Monday, May 10, 2010

Journaling as Writing

When someone comes to me looking for advice about their current mental health, I often ask if they keep a journal.
When I walk with people who are hoping to discover their true selves, I recommend keeping a journal. Not any sort of journal, but one that captures their specific journey. It's journaling with purpose.
Writing our thoughts down changes our perspective. It brings clarity, forcing our ping-ponging ideas to align, flow down our arm, through the pen, and onto the page.
Two sound pieces of advice for beginning writers are these: Read broadly, and keep a journal.

I've discovered the joy of journalling not only my personal history, but my books as well. Each book I write has its own accompanying journal dedicated to it. I don't write anything else in there, only bits and yawns about the book. I scrawl title ideas, names of characters, plotting and character webs, bits of dialogue, scraps of scenes or even scenery. I plot the book in the journal (yes, I plot long-hand), I lay out the bones of the book in my journal so that I can flip through, find a particular bone and chew on it (Margaret Atwood says all writers are bone chewers. That is what we do for the most part, chew on bones).

I've found a journal to be a helpful friend. I know where all my random floating bits of ideas are. I'm not rifling my desk, I'm calmly flipping pages, confident I've captured my hope somewhere inside the journal.

A journal is also a respite from the clacking keys, the bright screen, the blinking cursor. Picking up a pencil (always in pencil for me - it is a personal metaphor for the impermanence of life, and the permanence of ideas) is a connection, an organic motion that allows me to interact with the images in my mind in a way the blessed computer cannot provide. There is something about reading the raggedly drawn words that breathes life into the thing.

Keeping a journal for each book creates an intimate bond between me and my story that I haven't found when I'm typing on my computer. With a journal, I can tuck myself away somewhere, curl my arm around it and scratch and peck, doodle and draw outside the lines. We've all heard the saying, 'think outside the box'. For me, journalling my books is tangible knowledge that there is no box.

And for fun, here is a link to a gorgeous blog of an artist who journals as art, sent to me by my wonderful friend and fellow writing, Kathleen Popa.

I bid you good writing.

9 comments:

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I don't journal now, but I have an in the past, and agree totally - it is very therapeutic.

Colleen Taylor said...

I feel exactly the same way about my journals:

"...a respite from the clacking keys, the bright screen, the blinking cursor. ... a connection, an organic motion that allows me to interact with the images in my mind in a way the blessed computer cannot provide. There is something about reading the raggedly drawn words that breathes life into the thing."

Will have to try using journals for writing projects. Great idea!

Bonnie Grove said...

Diane: I've actually backed off a great deal from personal journaling - it's never been something I've forced, I allow it to be what it is, picking up and writing when I feel the desire. But journaling each book is a newer experience, and one I'm enjoying.

Colleen: I'd love to hear about your experience with journaling after you start!

Jan Cline said...

Just what I need to share with my new writers group I just started. We are covering journaling next month. I have a writing journal and a travel journal. Which reminds me, I need to go journal about my trip to the NwCW conference last weekend!

Danica said...

What a good idea. My book is in my computer, and sometimes I feel the need to make notes about the book, or doodle or brainstorm or whatever. It feels silly doing it on the computer since it's not part of the book. I'll have to give this s try. You're a genius!

Bonnie Grove said...

Jan: So glad the timing worked for you. I'd love to hear what ideas and thoughts your writing group comes up with.

Danica: I hope you have a wonderful experience with journaling your novel!

Colleen Taylor said...

For my nephew's 14th birthday I'm giving him a leather bound journal and a printout of this blog post.
He's a budding filmmaker, and many of his other gifts are film-related.

I've also lined up a free consultation my friend Jason who's an award-winning filmmaker.

Jinky said...

I kept a (paper) diary when I was in my teens, and every now and then I'll write something down if it's really on my mind. I'm inexplicably drawn to ornate journals, but rarely ever buy them because I can't bring myself to write in them. I dunno. There's something about the keyboard that keeps my mind straight. I don't have to worry about making a mistake or jumping around here and there. If I'm writing on paper, I get distracted if my penmanship isn't neat enough or if I have to scratch out a word or whatever. As appealing as it is, it's usually more frustrating than is worth it.

sarah said...

There was a time I couldn't talk...a time my words were stuck inside. Journaling helped me say what I couldn't voice otherwise