Sunday, March 19, 2017

Why Every Young Writer Should Keep a Journal

Dear Diary, today I had writer's block.  It was sad.  I read my book, ate some pizza, and went to bed too late again.  Why is writing in you so boring? 
                                                                                                                       Yours forever,                                                                         A total idiot who doesn't know how to journal

That may be a slight exaggeration, but what I'm trying to point out is that if done this way, journaling can become really, really boring - not just a pain to read (as my example entry proves) but a pain to write.  Eventually, this total idiot who doesn't know how to journal is going to give up journaling altogether.

In this post I'm going to answer two questions: Why should every young writer keep a journal, and how do you not get tired of it and ultimately give up?  I'm specifically addressing young writers for a reason, but a lot of the points I'll be making can be helpful for "older" writers, too.

Why should you bother keeping a journal?  Is it really that important?

Yes.  Yes, it is.  Now head to Barnes & Noble and check out their journal section - you'll find some expensive leathery ones that are totally worth the price (except for cheapos like me... but seriously, LEATHER).  Just please don't waste any journal with entries like the one by Total Idiot above. Total Idiot didn't know what he was doing, and if you bear with me till the end of this post, you will have no excuse to follow in his footsteps.

But the question stands: Why?  And, simply put, the answer is this:

You're going to be an adult one day.  If, by young, you are a teenage writer, that is.  One day you're going to become an adult, and have adult responsibilities, and even start thinking adult thoughts.  I mean, there's always that teeny, tiny chance that your young teen years will become a little bit blurry!  And then what will happen when you sit down to write a book starring a twelve- or thirteen-year-old character??  What if you start unconsciously weaving in your adultish thoughts and ideas about life, which can OFTEN be thoughts and ideas slightly beyond the twelve-year-old mind?  People will notice something off, something unrealistic, about the voice of your book.

The good thing about being a writer with talent is that you may just end up "knowing" how to do this the right way.  Your character may just whisper all the right stuff in your ear, and all is well. But you cannot just assume that, O reader.  Which is why you must do yourself a favor and preserve your young thoughts in a journal.  Refer back constantly once you grow up, and remember those crazy-kid ideas you had about life.

Now.  How to write entries that keep your enjoyment of journaling alive.

1.  Fill the pages with specific opinions and ideas.  Scribble down rants about school, books, annoying people.  From large issues such as people's reactions to whoever won the election, to small matters such as whether you like mechanical pencils or wooden pencils better, pour out what's on your mind.  And please note: what is on your mind, not what was on your mind yesterday or last week or something.  That's always best.

2.  Include setting and details.  Some examples will illustrate:

I'm sitting on the porch as I write this, my cat curled up next to me.  The sun is just beginning to set, casting the front yard in an orangey haze, and I can hear dishes clattering in the kitchen.  I wish...

I swear, the attic is the best hiding place ever.  All I have to do is ignore the cobwebs and the possible bugs skittering around and I can write without my hand shaking.  Things that go creepy-crawly aren't my favorite.  Anyway, today was...

This is why I bring my journal to social gatherings.  They get boring very easily, especially when the only people around are old ladies.  Two things I've discovered - bingo isn't on every elderly woman's schedule, and meatloaf is actually really good when made a certain way.  Now is when you ask why I'm at an old person social gathering in the first place, and let me just say...

I guess that setting helps mostly when you don't know what to write about, but you're trying to keep to your schedule (which I'll talk about in a moment).  Where exactly are you situated?  What do you smell, hear, see, feel?  Are you alone, or are there people around? What are they doing? All this can prompt ideas and opinions to come spilling out onto the page, creating a setting - an extremely important thing to include in story-writing. Which actually brings me to another reason why journaling is a good hobby for writers to pick up. It's great practice! 

3.  To make it even more like a story, include dialogue.  Remember funny and/or weird conversations that you had, and if you can remember certain facial expressions that were exchanged during the conversation, that would be awesome too.  Make your life seem almost like a fictional story - that will definitely increase the fun of it :D

4.  Set a schedule.  I need to follow this advice, as I currently do not have a schedule, and so it's kind of normal to end up going whole weeks without writing a single entry. Journaling is like a first draft; you have to force yourself to keep doing it.  Blogging consistently?  For some reason, I don't have a problem with that, but maybe part of it is because I'm a new blogger.  (sorry, irrelevant)

Some of these points are things I should take back up, since I've fallen out of doing them, but they had been very helpful in keeping journaling fun.  And by the way, these are not rules you have to follow - you may have found other ways to journal.  This post is merely a "suggestion" post, so go through with these pieces of advise only if you want to :D     

Speaking of blogging, you might be wondering why a writer should keep a journal at all if they have a blog.  I've always believed that journaling is between the writer and the journal, and that's it.  Adding an audience kills the purpose.  Personally, I would recommend either finding a "physical" journal, or starting a private blog (that you share with no one else) to use for a journal.

It's your choice, but I would strongly recommend one of those Barnes & Noble journals!

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