I realize I haven’t written a Writer’s Toolkit piece since my review of What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers. For my second post in this topic, instead of a specific book, I’ve decided to write a brief review of the importance of a more general tool that every serious writer should have at their disposal: a personal journal.
I’m sure we all remember the innocent grade school days when the most trustworthy friend we had was that little book sitting in our bedroom, whose sole purpose was to guard our deepest thoughts and feelings. Many of us at one time or another have owned a notebook of some sort that we kept as a diary or journal (I myself kept quite a few during my childhood and adolescence). It was our outlet for the private ideas we couldn’t share with anyone else, an emotional release that left us with the satisfaction of knowing our secrets were still safe from the rest of the world. But for the budding writers among the countless young people pouring their hearts out in secret, that book was so much more. While all the other children and teenagers would keep their journals and diaries as a vent, we writers would keep them as a net to catch the little seeds dispersed throughout our lives that could eventually grow into our stories.
A journal is an important tool for any writer mostly because it serves as a log of the potential story ideas that might otherwise elude us. To give a personal example, during my college years, I kept a journal in my backpack in which I would write the thoughts and emotions I experienced while at my university. The book was a record of my college life, and several of its entries – about which I might otherwise have forgotten – later became inspiration for my fiction writing. Without that journal, I likely would have missed a lot of opportunities to find relatable traits for my characters or interesting scenarios for stories.
But my journals have helped me in an even greater capacity. Writing down my thoughts and being able to read them back objectively has allowed me to gain a better understanding of how I tend to see the world around me, and consequently, learn how I can best channel my ideas into my writing. On top of that, while my fiction pieces are for showcasing my refined writer’s voice, my private journals are for unleashing the raw voice fresh out of my mind that has yet to be shaped into the stories I want to tell. As I’ve come to realize, even creative writing comes with basic rules when intended for other readers, but when writing just for yourself, there are absolutely no limitations except you.
Advantages of Keeping a Journal
- Intellectual and emotional release
- Keep a record of possible ideas for future stories
- Objectively observe and understand the voice(s) in your head
- Unleash your raw creativity without inhibitions
Based on my experience (as well as similar accounts from other more established writers, including authors to be mentioned in future Writer’s Toolkit posts), I highly recommend keeping a personal journal as a good exercise for any writer. Sure, many of us probably don’t have the time to fill half a dozen journal pages (or even one) every day, especially in these modern times of ultra-busy lives filled with a hundred daily tasks that leave us exhausted by the time we get a chance to crawl into bed. Still, it’s good practice to set aside at least a few minutes every day to jot down some key observations of recent events, no matter how simple. Remember, even if your thoughts don’t seem particularly interesting at the time of writing, you never know if they could prove useful in the future!
Thanks for reading! Now, if you haven’t already done so, go and start your journal! Happy writing!