Monday, August 16, 2010

The Writer’s Journal: helpful, or not?

Today I want to talk about the writer’s journal. I’ve often encountered the idea: you’re supposed to keep a notebook with descriptions of things you’ve seen, snatches of conversation, etc. The value of this, I admit, has been lost on me. If you spend all of your time cataloging these experiences, then that’s the only fruit of your writing time, and what have you written besides personal things? In other words, you haven’t produced much.

That reason and the fact that I’ve never been fond of journals. Life is interesting in that you continually learn things about yourself--I used to think I didn’t need to have regular human interaction and now I know that yes, I don’t need it to breath and continue living, but it certainly helps me grow and think and other positive things like that :P

One thing I’ve learned is that I don’t feel a sense of satisfaction when I write a personal journal. I do, however, experience a negative emotion of guilt when I don’t write in a personal journal I’ve bought. So in the end, there isn’t anything to keep me doing it. I also end up being really mopey in my journals, and I don’t end up getting much out of re-reading them--just embarrassment at how silly I used to be.

But recently I discovered a new outlook on this idea of a writer’s journal. Instead of fleshed out things, you just put in key words, essentially, that serve as a reminder of things you’ve seen, rather than an essay on them. The nice thing is, you can go into more detail if you want, of course, but it’s not necessary. I really, really like the idea because I’m always seeing little things that appeal to my writer’s mind. The combination of a sunset and music from a house show, for example. The scent of cut grass as you drive home. Romantic things, to tie into my last post :-P

I would also like to talk about my blog here at fauxpoetica as a whole. I’m not sure yet if I’m able to sustain what I’ve been doing (two posts a week) or not; I think what might have to change would be topics covered. So far I’ve really tried to stick to writing (despite two off-topic posts) but maybe if I open the format up more I could blog more regularly. Obviously, the readership is not here, so it really boils down to me doing this for myself and a few friends, and I have to determine the value of doing it.

See you on Wednesday.


benjamin said...

personal journals lose me too, but i can see some people wanting to share their most personal experiences with their readers; and then there's that whole movement of confessional poetry and prose.

over the summer, made a single page of keywords/titles that are stories i'd like to develop through my writing, in whatever way i can, because they're original, enlightening, etc... and i've already written a couple different drafts which aren't half-bad in the pages following that single page, fruitfully. i'd really recommend the 'process' or something similar for every writer--it did take me a while to find one for me, but that's okay.

in that same notebook i have, i write anything down--not just writerly things. it's good to keep everything collected, even grocery lists, because as a writer, your entire life can be used to further your career, instead of just education, social experience, and jobs like, other life-paths.

Zomzara said...

I sometimes keep a journal, but that isn't anything to do with my writing, it's just a personal thing I occasionally enjoy doing.

I normally keep a notebook with me for my writing. The stuff I write in the notebook is usually story ideas that I have when on a boring train journey or during a quiet patch at work or when I don't feel like writing any prose, just vague ideas.
I also note any good new words I come across.
I've just started a section off in my notebook called 'character traits' where if I see someone who has particuar traits, I write them down. This forces me to be observant about how people differ outwardly in their gesture, outlook and body language.
Another thing I use my notebook for is when I have read someone else's work and I want to give a quick analysis of it or a response or a reimagining of a book; I'll write it down.
Many of these things are actually written on scraps of paper and later inserted into the current notebook.
I have filled 7 notebooks in about 6 years. Each one is beautiful. I can only ever keep a notebook going if it is beautiful, if I have a reason to want to get it out.
Sometimes I flick through old notebooks and find ideas I had forgotten about that spark off a new story ideas. For that reason I think keeping notebooks have helped me as a writer.
Very occasionally I write full prose stories in my notebook, usually when I'm not at home near a computer or without any better writing paper around.
The occasional beautiful sentence comes into my head when I'm out on my daily walk. In that case I try to remember it and write it into my notebook. 8 times out of 10 I forget it before I write it down.

Meredith said...

Benjamin -

You’re right about the confessional movement of poetry and prose. Heck, even things like Post Secret. It takes the cathartic aspect to a whole new level. This is also an example of you thinking of a way this could’ve been more fleshed out :P

I think I’m going to start keeping that type of keywords notebook myself. Also I think it takes everyone a fairly long time to find their process. And, agreed about collecting things. I do that in one of my journals. Yes! Life experience is writing experience.

Z -

“when I don't feel like writing any prose, just vague ideas.” That happens to me a lot :P

“I've just started a section off in my notebook called 'character traits'” I’m thinking of having a “people” section myself.

I think I would also collect things that other people have written that inspire me. I think I would want to put pictures in it, too, but we never print pictures at home; I guess I could have my dad print some things. I think this aspect seems particularly important to me at the moment because I’ve been looking at posters and thinking about how they go together and actually pasted them all into one paint document to see them all at a time.

I think as my life fills, I will spend less time on or near a computer, and having a journal will be extremely useful then. :)

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