Journal writing can be conducive to professional writing – it can kick start the imagination, bring ideas to the surface and hone writing skills in new ways. I like to experiment with journals and get as creative as I can. Sometimes this means making the books from scratch or creating my own covers for existing books. Journal writing need not be time consuming however, you can keep it simple and just write when and if you feel like it. The main point is that if you find a journaling style you like, it will help to keep you inspired. I have four main styles I use: ranting, ideas, dream recording and creative representations of everyday life.
RantingA ranting book is for writing quickly with little or no conscious thought. You don’t worry about grammar, presentation or what other people will think of it. Personally I use re-cycled exercise books and scrawl over every possible space. It’s messy but the chaos provides a certain level of privacy – I can’t see anyone taking the time to decipher it.
The beauty of a ranting book is that you can ignore you inner critic for awhile which is liberating – it loosens you up and gets the words flowing. Another good thing about automatic writing is that worthwhile ideas sometimes emerge from the sub-conscious – some of which may be useful in your professional work. If this is the case, go over the ideas with a highlighter pen once you’ve finished the entry and write them out separately so they don’t become lost or forgotten.
Another benefit of ranting journals is that they are cathartic. You can write out all your troubles whether they are significant or trivial, leaving you more relaxed and ready to focus on your ‘real’ writing.
Record of ideas
An idea book may relate specifically to a writing project (you might, for example, sketch a stage setting, map a plot, record dialogue or write character profiles) or you may want to be more diverse and record all the ideas that grab you, from a recipe idea to a tree house design. I try and keep idea books neat and as visually appealing as possible so I’m more inclined to turn to them for inspiration. Idea books are good places for lists, mind-maps, fabric scraps, photographs and paint samples. If you’re really keen you can write a contents or index page when you’re finished for easy reference.
The dream journal
Dreams can be a good source of ideas for poetry and fiction, particularly if you tap into their imagery and emotions. If you have trouble remembering your dreams keep a journal or note book by your bed and start writing as soon as you wake up. Aside from writing the dream out as you remember it you may also want to try out different ways of recording them. Here are some ideas: give your dream a title, pinpoint the strongest part, draw a significant image, list the emotions you felt during the dream and reflect on the theme and possible meanings. You might also record whether you have had similar dreams before. If there is a particularly significant image that haunts you from a dream – or you can’t remember anything beyond a single image – try drawing it and give it a caption or a title. You don’t need to be a skilled artist to do this, sometimes a crayon picture drawn roughly and quickly while half awake can capture the essence of an image surprisingly well.
The creative style is all about recording your life in new and interesting ways. This can be helpful in your general writing practise as it pushes you to think imaginatively. Try putting an experience into a poem, record a day as a cartoon-strip, write what you wish you’d said in a certain situation, make a pie-graph of your day or write down the finest details of an event. The possibilities are endless and many of them can help to hone your writing skills. Of all the journal styles this is the kind that lends itself the most to artistic embellishments. Beyond drawing, painting and collage, experiment with the visual appearance of your writing – the style, size and lay-out of your words can make the journal more interesting.
Some other journal types you may want to experiment with are travel and nature journals. As travelling takes us out of our usual routine we can be flooded with new ideas, images and perspectives – and a journal is a good place to capture them. Nature journals enhance observation skills – a definite benefit for writers. You could try drawing or describing insects, shells or fossils in fine detail. You might also chart the moon or tides for a month – or record your observations of your local wildlife.
Experiment in any or every way you like with journaling. Mix many different styles into one book or stick with your favourite. One of the beautiful things about writing in a journal is that if you tap into new approaches and styles that you truly connect with, it will keep you perpetually inspired.
Marion Lucy is a freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction. Many of her children’s pieces have been published by The School Magazine and her first picture book The Giant Bowl of Chocolate was released in 2013. Web: www.marionlucy.com.