How to Use a Writer’s Journal

Do you have a Writer’s Journal? If not, why should you keep one? More importantly, what should you record in it and how will it spark your writing career?

My journal is simply a spiral bound notebook with a line drawing of a light bulb on the cover. Don’t ask me where I got it, the point is, it’s a unique little notebook, easily identified by the cover, and reserved for my writing life. Over the years, it has become an old friend and my writing companion because of what is recorded in its pages as it travels the world with me.

Although my Writer’s Journal is currently only 50-pages of my ramblings, it contains: novel ideas, words of encouragement from friends and writers, pithy quotes by famous authors, my personal mission statement (Why I Write), ideas for developing complex characters, and how to select a setting, craft compelling dialogue, establish tension, tone and mood, create internal and external conflict, and advance a plot through crisis. In those pages are techniques to layer in subplots, develop back story, build a climax, achieve resolution, and weave a theme into the plot.

My journal also captures the essence of where I am in my writing career because I log in what I need at the moment. A Writer’s Journal, by nature, is personal so it’s customized to you, your thoughts, dreams, and goals. Record only what will help you in your journey. Fill it with information to support you on your path to publication.

I review my journal often because I find inspiring quotes from authors who have walked this path before me. My mission statement is full of purpose and inspiration and scrawled in my own hand. I find reminders to celebrate the small writing victories; to rejoice that I finished the novel, non-fiction article or short story. I’m reminded in my journal that with every published article, I answered the call. I did the best I could do at this season of my writing career, and that, is reason to celebrate.

My journal is one of the few documents I write by hand, often in a lawn chair under a shade tree overlooking a pond or lake each summer. My journal represents total freedom. There are no rules for an entry, no mistakes, and no rejection. Anything goes. My ideas are wide open, ambitious and perhaps unachievable—but they are mine—and they push me outside the proverbial box. I draw, dabble, and doodle in my journal if it sets my mind free to record article or novel ideas. When I have a novel idea, the outdoor summer setting sets my mind in motion. I free-flow write until I fully capture the book concept.

Jotting in my journal allows me to think beyond the boundaries and fashion a vision for my writing career. When I return home, I face the realistic roadblocks to publication, but I face them with a renewed sense of possibility. Nothing happens unless we dream, right?

If you don’t have a Writer’s Journal, start one. For there, you will one day find all of the encouragement you need to “write through” your darkest days.

What’s more, of the many voices you hear speaking through your journal, only one will bring you ultimate inspiration; yours.


Watch for weekly blog posts here at The Writer’s Refuge.

Blogs are posted every Thursday.

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Published in: on October 6, 2011 at 7:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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