We’ve all heard the benefits of writing every day, but it’s not aways practical. In the process of writing a novel, committing that first draft to paper (or computer) is only a small part of the process. There’s preparing to write (research, character sketches, outlining) and polishing the writing (editing, researching agents, writing query letters). All of it limits the time we spend dancing with the muse.
Keeping a journal is an easy way to write every day and keep your skills nimble. There are other benefits, too. Journaling reduces stress, helps you know yourself better, and allows you to clarify feelings and heal wounds of the spirit. It’s also a great place to capture dialogue, snatches of description, and ideas for future projects. Word-for-word, the first paragraph of my novel, Aftersight, started as a journal entry while I was vacationing in London.
The myth is that a journal has to be about what happened to you on a given day. No, my friends, a writer’s journal is all material for future stories. Think of yourself as an artist and your journal as a sketch book. Give yourself permission to draw anything you want. You’re limited only by your imagination.
I’ve been keeping journals since grammar school: in diaries, notebooks, Franklin Planners, and later computers. There is something to be said for having a good pen and solid, bound book in which to write. The physical exercise of committing thoughts to paper is a romantic process, something that’s been done for centuries. If you’re looking for writing supplies, I’d highly recommend Levenger.com for quality pens and journals.
Over the years I’ve come to value the power of digital journals, both for the ease and speed of capturing my thoughts, as well as the ability to search and retrieve later entries. My choice of journaling software these days is Day One, which allows me to add a journal entry from my computer, iPad, or iPhone and have the entries sync up at all locations. In addition, I can easily add photos, to enhance memories of a given day; or add subject tags, for easy searches later. It also automatically adds your physical location, the time, and weather, as well as offering ideas of writing subjects and reminders to write.
The word “journal” is rooted in journey. Let your journey begin.
Brian Mercer is the author of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body Experience (Llewellyn, 2004) and the Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, he is the webmaster of and occasional contributor to Author Magazine. When he’s not working as a programmer analyst or exploring alternate dimensions out of body, he can be found writing novels. He lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara.