Shelley Widhalm

Journaling to self-reflection, story creation

In Shelley Widhalm, Writing, Writing Processes on November 23, 2014 at 11:00 am

A journaler since second grade, I find that form of writing to be essential to my day and to my growth as a writer.

I record what happens on a daily basis, summarizing events and the most important conversations, even putting in quote marks if I remember what was said, and writing out me emotions and responses.

Once I write these things out and read over my entries for a time period of a few months or even a year, I can identify patterns of behavior in myself and others close in my life. I can see where I haven’t made changes, continually engaging in the same ineffective patterns. I can see how much self-talk I do, starting with complaining and then moving into clichés that things will get better because they don’t stay the same, so what other way is there but up?

Journaling is a form of writing that isn’t as official as writing drafts for stories, playing around with language and ideas to get to a poem, or coming up with lists of ideas for stories, poetic images and character identities.

For me, it’s a form of self-therapy, a way to keep a record, while also digging into the self to deepen understanding of character interaction, dialog and inner thought. If I understand what goes on in my head, I can better get into the heads of my characters. If I know how to tell the story of my life as it happens, I can think about storytelling using characters as the action instigators.

Journaling has other purposes, too, such as:

  • 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.
  • Coming up with ideas for poems, short stories and novels.
  • 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.
  • Capturing snippets of conversation and recording details you observe in your environment.
  • Character sketches with magazine cutouts, found objects and written descriptions.
  • Photos of settings and the buildings and places in your story.

The key to journaling, as it is with NaNoWriMo, is to simply write without expecting anything. Don’t worry about quality or grammar or style. Just worry about wanting to write and loving the process.

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