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Keeping a Journal

February 26th, 2009 Matt Leave a comment Go to comments
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One piece of advice you get a lot from courses, or writing books is keep a journal. It’s right up there with, “show, don’t tell” as one of those creative writing mantras that gets flogged to death. But I’ve never understood what makes a good journal, or even what might be an appropriate journal for me.

I understand the principle of course. A journal encourages you to write your ideas as they happen, meaning they are never lost (unless you lose your journal of course), and you always have a history of recorded ideas to fall back on. A very useful side effect is that you are likely to write more often (every day even), whether you are working on a particular project or not. Also, you are training your brain to be more aware of potential ideas and inspiration (more on that later perhaps), and it provides an extra outlet for creative expression.

So with all that in mind, have I ever tried to keep a journal? Of course I have! But my attempts have been intermittent and abortive. Nevertheless, I would like to share these experiences with you and see what you make of them. In the future I will give updates on how I am journaling (if at all), and whether I think it is worth doing (for me).

My first journal was an unconscious attempt. I would write notes, poems, lyrics and bits of stories in an old school exercise book, just whenever inspiration struck. I also had a big ring binder where I would put stuff I was proud of – mostly work that got copied up from the exercise book.

That was way back when I was in high school. At uni I made several more formal attempts at keeping a journal. I had one where I would write notes, and fragments of ideas, but I wanted somewhere where I could write up work as well – so I had two books. Generally though, the idea of keeping work in a book didn’t feel right when you could do so much more with notes on a computer.

Eventually the two journals became one, and that in turn morphed in to more of a diary, which was fine. Except there wasn’t much to do with writing in it!

Now I have something I am much more comfortable with. I have a projects folder on my computer, and every project (or potential project) has its own folder within that. This is good for me because I travel with a laptop every day, so I have access to the files and folders most of the time.

I still keep a book, but it’s more for planning, and reviewing how said plans are going. As much as I love computers and prefer writing on them, sometimes it’s just nice to open a book and write in it. Plus, I love the look of a book filled with notes, and have something of a fetish for notebooks. So, this way I get the best of both worlds!

By the way, the thing that really helps with the projects folder, is a little thing called Dropbox. I have provided a link, but it deserves a special mention in a blog post of it’s own, so look out for that.

Do you keep a journal? Never felt the need? Let everyone know in the comments section below.