Friday, June 22, 2012

Keeping Your Writing Alive: The Importance of Keeping a Writing Journal

Song of the Day: Stayin' Alive by The Bee Gees

   Yes, that's my notebook to the left. I had an epiphany last week. I was going through my writing notebook (basically a notebook I carry everywhere to jot down anything inspiring, character names, story ideas, etc.) and I realized I had a good amount of material in it. I had discovered parts of stories that I'd forgotten about, phrases and story ideas.

   When I took my first creative writing class at the University of South Florida, my teacher made us keep a journal. We were to write down anything we wanted in it, just as long as we wrote in it everyday. I kept up with the idea even after I finished the class. The only thing that had changed was the frequency in which I wrote in the journal. I didn't keep up with the "writing everyday" part.

   But this past week when I went through my notebook I was reminded about just how important keeping a writing journal really is. I always have my notebook with me, but I don't write in it everyday. I have decided that I should write in it everyday, even if I only write bits and pieces.

Here are some of the benefits of keeping a writing notebook:

1. Discovering stories that are actually pretty good.

I went back and tweaked a few old stories and one of them was actually accepted for publication recently. This goes back to that old saying about stepping away from your writing. Back then I doubted the stories, but looking at them today, I realize their potential.

2. Discovering Characters

I write down unique names I come across and also phrases and bits of conversations I hear. Sometimes, I'll even jot the details of a person with an interesting outfit. When I'm looking back on my journals and reading over these notes, I'll often get an idea for a character.

3. Seeing a phrase that might trigger a story idea.

I'm sure all writers can attest to this. Random thoughts and phrases will pop into my head. There is no method to the madness. It's almost as though the voices of different characters nudge you by saying something important, something that triggers the lightbulb and makes you have to write it down. Well, when I read over these fragmented bits, a lot of the times, a new story is born.

4. Remembering story ideas that you meant to write about.

My writing is character driven, so I get a lot of ideas about telling stories that involve real issues people face on a daily basis. I keep track of this in my notebook, and when I look back I say, "Oh yeah! I meant to write a story about that!"

5. It helps you to write more frequently.

We all here that we should write everyday. Journaling is a way to that. Isn't writing one paragraph, one idea, one phrase better than writing nothing at all? A little at a time everyday suddenly seems more doable.

6. It inspires and builds confidence.

As I pointed out before, I saw the potential in some of the stories and half-stories I had written. It shows you that maybe your work isn't so bad at all. Journaling, can make you feel like a real writer and I've been feeling the love from my writing lately.

I think I have finally found the thing to keep me writing consistently. Now, if I could just find something to keep me editing my own work consistently! Keeping a writing journal helps me keep my writing alive.

What about you? Do you keep a writing journal? Have you ever kept a writing journal? What are some of the benefits you reaped from your own writing journal?


  1. I have never actually had a Writing Journal, though I have jotted ideas down in random places--so your idea is brilliant! Thanks so much for this post...I'm creating a writing journal ASAP!

  2. I also keep a writing journal. I write about my process, procrastination, doubts, fears. I also write about my novel projects -- which can be very helpful. I've found many nuggets of gold in there and it also has shown me how I've grown as a writer.

  3. I need to be better about keeping a writing journal. I always have a notebook with me but I don't always write in it, unless I have an idea or a note to jot down. I really want to free-write more often. I know it will help me come up with new story ideas and keep my creative muscles working. :)

  4. I have always kept one, it makes me feel organised and keeps me interested, its nice to see others doing it, i don't write some of the stuff you do like, recording conversations and people etc, but the idea is still there.

  5. This is an excellent idea, Racquel. Often an idea or snippet of a conversation will come to me and if I don't write it down--and often I don't--it's lost forever. If I do write them down, I find I have tons of small notes scattered all over the place:). Thanks!

  6. I just started a wordpress and you inspired me to start writing in a journal and was wondering if I could link this post into one of my own so I can give you credit. Although, I am not a writer I would like to keep this for memorable things that have happened or ideas for a post so I never forget! Thanks!

  7. This is such a great technique. I am writing my PhD thesis and think this is the way to tackle the "madness" of capturing ideas and thread them together in a simple written piece.

    What would be your advice to avoid putting too much time and getting distracted by taking such notes? (For example, I think I will start writing down examples or use of language that I have read. But note taking like this is time consuming and will distract me from reading the article itself.

    Could you please advise how to organize these ideas and notes so that when we easily find and make use out of them? -- Sorry for such long questions. But, thank you in advance!