Journal Writing II
“Keeping a Journal is the best way to find out what you think and feel.”
- SD Wilson
Let's face it, when you're in the zone of writing—the ability to immediately locate previous notes you've made on a subject, is paramount. Because, when you're in the midst of writing, you need direct access to the words, passages, quotes, and research information you've already done. And if you can't locate those previous notes, it can be super frustrating, daunting, and ultimately detrimental to your creative flow.
Early in my career, I remember searching through piles and piles of little scraps of paper, looking for a quote I wanted to use in one of my poems. Do you think I could find it? No!
And when I finally did, I asked myself—why is this happening? And then, I answered—because you don’t have a system to follow! It was a great realization to make at a young age, and from that moment on, I've carried a journal with me wherever I go.
Observation: Ginsberg always kept a pen and a small notebook in the breast pocket of his shirt.
Note to self: Carry your Journal with you at all times.
Once you've established a specific place to keep notes, it's important to develop ways to organize your journal so you'll be able to find whatever you're looking for when you need it. In this blog I'll share some tricks with you, to get you started. And as time progresses, you'll develop your own methods.
Long story short—keep your notebook (hard-copy or electronic) with you at all times—morning, noon and even night—that way you'll be ready to catch your dreams! And that way, in the days, weeks, months, and even years that follow, you'll be able to locate specific:
- thoughts and feelings
- and ideas, you've collected along the way.
After that, when you use pieces out of your Journal, it will be like you're mining yourself and you'll never run out of jazz.
Organize your Thoughts
Inside the Journal
Prompt/Challenge: Create a daily writing schedule and stick to it for one month.
Thirty-some years ago, I found myself at the British Library Reading Room, with a library card and extra time on my hands. It was shortly after I discovered that i needed to organize a more coherent thought-world. As a result, I was curious: how do other writers order their journals?
After combing the library catalog, I called the numbers for the notebooks of Woolf, Joyce and Plath, and I submitted my requests to the special access division. Several weeks later the books arrived, and I found myself in a special reading room, wearing white gloves and leafing through the notebook pages of three of my favorite writers. It was then, while scanning through their most secret and private worlds, that I discovered important clues pertaining to my own practice of note-keeping and journal writing.
What I Learned:
1. It isn't necessary to be neat, just systematic.
Your Journal is a place for you to work out ideas, to make sense of yourself—so don't be afraid to make a mess.
2. Create a system that's simple and easy to follow, and then stick to it. Use codes, shapes and symbols to assist you.
When a certain idea goes 'ping' as you write it down, make a star beside it to indicate you'll may want to use it later.
3. Use different symbols for different overall projects. Like:
- 'P' inside a circle indicates Poetry-related.
- 'N' inside a rectangle indicates Novel-related.
- 'EmC' inside a circle indicates The Play.
4. Once you use an idea or passage cross it out.
5. Don't be afraid to write in the margins of the margins.
Outside the Journal
Over time you'll accumulate a lot of Journals! And the more you amass the more difficult it becomes to find anything!
So, leave yourself clues on the outside of the book.
On the spine of each book, write the:
- Number—What number it is? Start at 1 and continue until your shelf is full.
- Title—Write a title that will later trigger you to remember what's in the book (who, what, where, when, and why).
- Dates—What is the span/time-frame of the writing in the book ie. Aug - Nov, 1989.
- Stickers—Find stickers wherever you are, as reminders and stick them to the outside of the book.
A Living Example
Say I'm searching for the sketch I wrote about Miro when I was in Spain...
First, I look for the approximate date on the spine of the Journal...
then, I see Majorca (indicated by the sticker on the outside)...
then, I open the Journal and flip through looking for encircled 'P's'.
Presto! I locate the poetry sketch I wrote at Miro's studio within minutes...
How do you see yourself? Why do you write?
Describe where you are.
What projects would you like to work on?
Or what subject fascinate you?
Make a list at the back of the book and create a symbol for each.
If you want to be a writer, write.
A Daily Practice is Essential.
Begin the Journey. Start a Journal.
Become a Writer.
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Sheri-D Wilson, D. Litt
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