Shelley Widhalm

iJournal, therefore I am

In 52 Writing Topics, Journaling, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on March 4, 2012 at 10:00 am

Each journal in this pile has a specific purpose in my writing life.

In my quest to find and write about 52 writing topics in 52 weeks, I’m going to veer off course to talk about what I like to call pre-writing.

Journaling is a form of writing that isn’t as official as writing drafts for stories or playing with the lines and words of a poem.

Like an artist’s sketchpad to practice drawing skills, journaling can be a place to practice and play around with language and ideas.

A journal can be used for freewriting, a form of writing that involves writing nonstop for a certain period of time, say five to 10 minutes, without constraint or a specific goal in mind.

It can be for capturing snippets of conversation, recording details you observe in your environment and offering a timeout to get you to that space where you are ready to write.

I have nearly a dozen journals, and I cannot live without any of them.

I have my diary journal where I write down what I do each day, my responses to the things that annoy and please me and my plans for the next year. I do this every time I start a new journal (usually in June, for some reason) and at the beginning of the new year.

I have another journal that I call my play journal. It has different colored sections that I’ve designated for freewriting, book starts, book and story ideas and notes about the writing process.

Another of my journals is solely for freewriting because it already has prompts that I can use when I’m blocked.

I have a journal for tracking where I send my work. I put exes through the lines when I get rejection letters, turning this journal into one that I don’t like as much as my others. (I gave one of the rejection form letters to my dog and she ripped it up, and quire frankly, I quite enjoyed her slobber marking my disappointment).

A few other uses for journals I’ve run across include:

* Writing exercises you want to try.

* Notes from what you’re reading or the things you want to look up later, such as words, phrases and ideas.

* Character sketches with magazine cutouts, found objects and written descriptions. (I’m just starting this one after seeing that one of my writer friends uses a pasteup board to display the identity of her characters and key ingredients to the plot of her novels.)

* Photos of settings and the buildings and places in your story.

I’ve found that journaling shouldn’t be a chore and by journaling regularly, ideas come to you for new stories, ways to describe things and even new types of journals.

The key to journaling is to write without expecting anything. Don’t worry about quality or grammar or style. Just worry about wanting to write and loving doing so while the words spill off the end of your fingertips.

  1. Another intersting insight into the writer’s mind. Amazingly fun to read and also helpful!

  2. I don’t have quite as many notebooks as you do, but I have a few that do multipurpose. And I’ve always got something with me in case the Muse decides to strike in the grocery store.

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