Shelley Widhalm

Posts Tagged ‘Journals’

Journaling (and moving onward)

In Journaling, Writing, Writing Inspiration, Writing Processes on May 24, 2015 at 11:00 am

After losing part of my journal earlier this month, I thought again about the journaling process.

Journaling is a casual form of writing that is pre-writing, like artists sketching in sketchbooks to figure out or practice drawing certain objects or parts of things. Journaling is a free form of expression and a way to play around with language and ideas.

My favorite type of journaling is freewriting, or writing nonstop for a certain period of time, say five to 10 minutes, without constraint or a specific goal in mind. I like using a line of text, a quote or an image to give me a starting point, not caring what I write as I let loose with the words.

Journals can be used for writing down ideas for first lines of stories, ideas for stories or capturing snippets of overheard conversation. You can use them to record details observed in the environment, such as how a building looks in the setting sun or geese with one foot up as they stand near a pond.

Here are some other uses for journals:

  • A diary, or a place to capture daily experiences and reflections and keep track of daily activities.
  • Writing exercises you want to try.
  • Notes about the writing process.
  • Notes from what you’re reading or the things you want to look up later, such as words, phrases and ideas.
  • A list of the books you read and what you liked or didn’t like about the storytelling, plot or other elements of writing.
  • 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 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.

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.

NaNoWriMo Loser resorts to journaling

In Journaling, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on November 17, 2014 at 1:46 am

I gave up last week on National Novel Writing Month, but it’s because my journaling got in the way.

Or at least in part.

I believed I’d had a great idea for a novel based on a true life experience that I thought I had concluded, but I’m taking longer than I expected to work through and process it.

Instead of doing daily NaNoWriMo writing, I’ve been doing daily journaling that is getting longer and longer in length as time progresses. I typed up the journal entries over the past eight months about the experience I want to fictionalize to better understand the story I want to tell.

In the last two weeks, or the time frame of NaNoWriMo, I noticed that I’ve become wordier and lengthier in my journal entries. At first in my journaling about this experience, I wrote a few lines to a half-page that’s single-spaced, but now am writing one to two single-spaced pages a day. For the first time I wrote two single-spaced pages on Saturday, Nov. 8, holding steady to one to two pages over the past week.

That could be because I’ve been making the switch from more labor heavy handwriting to typing.

For my journal, I typed up nearly 83,000 words in 121 pages and since Nov. 1, 14,700 words in 21 pages, or about 700 words per page. My result for NaNoWriMo is an average of 980 words of journaling a day, not quite two-thirds of the 1,667 words needed a day to reach the end goal of 50,000 words by Nov. 30.

I noticed as I journaled more in depth and did it daily instead of every few days, because I had more to write, I could remember more. As I wrote, events of the day and even specific conversations came to mind and I became aware of details I’d forgotten about, at least at the conscious level.

But then as I tried to capture those specific conversations, I realized I found it more difficult to remember the actual words, as if I was trying too hard. I realized it was easier to summarize and put down the main interchanges, because in real-life conversations, what’s said often gets repeated. Alternatively, the idea in dialog in short stories and novels is to get to the core of the interchange, leaving out greetings, pleasantries and repetitions.

By switching from a paper journal to my laptop, I’ve been writing more and longer, and I’ve had more to say. So in a backward sort of way, I have let NaNoWriMo influence me, though I won’t be reaching the finish line. At least not yet.