Home » Posts tagged 'journal writing'
Tag Archives: journal writing
The Internet is a gold mine for writers. You can find countless resources to improve your writing and advance your writing practise. For instance, on the Internet, you can do the following:
- Find writing prompts that inspire your creativity
- Search for freelance writing jobs
- Create a free blog where you can post your writing and create a writing platform
- Join an online writing community/ writing groups
- Find out how to submit to writing contests or literary publications such as Tin House
- Read and learn how to write poetry, short stories, personal essays, and more
- Enroll in online creative writing courses
- Purchase books on creative writing
- Create a web presence and writing platform with social media
- Learn how to self-publish your fiction or creative nonfiction
- Read poetry, short fiction, personal essays from popular literary journals
In this post, I’ll identify some of the many websites that you can use to find this information.
The purpose of a writing prompt is to provide inspiration and help you explore and practise your writing. You can use a writing prompt to kick start a freewriting session of 10 to 20 minutes, writing about anything that is associated with the prompt. If you searching for writing prompts to inspire you, check out these websites:
- First 50 Words ( http://www.first50.wordpress.com ) The author of this blog, Virginia Debolt, provides you with a daily writing prompt for your writing practise. She suggests that you write ” often, write about anything, everything, what you see, what you learn, what you’re thinking, what you read.”
- Easy Street Prompts (www.easystreetprompts.blogspot.com) On this site you will find video prompts, photograph prompts, and word prompts.
Creating a Free Blog
Would you like to create a blog, where you can post your writing and create a Web presence?
Here are the best free blogging platforms:
- WordPress- http://www.wordpress.com
- Twitter- http://www.twitter.com (micro-blogging)
- Tumblr-www.tumblr.com (micro-blogging)
These blogs are easy to setup and post content to. Creating a blog is an easy way to establish a Web presence, share your writing, and build a writing platform.
Join a Writing Community
The online writing community offers many services to writers. You’ll create a profile and then post your poetry, short fiction, personal essays, and so forth. You can also join a writing group, obtain free reviews, and free advice. And you can join various forums, where you can discuss different aspects of writing with others. Many of these online writing communities offer free online courses and advertise writing contests. Here are a few popular online writing communities that you should consider joining:
Are you searching for a freelance writing job? Here are some good sites to find work:
- Freelance Writing Gigs – http://www.freelancewritinggigs.com/
- Freelance Writing Organization–http://www.fwointl.com/ This site has job listings and 5,200 free writing resources and links.
- Media Bistro– http://www.mediabistro.com/
For freelance writing jobs in your area, use Google to search for websites in your area.
Enrolling in Online Creative Writing Courses
If you are interested in taking a course in creative writing, such writing personal essays, poetry, short stories, screen writing—- there are a myriad of universities in Canada and the United States offering online courses and certificates in creative writing. This means that you can study from your own home, instead of having to fight traffic to attend a lecture.
Providing you have an Internet connection and credit card, you can enroll in online education courses from anywhere in the world. For instance, all universities and educations institutions I visited on the Web offer a plethora of creative writing courses, which you can take online. For instance, the University of Toronto’s Continuing Educations program offers online courses in creative writing poetry, fiction, and screenwriting courses.
There are countless educational institutions around the world where you can take creative writing courses online. Here are five places to checkout:
- Continuing Education at the University of Toronto
- University of British Columbia
- Continuing Education at Stanford
- Online Writing Classes from Creative Nonfiction Magazine
- Gotham Writers Workshop
Resources for Writers
One of the best sources of information is the Poetry and Writer website, a print-based magazine that also have a Web presence. All writers should visit this site on a regular basis. Here is what you can learn on this website:
- Find our who is offering writing contents and competitions.
- Find out where to contact a literary agent via the Literary Agents database.
- Obtain details about contact information, submission guidelines, and the types of writing small press publish by accessing the Small Press Database
- Discover where you can attend a writing conference, workshop, or residency
- Search for jobs in the arts, writing, publishing. (Some are Internships, which don’t pay, and most are in the United States.)
- Obtain advice for writers about writing contests, literary agents, publishing your book with the small press or larger publisher, book promotion and publicity, MFA programs, literary organizations that you can join.
Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction Literary Journals
There are many online/print literary journals where you can read fiction, poetry, personal essays. Check out these Literary magazines:
Please note that these are just a few of the popular literary journals that you can read.
If you are interested in reading poetry by the best poets from around the world, obtain how-to advice on how to write poetry, learn poetry terms, techniques, and genre, read articles about poetry, visit the following:
Are you interested in reading creative nonfiction, such as short personal essays of less than 1,000 words? You can read them at the Brevity, an online literary journal.
Purchasing Books on Creative Writing
Do you live some place where you don’t have regular access to creative writing books? You can purchase them online at the following:
In fact, most of the books on how to write poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction that I’ve used were purchased online at Amazon. Here are a few of the books I recommend that you can purchase at Amazon, books you won`t find in your local bookstore:
- Truth of the Matter: The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction by Dinty Moore
- You Can`t Make this Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything In Between by Lee Gutkind
- Story Craft: The Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Nonfiction by Jack Hart
- Creative Nonfiction: A Guide to Form, Content, and Style by Eileen Pollack
- To Tell the Truth: Practise and Craft in Narrative Nonfiction by Connie D. Griffin
Craft of Writing
- Elements of Style by Strunk and White
- On Writing Well by William Zinsser (Writing Creative Nonfiction)
- The Writer’s Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life by Priscilla. (A great book for learning how to write creative nonfiction, especially the various forms of the personal essay.
- Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale
- Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft by Janet Burroway. (Everything you require to write creatively, such as showing and telling, writing with sensory imagery, similes, metaphors….
- Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway (Includes how to instruction, exercises, and anthology of short stories)
- On Writing Short Stories, edited by Tom Bailey ( Two parts: How to write and an anthology of short stories)
- Poetry Repair Manual by Ted Kooser
- Writing the Life Poetic by Sage Cohen
- The Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio (Excellent book to learn how to write poetry)
- The Discovery of Poetry by Frances Mayers
- Creating Poetry by John Drury
- In the Palm of Your Hands by Steve Kowell
Create a Web Presence with Social Media
Do you want to create a Web presence? Here are a few popular social media platforms where you can create a profile, network with others, and promote your writing skills, expertise, and work
- Google +
Learn How to Publishing an E-Book
Are you interested in self-publishing? A great place to begin is at the Self Publishing Review. At this website, you can obtain advice and find resources on self-publishing. You can join a social network, read their online magazine, and find out how to self-publish. The Self-Publishing Review also provides book cover design and an e-book publishing service. It can design a cover for your book for a fee. It can also convert your book of fiction or nonfiction to an XHTML file, the format of an e-book, for a fee. (For a book of 200 pages, the cost is $200) And then you can upload it to Apple iBooks, Barnes and Nobles Pubit, Kindle, or Kobo-Self-Publishing. To find out more, check out The Self Publishing Review .
Another self-publishing service to look into is Outskirts Press. It offers the following services:
- Copy editing
- Cover Design
- Private Label ISBN
- Publishing packages
- Marketing solutions
To find other useful writing resources, you can carry out a search with Google.
Perhaps, you’ve purchased a writing journal and some pens, and have decided to embrace the art and craft of creative writing. Or, you’ve decided to write a poem, short story, personal essay, but you don’t know what to write about. Perhaps, you want to write your life story, but don’t know what to write. There are countless ideas that you can dig up, dust off, and write about. You just have to know where to search.
And once you have an idea to write about, you require a few techniques on how to explore and expand the idea into a poem, short story, personal essay.
You’ll also require a few essential creative-writing techniques to transform the idea into a piece of imaginative or creative writing, something original and authentic, that others will be motivated to read and praise you for. If you are fortunate, you might even be able to publish your work.
In this article, I’ll explain how to find inspiring ideas to write about and how to write about them. The following will be covered:
- Techniques for finding inspiration
- Asking journalistic questions
- Using creative-thinking techniques
- Writing imaginatively or creatively
How to Dig Up Ideas to Write About
As a creative writing, there are countless ideas you can write about. No idea or topic is off limits. You can transform any idea into a poem, short story, personal essay, literary journalistic essay. However, before you can write the draft, you must first find some worthy idea that inspires you to write about. Here are 12 ways to find ideas to write about:
Dreams. A dream can be a source of inspiration. You must be able to recall the content of the dream. So, keep a notebook on your beside table. If you wake up, remembering a dream, write down as much as you recall. I have never written about a dream.
Memories. Many writers write about their memories of abuse, childhood, adversity, and so forth. In “Tell It Slant,” Brenda Miller write about the five senses of memory. What are the memories associated with sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing. When you recall a memory, ask yourself: Why do I remember it? What is the significance? Another way to look at memory is to ask yourself: What are my saddest and happiest childhood memories? There are many ways to explore memory. I have often written about memories of my childhood, illness, unemployment, people that have crossed my path, and more.
Imagination. Imaginative writing involves inventing a poem, short story, novel by using the imagination to invent. An easy way to invent is to ask the question,” What if?” What if you were robbed walking home? What if you were diagnosed with a serious disease? What if your son or daughter died?
Observations. Observing the world around you is an is a useful way to write about setting, people, places, objects, things. Make note of significant details, telling details. Make not of what you see, hear, feel. Make not of the sensory images—sights, sounds, taste, smell, touch, hearing. Afterwards, write about your observations.
Overheard Conversations, Snippets of dialogue, Inspiring quotations From Famous People. Some instructors suggest you can write about an overheard conversation. I guess this is possible. I have never used it as inspiration for writing. I prefer to use dialogue in relation to its context. For instance, I`ll write about what I heard at the bar, or in the mall, or at the funeral. The dialogue will only be important because of where I heard it. Another important aspect of dialogue is who said it. Was it someone unknown or someone famous or in the public eye? Often inspirational quotes by philosophers, writers, musicians, political leaders can be a great source of inspiration.
Reading. We write for pleasure, to be transported to another place, to escape the banality of daily life. As well, a writer reads to learn the art and craft of writing. You can find inspiration by reading published creative writing by recognized journalists, poets, fiction writers, essayists. By reading, you learn what others have written about and are writing about. This knowledge can provide you with your own ideas to write about. Read stories in newspapers, magazines, journals, periodicals, and then make note of any interesting ideas, concepts, inventions, stories you uncover.
Your dark side. Each of us has a hidden self and public persona. Some call it your shadow or “dark side.” The shadow remains asleep until we are stressed, or wronged, or humiliated, or embarrassed, or dishonoured, or face a life and death situation, or are threatened by an event or another person. The shadow is often something we don’t like about ourselves. Perhaps we get angry, or procrastinate, or abuse alcohol, or are racist, or prejudice, or intolerant, or like kinky sex. Perhaps we have cheated on a loving partner, or broken the law, or done something that is taboo. How do you write about these topics? You ignore the “inner voice” that tells you not to write about the topic, and then you write the words that you hear in your mind. You must give yourself permission to write about anything.
First experiences. Write about your first job, first kiss, first sex, first love, first car, first home, first experience with death or grief, and so forth. Write about anything that is a first.
Celebrations. Write about holidays, vacations, milestones, birthdays, anniversaries, happy occasions, anything that makes you happy.
Adversity. Write about setbacks, obstacles, challenges, such as illness, disease, obesity, handicap, unemployment, discrimination, abuse, failure. Write about any hurdle or obstacle you have faced and had to overcome.
Artist’s Date. Julia Cameron, in” The Artist’s Way,” suggests that you should schedule some artistic or creative date with yourself once or twice a month. Perhaps, you’ll visit the bookstore, see a movie, attend poetry reading, visit the art gallery, take a trip to see a theatre production. The purpose of the “artist’s date” is to refill your mind with inspiration to write about.
Ideas from your personal journal. Keep a personal journal. Include stories from newspapers, interesting quotations, inspiring lyrics, poetry, photos. Write in it each day. Write about what you’ve read, heard, observed. Write about fleeting moments that were important. Write about events, experiences, people that have passed through your life, touching you in some way. Write about small moments. We you require an idea, turn to your writing journal.
There are many other techniques you can use to write about, such as death, grief, anxiety, depression, addiction, mental illness. Writer Lois Daniel, the author of “How to Write Your own Life Story,” has written a book of ideas on how to write your life story. She explains how to write about inventions, courtship, turning points, animals, family traditions, achievements, accomplishments, and more.
Asking the Right Questions
After you have an idea to write about, you can explore the idea by asking questions. Journalists often ask these questions. These are:
- Where ?
The question “who?” refers to the person or group of people who the story is about. The question “what?” refers to what happened. The question how refers to “how it happened?” The question “when” refers to when it happened. And the question “why?” refers to why it happened.
You can use these journalistic questions to explore an idea or topic. Furthermore, by answering these questions, you can grow the seed of idea into something larger, like a story about the maple tree. You can also use these questions to organize your work. For instance, you could write a beginning, then have one section for each of who, what, when, where, why, how, and then an ending. Often by answering these questions, you have sufficient material to write a story
Using Creative Thinking Techniques
Once you have an idea to write about, you can explore the idea by using creative thinking techniques. There are many. I’ll identify some of the popular techniques. Most people use brainstorming–but not enough. Often when there’s a setback or problem or obstacle, many people react with emotion–without personal reflection, without first brainstorming ways to react or respond. How do you brainstorm? Simply by making a list of all possibilities. For instance, suppose you wanted to change jobs, but need to write a new resume. You desire to identify all of your skills. You’d brainstorm by creating a list of all of your skills, both minor and major skills you have. Then you’d select the ones that are most advantageous or beneficial. Once you have a few ideas, write about them.
Another technique is to ask why? Then why not? This is a good way to develop answers to a question or problem. It can be used to develop both positive and negative answers to an outcome. For instance, why did your marriage end? Why did you not graduate from university? Why did you graduate? Why did you criticize your friend? Why did you not criticize your friend? Once you have ideas, write about them.
You can change your perspective. See the experience, or event, or person from another point of view. Most of the time, we see the world from our own eyes. For instance, we walk down the street, pass a panhandler who asks for money. We think “He is lazy.” And so, we refuse to provide charity. What if this man was homeless and hungry and down on his luck? To feel some compassion, we’d have to see the world from his point of view. How? You’d have to walk in the shoes of the homeless guy, by imaging you were homeless, without food, and out of work. What is it like to be a beggar on the street? What is it like to be homeless? What is it like to be poverty stricken, to go hungry? Write from a different perspective.
Or, you can challenge assumptions. For instance, most people believe in God. What if God is just an illusion, a human construct? Write about your assumptions–and alternative possibilities.
Some writers begin freewriting. Start by posing a question to yourself, and then answering it. Write down whatever pops into your mind. Afterwards, read what you wrote. Did you find anything interesting? Inspirational? And idea to expand into a poem, essay, some project to accomplish.
Do some mind-mapping or clustering. It is like brainstorming but more controlled. It is a good way to explore possibilities or generate ideas. How to cluster? Begin with a white piece of paper and coloured pens or pencils. In the center of the paper, draw a circle. Inside the circle, write a word or phrase that represents the idea your desire to explore. For instance, suppose you wanted to take photographs, but didn’t know what to capture. You could use the word “photograph.” Then, think of those possibilities or things associated with the idea.
When you something comes to mind, draw a line from the circle, then create another smaller circle, and jot down the idea. If you had a new idea, you’d create another line and circle from the main idea. For instance, you could have lines and circles for travel, sports, landscape, fashion, close-up, portrait. If you had a related idea to your first answer, you draw a line from the second circle, and write down another idea. For instance, suppose you wanted to capture still life, you could write a line and circle for each of beer and glass, journal, books, food to the circle with “close-ups.”
An easy way to think creatively is to ask “what if.” It is a great technique for fueling the imagination. For instance, what if a meteor crashed into the earth? What if you died? What if you won the lottery? What if you were fired from your job? What if you become rich and famous?
Another way to be more creative is to look for ambiguity in the world. Yet, most people don’t like ambiguous situations. They cause communication problems and are confusing. And so, most people have learned to “avoid ambiguity.” However, there are times when ambiguity can light the flame of imagination. Next time, you are immersed in a confusing situation, instead of just reacting, ask yourself: What is going on here? What else could this mean? How else can this be interpreted? For instance, suppose your friend splits up with her husband–and you’d don’t know why. You’re immediate reaction might be to blame the husband who always flirts. This is when you could ask “What else is going on here?” Perhaps the wife has found a new lover. Perhaps she believes that she can meet someone who is more interesting or romantic. When you discover something ambiguous, explore it and write about it.
We are socialized to think in terms of “right” and “wrong” answers. This can limit possibilities or options. Clearly, there are times when right and wrong answers are your only option, such as following the speed limit or answering a multiple-choice exam. However, during the creative process, “to error is not wrong.” Instead, if you make a mistake or error, use it as a stepping stone to another idea you might not have discovered. For instance, suppose you take a photograph, and the light turns out to be incorrect, you could shift the angle of light, or add additional lights, or take the photograph in a different place. What’s the point here?
The mistake or error is an opportunity for you to attempt something else, to think of something else. Another approach to errors or mistakes: Suppose you want to do something new. First, you consider all the positive outcomes, the rewards, the benefits. But this is limiting. You should also consider how you’d respond if something bad happened, if a setback occurred, if there was some obstacle. By thinking in this way–you expand the ideas, the possibilities, the solutions. Write about the outcome of an err or mistake, and the alternative path or journey you took.
Writing Imaginatively or Creatively
What does it involve? You will use the techniques of creative writing to write a poem, personal essay, short story. You might also use them in other types of writing, such as journal writing, letter writing, commentaries, emails.
The purpose of writing creatively is to create word pictures in the mind of the reader–by showing the reader a person, place, event, experience.
Once you have selected an idea, you should use the essential techniques of creative writing to craft your piece of writing. You can use these techniques to write in your journal, a poem, a short story, a novel, a personal essay—or any other writing.
Here are a few important techniques of creative writing that you can use for any writing:
Show your reader the person, the event, the experience, the place, the thing. You can show you reader with vivid descriptions, with concrete and significant details, and with imagery–language that evokes the senses.
Scenes and Summary. When you use a scene, “you are showing the reader what happened. Write in scenes for all important events. A scene include setting details, action (something happens), dialogue (conversation between characters in the story), imagery, concrete and significant details.
When you write in summary, you are telling the reader what happened. Use summary to write about unimportant events or to compress time.
Use concrete, particular, and significant details. Whether you write prose or poetry, you must add meaningful details. Otherwise, your writing will be ordinary, non-descriptive. Concrete details are not abstract. They refer to specific things. Particular details refer to some attribute or attributes of the thing. Significant details means that you want to share only those “important details,” the details which enable the reader to imagine what you are seeing and describing. Writing concrete and significant details allows you to evoke emotion, stir the spirit, touch the soul of the reader. When you add detail, you are showing the reader what happened, what the person looks like, what you are seeing, feeling, tasting, and so forth. When you recall a memory or observe an object, person, place or thing, you don’t need to share all details with the reader, only those that enable the reader to visualize the person, thing, place, you are writing about.
Imagery. This is about writing in words that invoke the sense in the reader. You can write about what you see, hear, smell, taste, touch. Example: Coming to the ledge, I could see an old pair of shoes. I knocked on the door, faded from neglect. An old woman, with disheveled, grey hair and no teeth, opened it. When she talked, I could smell the stench of decaying teeth.
Figurative language. These include personification, symbolism, allusion, and so forth. Two of the most important are simile and metaphor. A simile compares one thing to another by using “like” or “as.” Example: Her home is like a garbage dump. A metaphor suggests that one thing is another. Example: Her home is a garbage dump.
Personal Reflection or Self-Reflection
It involves the discovery of self and acquiring self-knowledge. You find out how you felt about something. What do you value. What is important in your life? What is the meaning? What is the purpose? What makes you happy? Why is the memory important to you? Why do you want to write about it? How does something feel to you? How did you reacted? With fear? Anger? Did you like it? Why? Did you dislike it? Why?
Personal reflection involves self-discovery, self-knowledge, and then sharing your thoughts, feelings, opinions, views, perspective. You can ponder an idea, event, experience, topic, issue, and then write about it. What does it mean to you?
Personal reflection is about exploring the emotional truth. In other words, how does it feel to you.
For more information on finding ideas to write about and how to write about them from a creative writing perspective, read the following:
- Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft by Janet Burroway
- You Can’t Make this Stuff Up: The Complete Guide To Writing Creative Nonfiction from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything In Between by Lee Gutkind
- How to Write Your Own Life Story by Louis Daniel
- Tell It Slant: Creating, Refining, and Publishing Creative Nonfiction by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola.
Suppose you want to become a writer, but you haven’t developed the habit of writing on a regular basis. Perhaps you’re not sure what to write about. Perhaps you don’t know how to get in touch with your inner self. Perhaps you just want to explore journal writing, learn to do it. Julia Cameron has written a splendid book, “The Write to Right: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writer’s Life.”, that will kick start your journal writing.
It is written for both the established writer and the aspiring writer and been a bestseller.
In this post, I’ll discuss some of the aspects of her book, and how her exercises and advise can inspire you to write in your personal journal.
Author Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write” is a series of essays on a myriad of topics. Each essay ends with an exercise that will help you begin journal writing or bring an end to writer’s block. She includes essays on such topics as “Let Yourself Write”, “The Writing Life”, “Bad Writing”, “Mood”, “Place”, “Procrastination”, “I Would Love to Write, But..”, “The Right to Write.” If you’re not sure what to write about in your personal journal, Cameron’s book “The Right to Write” is a valuable tool that will inspire you to write, and also provide sage advise on writing.
One of Cameron’s themes is that we must make time to write. In journal writing, you can “think of something to write about or write about what we happen to be thinking about.” It’s best to just let the words flow like a river from your mind to the paper or the screen. Don’t think so much. Just write. Journal writing allows you to make time in your life for writing.
Cameron shares the wisdom that we must “make time to write” rather than waiting to “find time.” In other words, you must set a time, establish a place, purchase yourself a notebook and pen, or setup a file, blog on the Web, and then begin writing on a regular basis, each day for 15 minutes to 30 minutes. Journal writing allows you to get into the habit of writing, enables you to practice your writing, experiment with your writing, record your life story, plant seeds that might grow into poetry, personal essay, a short story. She suggests that we “don’t wait to find time.” We should “steal time”, and use this precious time for writing—-at a coffee shop, while cooking dinner, first thing in the morning.
How do you get in the habit of journal writing? Cameron introduces the task of morning pages. Each morning, first thing you need to do is write three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing, also known as free-writing, in a personal journal. You can write three pages of absolutely anything that pops into your mind. The point is to write. Writing develops the habit of writing, makes you a writer. “We often say we don’t have time to write But we do have time to write—a little, each day.”
Cameron also suggests that we use the tool of the “Artist’s Date” to inspire us to write, prevent writer’s block. She writes: “Learning to take such dates is pivotal to our artistic maintenance. They enrich a sense of well-being and create a bubbling up of inspiration and insight.” Each week, or a couple of times a month, you need to feed your creative spirit by doing something that involves creativity, such as visiting an art gallery, see a vintage film, walk along the Boardwalk next to the lake, take a bike ride in the woods, attend a jazz festival. By doing such activities, you will discover things to write about.
Cameron also suggest that we should focus on just getting it down on paper, now worry about making mistakes, not judge our writing. She writes: “In order to be a good writer, I have to be willing to be a bad writer.” In other words, write it all down, fill the paper or screen. Don’t edit as you write. Revising, editing, proofreading take place later in time. She points out: “Perfectionism is a primary writer’s block.”
For instance, her chapter on “This Writing Life” ends with the following exercise: “We are often so busy wanting to have a life as a writer that we forget that we have a life to write about.” She suggest that we start writing about our life by describing a situation in your life that you want to metabolize, such dealing with the bossy boss, worrying about an illness, dealing with unemployment.
She has an exercise in her chapter on “Drama.” She writes: “Drama in our lives keeps us from putting drama on the page” When we lose focus, we need to reconnect with our “before, during, and after life.” She suggests that you write out a list of 100 things you love. After you have completed the list, save it. Next time you lose focus in your life, reread the list of 100 things you love.
In the chapter on “Valuing Our Experience” she writes: “Writing is an act of self-cherishing. We often write most deeply and happily on those areas closest to our hearts. “ In this exercise, she suggests that you write a list of things your “most proud of.”
One of the most interesting exercises in the book is from her chapter on “Specificity” in which she suggest that you list and describe 10 things in your environment, such as your bedroom, living room, study, coffee shop. Next, ask yourself: What are your associations with them, however nonsensical Then write about it. For instance, I used this exercise to help uncover deeper meaning in a poem on driftwood. I described the driftwood, and its deeper meaning to me was that it reminded me of a piece of art by Henry Moore, who sculptured various shapes, forms of reclining figures, art that I love.
Another useful exercise is explained at the end of the chapter “ I Would Love to Write, But…” The exercise is called “The Reader’s Digest Quotient”. You are to list five trite, clichéd, heartfelt topics that are human to you. Your goal is to generate a list of topics that anyone can relate to. You then choose a topic, write about it. You are to recall what was memorable, what you enjoyed, what is loveable about your subject, then write it down in detail.
Throughout the text, she provides words of wisdom. Here is some of the sage advise she shares:
- “The act of writing makes you a writer.”
- “When we just let ourselves write, we get it right.”
- “We should write because writing brings clarity and passion to act of living.”
- “Writing is like breathing, it’s possible to learn to do it well, but the point is to do it no matter what.”
- Most of us try to write too carefully. We try to do it “right.” We try to sound smart…Writing goes much better when we don’t work at it so much.”
- There is a great happiness in letting myself write. I don’t always do it well, or need to, but I do need to do it.”
For Cameron, writing is food itself. She requires a certain amount of writing to stay healthy. If this metaphor applies to you, you need to read her book “The Right to Write”. If it doesn’t, you still need to read her book. It will provide words of wisdom, useful exercises that you can use for journal writing. Most of all, it will inspire you to begin writing through journal writing.
If you desire, have a dream to become a writer, you need to write on a regular basis, preferably each day. The act of writing gets you in the habit of writing. The act of writing each day allows you to practice your writing. One of the best ways to learn to write well is by keeping a personal journal. In this article, I discuss what you can write about in a personal journal and some of the benefits of journal writing.
What should you include in your writing journal? You can include anything you want in a personal journal. The decision is yours to make.
Here’s a favorite poem about things people include in a personal journal:
“What’s In My Journal”
by William Stafford, from Crossing Unmarked Snow
“Odd things, like a button drawer. Mean
Thing, fishhooks, barbs in your hand.
But marbles too. A genius for being agreeable.
Junkyard crucifixes, voluptuous
discards. Space for knickknacks, and for
Alaska. Evidence to hang me, or to beatify.
Clues that lead nowhere, that never connected
anyway. Deliberate obfuscation, the kind
that takes genius. Chasms in character.
Loud omissions. Mornings that yawn above
a new grave. Pages you know exist
but you can’t find them. Someone’s terribly
inevitable life story, maybe mine
Clearly, from the contents of the poem, you can write about anything in your journal. You can write about your thoughts, feelings, impressions. You can write about a bad dream, something that created anxiety, joy. You can write about what goes in during daily life. For instance, perhaps you want to write about the “odd ball” you met on the way to the subway. You can write about a summer vacation, winter getaway, day trip.
You can write about what you see and hear. For instance, perhaps you want to write about an overheard conversation, a car accident, your frustrating experience in the checkout lineup. What you include in your personal journal is personal—and for your eyes only.
I use my laptop as a tool to make journal entries, then save the entry to my journal writing file, more than 100 pages, on my hardrive. Journal writing has allowed me to get into the habit of writing and to record my travels from day to day, record my thoughts, impressions, experiences in a permanent place.
In my journal writing, I include new words that I stumble across while reading. For instance, the other day, I learned the word “cornucopia.” I also include interesting or inspirational quotations.
If I read a good book review, I write down the title of the book, author’s name, synopsis of the book. If I discover a good poem, I include add it to my personal journal.
Here are a few things you can include in your journal:
- Thoughts, feelings, impressions
- Opinions on topics or issues important to you
- What goes on in your daily life. Example: Attending a film, walking along the beach, your book review
- What’s making news or in the public consciousness
- Short poems
- Inspiring photographs
- Interesting quotations
- New words come across while reading, language that you intend to use in writing or daily conversation
- Something you’ve learned
How should you write an entry in a personal journal? There are no rules. The decision is yours to make. I always include the date of the entry. Sometimes I write in a notebook. Other times, I make an entry in a journal I keep on my laptop. Sometimes I write in phrases. Other times, I write complete sentences.
Some instructors of creative writing suggest that you engage in freewriting. This involves sitting down, pen in hand, or hands on keyboard, then just writing about whatever “pops into your mind.” This is a good way to begin writing if you don’t know what to write about. Freewriting enables you to get into the habit of writing. It also allows you to record what’s on your mind. It is a good method to use for people who are just starting to write.
However, if you’re an experienced writer or have lots of things you want to write about, the best way to write is to type the date, and the begin writing about what’s on your mind.
The journal becomes a record of your life, a personal scrapbook of thoughts, experiences, impressions, memories, meaningful things you’ve collected in your travels, like inspirational photos, ten dollar words, illuminating poems, and so forth.
Keep in mind that a journal is not a diary. The journal is much more: You can include anything—from photos, to poetry, to inspirational quotes. Journal writing is also a way for you to plant the seeds for future writing—such as a poem, short story, personal essay.
What are the benefits of journal writing? There are many. I’ve discovered that keeping a journal has allowed me to experiment with my writing. For instance, I’ve written poetry in my journal by experimenting with poetic devices such as simile, metaphor, personification. Keeping a journal has also enabled me to capture ideas to write about in the future. For instance, I often write poems based on what I’ve recorded in my personal journal. And journal writing has also allowed me to get in the habit of writing. Finally, journal writing can be a catharsis. For two years, when I was going through a difficult time several years ago, I kept a personal journal of my experiences, thoughts, feelings. By writing, I was able to clear my mind of thoughts that were distressing experiences.
To learn more about journal writing, read Julia Cameron’s “The Right to Write” and Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones”. Susan Tiberghien has a good chapter on journal writing in her bestselling book on creative writing called “One Year to the Writing Life.”
Many people say they don’t have time to write. Julia Cameron in “The Right to Write” suggests that to begin writing, you must “make time”, not wait to “find time.” One of the best ways to make time for writing is through journal writing.
Let me repeat: One of the best ways to begin creative writing is to to keep a personal journal. As well, please note: The act of writing makes you a writer.
The easiest way to begin journal writing is through “freewriting.” Just sit down, write or type the date, and a title if you wish, then start to write about what you are thinking about, whatever comes to mind. Don’t try to think about what you want to write, just begin to write. Get it down on paper or on the screen. Freewriting gets you in the habit of writing. Do it every day for 10 to 20 minutes. By writing, you will improve your writing.
Don’t try to be a perfectionist. Attempting to do this will prevent you from writing. Instead engage in the act of freewriting. Write about your thoughts, feelings, impressions. Write about your memories as a child, what happened to you yesterday. Write about an adventure or misadventure.
Don’t try to write and then edit as you go. Trying to polish your work as you write will prevent you from getting into the “flow” of writing. It will prevent you from using your creative spirit. By editing as you go, you will be striving for perfection, which will stifle your creativity and need to get your thoughts, feelings, impressions down on paper. Strive to write continuously–edit your work after. And with journal writing, you don’t need to edit your work. Your personal journal is for your eyes only. It is a private writing experience.
Journal writing gets you into the habit of writing. It also allows you to capture memories, get in touch with your thoughts and feelings, find your voice, plant seeds for writing poetry, short fiction, personal essays, and much more.
To be a writer, you must write. Keeping a journal is the best way to begin creative writing. You can use your laptop, a notebook, or setup a blog, set it to private. Each day, set time aside to write. Get into the habit of writing. Remember, the act of writing makes you a writer. Journal writing and freewriting are the foundation of creative writing.
To help you begin journal writing, there are several great books available from a bookstore near you. (Amazon or Chapter’s ,Indigo) .Here are three that I recommend, not only for journal writing, but also to advance your creative writing:
- Julia Cameron’s “The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life”
- Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life”
- Natalie Goldberg’s “Getting Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within”
Each of these books provide advice and exercises to help you write. The author’s wisdom on writing will provide inspiration for journal writing and other types of creative writing.
Another book I recommend is “One Year to the Writer’s Life: Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer’s Art “and Craft by Susan Tiberghien. She includes an illuminating chapter of journal writing. Reading this book, becoming mindful fo the advice she offers, completing the exercises, and journal writing each day will fast track you to the writer’s life.
Remember, the act of writing makes you a writer. Journal writing is an easy way to get into the habit of becoming a writer.
By Dave Hood
A few weeks ago, I perused Chapters, a big box bookstore in Toronto, and stumbled across “One Year to a Writer’s Life.” The book is a collection of 12 workshops, written by Susan M. Tiberghien, a teacher/professor/published writer of “Creative Writing.”
I have discovered that it is one of the best books written on Creative Writing. It based on 12 workshops she provides. Each chapter is a workshop. There are chapters on journal writing (the foundation of all creative writing), poetry, personal essays, opinion essays, travel writing, short story writing, poetic prose, memoir, finding alchemy from dreams, memory, surroundings–and concludes with a workshop polishing/revising your work.
I especially enjoyed reading the chapters on journal writing, writing opinion essays, personal essays, poetic prose and poetry.
For instance, in the chapter on Journal Writing. The writer identifies the benefits of keeping a personal journal, and provides advice on what to include in a journal entry. The author Susan M. Tiberghien poses the question: Why keep a journal? Then she lists the reasons:
- To establish the habit of writing.
- To capture memories.
- To discover what you think and feel.
- To find your writer’s voice.
- To take risks and experiment with your writing.
- To plant seeds for poetry, personal essays, short fiction, a novel.
She then provides examples of good journal writing. She also explains how to keep a journal. The most important advice: Just begin to write. Start with a date and title. Get whatever comes to mind down on paper or on your computer screen. Only buy writing on a regular basis, getting into the habit of writing, will you become a good writer. She states that keeping a journal is the foundation of creative writing.
At the back of the book, there are a list of additional resources for you to find additional information on journal writing, poetry, personal essays, short fiction, and much more.
For instance, if you want to find more information on journal writing, she lists “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron and “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg as two useful books to expand your knowledge and skill in journal writing.
“One Year to a Writing Life: Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer’s Art and Craft” is in its fourth printing, and has become very popular. You can purchase a copy for less tha $20 at Amazon or Chapters/Indigo.
If you want to fast track your way to creative writing, this is the book for you. It will provide you with sufficient advice to get you started as a creative writer. I strongly urge you to buy a copy, read it, follow the exercises, and keep a personal journal. Most of all: Write every day. Get into the habit of writing.
Here’s an overview and link to details about the book and writer: http://www.susantiberghien.com/works.htm