week. It’s possible to maintain discipline with something without being a Nazi about it.
  • I would start out pretty free form, including ranting about the guy who slowed down from 45 mph to 19 mph in a no-passing zone for no apparent reason. Seriously, dude, you are not the only one using the road. Some of us are using it to…I don’t know, try go get someplace. I might also write about situations my characters could find challenging, or why the Red Sox bullpen would benefit from the services of Stevie Wonder.
  • I would also use the journal as a private forum for the deep stuff that makes me…more challenging than I might otherwise be. Everyone has crap in their lives, including me and my characters. By understanding my crap better, I can understand their crap better. And write about it better.
  • I would strive to be honest and show some courage in my journal. After all, I’m the only one reading it. I might as well be honest.  That’s a pretty hard thing to do, but I think the things that matter most, deep down, are the difficult things. Writing about difficult things honestly means dealing with them honestly. That makes the difference between a moving, heartfelt piece and a cliched movie-of-the-week wannabe.
  • I would try to think about my journaling a little before I did it. Last time, I wrote whatever came to mind, which made it formulaic. Nothing grabbed me, so I wrote a lot of the same stuff I’d written about the previous day. Worthless. If I think about it, and plan a little, that might not happen.

Do you journal? If so, how do you do it? Seat of the pants? Do you plan anything? Is it personal, or about your work? What value do you get from it?

One Comment
  1. Pamela Lear permalink
    May 4, 2012 7:48 am

    My favorite thing about journaling is going back to read my journals from 10 – 30 years ago! I journal irregularly. When I tried to make a commitment to a certain number of days or a certain journal length, I ended up resenting it. So now, I do it when the mood strikes, which is usually 2 – 3 times a week. My journals are filled with random musings, drafts of letters, clips of quotes that I cut & paste into the journal, lists of words that I want to use in my writing someday, etc. I usually have 3 – 4 journals going at any time. I carry one around with me, and often share my approach with others in an attempt to inspire them to journal, as I think it is a very beneficial thing to do. Thanks for the opportunity to share …

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