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Posts tagged ‘journals’

Start a New Year’s writing tradition: Keep a mini journal

I’ve always been intimidated by New Year’s resolutions. As an indecisive person, it was April before I’d decided on an aspect of my life to improve. And by that point, well, it was already April. But five years ago, I was gifted a mini journal before the New Year that led me to start a new tradition: Keeping a yearly mini journal.

Journals are fantastic ways to document memories and ideas. But a full, blank, white page can be daunting. What happens when I only have four words of dialogue that I want to write down — that memory when I introduced myself to my coworker Jeremy, as Jeremy?

“Hi Jeremy, I’m Jeremy.”

I don’t need to expand on this embarrassing moment, but I would like to look back and laugh at my former self.

In this case, I need a mini journal. Read more

Waste a notebook with your random ideas

One day when I was in the fourth grade, I got in trouble for not paying attention in class. I was scribbling away on my tablet, writing notes that had nothing to do with what my teacher was talking about. She said I was daydreaming. She said I had to go sit in the hallway. I narrowly avoided a visit to the principal’s office.

Writing in a notebook has been part of me for as long as I can remember. In my notebooks, I write interesting words or phrases, the title of a good book recommendation, the date of the next book club meeting, words of a song that sound like poetry.

At some point, I type the notes from my notebooks into my computer so they’re easy to search. I know that in this electronic age, many people type everything on their digital devices, but I don’t enjoy typing with one finger. Mostly I just enjoy the act of writing with pen in hand. And it gives me a good excuse to buy more notebooks.

Little did I know, with all my scribblings, I was creating a “waste book” in the tradition of 18th century German scientist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, who had a habit of collecting aphoristic notes, ideas, and lists. According to a Scientific American review on, in his student days, Lichtenberg began the lifelong practice of recording his observations and reminders in notebooks that he called “Sudelbücher” after the waste books that English businesses used to enter transactions temporarily until they could be recorded in formal account books.

This is one of my favorite of Lichtenberg’s aphorisms: “The book which most deserved to be banned would be a catalog of banned books.” Lichtenberg’s writings have been translated in The Waste Books.

My waste books might seem a morass of random scribblings to some people, but when I look back at them, I find a gem here and there — an idea that may find it’s way into a story, the root of an essay, or a character waiting to be born.

For another take on keeping a notebook, read my previous post, A twist on the writer’s journal: The commonplace book.


Four ways to write about your life

There’s more than one way to craft a personal or family story. Consider how you could create a form that fits your personal style and passion.

If a memoir is a slice of life, you might want to write one based on your recipes, gardens you’ve grown, or cars you’ve owned. Find more ideas about structuring your life story in the examples below.

A life in lists. In a workshop I attended, Patricia Charpentier, author of Eating an Elephant: Write Your Life One Bite at a Time, shared different approaches to writing a life story, including one made up of lists. She once worked with a man who never wrote a complete sentence. He processed his life by making daily lists. Charpentier said the man had been making a list every day for 30 years. Topics included, “What I like about so and so,” the headlines of the day, and what movie was showing.

If you’re interested in writing a life story in lists, check out Listography Journal: Your Life in Lists by Lisa Nola. Read more

Start the new year by journaling

With the new year almost here, it’s a prime time to get into the practice of keeping a journal. By creating a journaling discipline, you’ll find you establish routines in other areas of your writing life. Below are three previous posts about how journaling can further your writing and storytelling mojo: 

Three ways to unleash your inner journaler:” if you’re trying to decide what kind of journal you want to keep, check out these tips.

Record significant daily events in the 5-Minute Journal:” discover this app for recording significant daily events, ideas for writing projects, or character traits that you notice while out in public. 

My favorite writing journals is a fun post on some of my favorite types of journals. 


Be prepared: Keep a notebook in your kitchen

You’ve heard it before. Always have a notebook in your pocket or purse to jot down those brilliant ideas that don’t conveniently come to you when you’re sitting in your official writing place.

But do you have a notebook in the kitchen? Just like I always seem to think of a perfect new line for a poem or a great name for a character when I’m in the shower, cooking has a way of revealing ideas that have been simmering in my subconscious.

Life has a way of happening in the kitchen. Whenever I have guests over for dinner, it seems like everyone wants to congregate in the kitchen. Some of the most memorable and emotional discussions I’ve had with family have been in the kitchen, while cooking or sitting at the kitchen table eating a meal. All these bits of life are a good source of writing material. Read more

How writers turn journal entries into novels

Writing in a journal is a powerful way to create the bits and pieces that become literature.

Journals serve as workbooks and a place to note descriptions, thoughts, ideas and character sketches.

Graham Greene set two of his novels, “A Burnt out Case” and “The Heart of the Matter” in Africa. The book, In Search of a Character: Two African Journals: Congo Journey and Convoy to West Africa, reveals the raw material — observations about people and the world — that eventually turned into his novels.

Read more