Journaling: an important tool for writers

I began writing a journal after reading Anais Nin's Diaries years ago. I'd checked it out of the library and became fascinated with her account of her friendships with Henry and June Miller and other artists of the early part of the twentieth century. Before long I was hooked by that form of writing. Previously, I'd started keeping a diary, and on rare occasions when I could remember, I'd record my daily activities. Then I'd lock it, anyone who really wanted to see what I'd written could have easily opened the lock with a paper clip. However, after reading Nin's diaries (aka Anais Nin's Journals), I soon found that the small white book I'd purchased was too confining. I needed to expand from just listing my daily mundane activities. So I purchased a large notebook and thus began my years of journaling.

I now have volumes including a travel journal, one when my son was a baby and just learning to talk, a gardening journal in which I keep track of how my plants are doing, and my main journal in which I include some significant activities as well as how I feel about those events describing them in detail. I write poems. I write about heartbreak and breakthroughs. I rant and rave, laugh and cry. My journal is cathartic. When I go back and read my entries from years ago, I can relive the experience, though that is not always pleasant. I feel myself getting mad or feeling emotionally manipulated all over again. But sometimes rereading my journal helps me to understand why things went the way they did, and I remember people and incidents I'd long forgotten.

Keeping a journal is an invaluable tool for me as a writer because it lends authenticity to my stories. It keeps me from having writer's block. I don't need to search for ideas. I would suggest every beginning writer keep a journal. In it you could detail descriptions of people, places, and events. Practice turning narration into dialogue. In revisiting your journal for material to use for your stories, you'll see themes that can be used, conflicts that can be developed, and resolutions to those conflicts, all the elements that can be used when writing fiction and even non fiction. Most importantly, keeping a journal is good practice. Writers write. In my journal I don't worry about anyone critiquing what I write. I don't worry about correct grammar, punctuation, or writing in complete sentences. Most of all, I don't censor what I write and because of this, my writing is much freer.

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