How To Refine Your Writing: Keep A Journal

Have you ever thought of starting a journal but just don’t know where to start? Maybe you find there isn’t enough time in the day, or perhaps you find yourself faced with the question: What would I even write about??

A journal is something that is personal, a place where you can let it all out, stuff that you would never share with other people, let alone the world, or a place where you can work through personal issues (definitely much cheaper than a psychiatrist!). It can also be as impersonal or informal as you like, more as an exercise in writing, a list of ideas rather than a therapy session.

I got my first journal as a birthday present when I was twelve and have been writing ever since. Those first few are quite painful to read now, fifteen years on. However, a little further down the line, I can see how my writing has developed, how it has helped honed my skills as a writer. Journaling can be quite useful for writing material as well or giving your writing that much needed kick start.

(This is about 15 + years of writing, give or take about 50 manilla folders, 4 three-ring-binders filled with dream-writing and numerous notebooks

(This is about 15 + years of writing, give or take about 50 manilla folders, 4 three-ring-binders filled with dream-writing and numerous notebooks

Here are a few essentials to get you going:

1. Find a journal you would enjoy writing in. It could be a simple hardback book, one made of leather, cloth or plain notebook. There are so many choices. Try ClaireFontaine for simple designs or the legendary Molskine brand for a sleek leather look. You can always stop in your local bookstore and browse!

2. Writing Utensils. What do you like to write with? Pen, pencil, blue, black or multicolored ink? Fine tip or something a little heavier? I use the Uniball Vision finepoint. It’s water-proof and fade-proof, very essential qualities if you journal for a few years.

3. Carve out some space and time to write. This may be impossible for most of us, especially if there are young children running around. Let me just say Naptimes and Bedtimes: prime time for writing! On the go all the time? Take it with you for quick, jotting ideas. Try getting on a journaling schedule if you can-set aside some time, perhaps ten minutes to start, before you go to bed to write and reflect upon the day or early in the morning to start the day.

4. What to write. The subject(s) of which you write in your journal can be as varied as you want. It’s truly up to you. To start, record the events of the day. What did you do? Was there a specific story on the news that affected you? Write about it. How and why did it affect you? Writing can be incredibly therapeutic. Got some issues you’re trying to work through? Write about those in the journal. Just get through a break-up, a divorce? Write about it! Like I said earlier, it’s much cheaper than a psychiatrist. You’ll be amazed at what a little free writing can do. If that’s not your style, use it to write errands, a to-do list, stray thoughts.

5. Stay Inspired. Read, read and read some more. Read everything you can get your hands on: magazines, newspapers, other people’s writing and their journals. There are plenty of published journals of writers and others available. Get to the library and check out Virginia Woolf’s journals, or Sylvia Plath’s. Anais Nin, Tennessee Williams, or Frida Kahlo.

Out of ideas? There are plenty of places around the web to find writing prompts. One to try: Literary Mama Prompts. This offers mother-centered writing prompts as well as general writing prompts. Another general writing prompt site to try is creativewritingprompts.com.

(Picture Copyright Kris Underwood)

I’m on Twitter & Facebook (KrisUnderwood). I blog here and there.

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*Edited to Add: I just now found that Poets & Writer’s have launched The Time Is Now

The Time Is Now offers a weekly writing prompt (we’ll post a poetry prompt on Mondays and a fiction prompt on Thursdays) to help you stay committed to your writing practice throughout the year.

Sounds great! You can sign up for the Writing Prompts E-Mail List here, so you can get a new prompt every week. I have already signed up-will you?

KrisUnderwood

About Kris Underwood

Kris Underwood is the Social Media Manager at Hunger Mountain (Vermont College of Fine Arts). Poetry has appeared in several publications including MotherVerse, mamazine.com and Poetry Midwest. I read books & write about them on my blog sometimes.