Do You Keep a Journal?

      19 Comments on Do You Keep a Journal?

Confession time. I hate journaling. I really do.

I wish I were the kind of writer who relished in awaking in the deep dark night to pour profound thoughts onto the page, but I’m not. Instead of writing in the wee hours of the morning, I’m in bed. Warm. Enjoying a restful sleep. To wake up would mean leaving my warm cocoon and entering the frigid world of reality. I’m not doing that.

Besides, I can never figure out what I’d say in my journal entries. “I made a kick-butt date loaf today!” just doesn’t seem particularly important in the grand scheme of things. I know. I could use prompts and mine my mind for diamonds, but seriously… I just don’t think they’re there.

However, I know many writers keep journals. From what I hear, there are wonderful benefits to training the mind to create on demand, to enter the world of imagination without agenda, to document everything from the mundane to the exciting.

But I’m just not like that. And it’s OK.

Each of us is unique, and we writers need to recognize that. Just because our creative processes are as unique as we are, doesn’t mean one method is right, another is wrong.

So… if you’re on the fence concerning keeping a journal, let’s discuss the technicalities of keeping one starting with how (and why) you should you keep a journal, plus an alternative to keeping one? Here are my ideas:

* You can use a journal to record thoughts that you can later mine for “nuggets,” information you could otherwise forget, but may be useful in an article or story.

* You can use it as an inspirational tool, a way to recognize how life always seems to “work out” despite difficult circumstances.

* You can write in a fancy diary-style book, a cheap notebook, napkin shards. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that you record your thoughts.

* I just said I don’t keep a journal. I don’t. I do, however, write ideas on recipe cards… the kind I can get at the dollar store. In one fell swoop, I get 100 cards and I’m good to go. I get an idea, I write it on the card, then file it in a recipe box I nabbed at Good Will. For me, it works. For other writers, it may suck.

My point? Do what works for you.

If you’ve got any thoughts, don’t hesitate to share them in the comments. 🙂

  • Nancy Bucca

    I guess I do what you could call “journaling,” though most of it’s very messy. The thoughts come quick, I write them down as fast as I can without trying to organize them too much. I save that for later. What inspires the thoughts are insights that flow from times of worship or Bible reading, and sometimes from just being different places, doing different things. For example, I’ll be washing dishes and a thought will come to me. So I take a break and write it down, then go back to the dishes. I’m thinking of getting one of those hand-held devices I can speak into so I don’t have to keep all those thoughts rolling around my head. So I guess you could call it journaling. I’m glad no one else has to read it until it’s typed.

    It’s interesting, because my the best ideas come not as I’m sitting at the keyboard looking at what I’ve typed, trying to figure it out. They comes when I’m not looking at anything. I guess it proves the point that faith is the evidence of things not seen.

  • Beth

    Hey Nancy,

    Great comment. I’ve found the same to be true. My best thoughts do not come in front of the computer screen. My inspiration comes when I’m walking, sewing, cooking… I use my computer time to document what I’ve discovered when I’m doing something other than “writing.”

    I appreciate your insight. Thanks!

    Beth 🙂

  • Karen Harvey U.K.

    I must confess that although I use my laptop daily to write, research and study classes online, that there is no guarantee that just because I saved a link or lead yesterday that I will be able to find it again. Yes you are right, I am not an organised person, it does not seem to be in my nature, I battle with it daily. You only need to see the top of my leteral desk to see that I have no filing system and that everything is ‘worth keeping’ jusst in case. So I too rely on the old card index system to keep my list of dates for submissions etc. in datal order and then the card can be erased or turned over and used again when the date has passed. It works for me. Now where did I put that box?

    Love the newsletter, I am a long time subscriber. Congratulations on your cooking sucess. Shall we look out for your cookery book to be published?

    • Beth

      Hey Karen,

      Thanks for your comments! Glad I’m not the only person who still uses paper and pencil to keep organized.

      Cookbook… who knows? I’m sure having a good time developing recipes, that’s for sure. It’ll be fun to see where this road leads…

      Have a fab day,

      Beth 🙂

  • Vipul

    Yes I do love journalling,,,Its great way to relive your day and see the things,good and bad you did, with clear and calm mind. The acheivements and sorrows…do form a good nostalgia after few years.My teenage journals were full of emotional roller-coasters I had because of my first crush…no maybe second. And all those experiences are so unique and romantic which will definitely make a good romantic story!
    But there is another face to journaling, I find it very time consuming…So I think I will start using your technique of writing thoughts instantly on the index cards..Thankyou for assuring its usefulness over time consuming journaling. That will suit me…
    And yes your newsletters are a very tasty and nutritious to the minds of aspiring writers! Thankyou once again!

    • Beth

      Hi Vipul,

      Awwww… thanks for your kind comments. Oh, to read the journal of a young “Beth.” That would be soooo interesting. I hadn’t thought of that perk of keeping an actual journal. Thanks for pointing it out. You’ve given a VERY valid point for journaling.

      Hope you have a wonderful day,

      Beth 🙂

      • Kimberly McTyler

        I must admit that I am very sporadic in my journaling habits. I must say though that I found keeping a notebook and pencil on my bedside table is a must. I am a very avid dreamer and I get GREAT ideas from even a few seconds of a good dream! If I wake in the middle of the night(or in the morning before I get mentally busy) and jot down the idea (even if it doesn’t make any logical sense) and let my mind stew it over for a few days.
        Ten years ago I did that and got a 328 page novel out of one dream!! Granted the idea was small but complex enough to work with. Needless to say it has been ten years since and nothing really note worthy has emerged since:) One more thing though I have found works really well to overcome/solve writers block: Before going to sleep-while laying in bed, play out in your head all that you have leading up to your block, do that a couple of times before falling asleep. Many times I have solved the issue in my sleep and upon waking the block is gone. Very rarely do I get writers block that can not be solved that way.
        I know this blog is not specifically about writers block but hey if it works for someone out there to free the pent up flow…

        • Beth

          Hey Kimberly,

          Ah, dreams. Something I hadn’t pondered. Great idea!

          Beth 🙂

  • Oh, thank goodness for your post. I thought I was the only writer who doesn’t like journalling. I hate it. It seems like such a waste of time, but like you I do write down ideas all the time, sometimes on bits of paper and post-it notes that I misplace for a while. And I don’t have a Facebook account and I don’t “tweet” either which most other writers gasp at when I tell them. But I really don’t want to do it.

    I have studied and bought writing courses from some really great and impressive writes to see how they “do it”. But I usually find that I don’t want to do what they do. So in the end I’ve come to the conclusion to just be myself and do whatever works for me. And you know what ? It works perfectly. Better than anything else I’ve tried. And I’ve even received emails from my subscribers and website visitors saying that like my “converstational style” and I thought “Geez, I didn’t even know I had a style.”

    I just wish I’d done my own thing years ago. I’m glad you do your own thing too. That’s really inspiring to me.

    (And congrats on the vegan chef thing. I am currently reading “The China Study” so I know where you’re coming from about the plant-based diet health idea. I’m a vegetarian – almost, but not quite vegan because I love cheese – and my family and I don’t suffer even nearly as many health issues as all our friends with high meat diets. But barbecuing is a big thing here in Australia so they all do it. You are truly amazing to help your husband in such a huge way.)

    • Beth

      Hey Ruth,

      AWESOME! Welcome, fellow non-journaler. 🙂 It’s amazing how varied writing careers can be. It’s certainly not a cookie-cutter situation, that’s for sure.

      Ah, the China Study. It’s a wonderful book that totally reinforced our quest to get Maury off the post heart attack meds through diet alone. It’s a life changing book. T. Colin Campbell is one of my heroes.

      Cheese recipes: I had the same problem until I found non-dairy recipes that TOTALLY rock. Look up the Ultimate UnCheeze Cookbook by Joan Stepaniak. Her recipes are the best. We also formulated a corn-cheese recipe at the chef school that I totally adore. I’ve made potatoes au gratin twice this week so far, it’s that good. 🙂

      Don’t hesitate to e-mail if you want any more information about cheesy recipes.

      Hope you have a wonderful holiday season,

      Beth 🙂

      • Thank you so much for all the info. You are a star.
        I’ve already visited our local council website and reserved a copy of the Uncheese book from our local library so I can start reading it faster than visiting book stores or waiting for it in the Xmas mail. I’ll buy a copy after the festive rush is over. I also checked it out on Google Books first. I had no idea you can make cheese substitutes (she says, smacking her forehead in amazement).

        Any chance you can let me have your corn-cheese recipe? It sounds intriguingly delicious. I love potato au gratin or any kind of cheesy potato dish. We had cheezey baked potatoes last night. I wish I had your recipe then.

        Getting your husband completely off meds is truly an epic achievement. And losing 90 pounds must feel (and look) fantastic, although I didn’t think you looked very big to start with.

        Sorry that I’ve got this so off-topic, but I couldn’t find an email address so I had to use the comments. And it may be useful info to others too.

        • Beth

          Hey Ruth,

          I’m glad you’re getting the book. I totally dislike commercial non-dairy cheese. Yuck. But WOW… Joan’s recipes are awesome. I’ll post our Corn Cheese recipe over at the blog early next week. I’m still making a couple tweaks on it and want it perfected before I post it. But I’ll definitely get ‘er up before Christmas.

          Let me know how you like the cookbook!

          Beth 🙂

          • Thanks Beth. I’ll check the other blog next week. I too hate commercially made vegan cheese. Have never found a good one yet, but you’ve give me high hopes for the cookbook.

            I loved the journalling comment further down about “Dad’s nerd book”. That had me in stitches. Kids can be cruel sometimes (but funny) 🙂

  • I do keep a journal I have for about 20 years on and off.. It is the thing that keeps me sane and a way to capture the good the bad and the ugly oh and ideas too ;-D I do not define it as one way anymore. there are so many ways that are journaling, capturing and documenting.. I am a huge advocate of it, but I 100% agree with do what works for you..

    • Beth

      Hey Heather,

      Awesome! It’s cool you’ve got such a deep treasure trove of ideas. I’m always amazed at how different techniques work for different writers. It’s a testament to the creative spirit.

      I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

      Beth 🙂

  • A. E. Poynor

    I have never kept a journal for more than a month. I’ve tried, but just never seem to keep up with it. However, I have always kept a little note pad in my shirt pocket (my 30-something kids still call it “Dad’s nerd book.”) Whenever, or where ever, I am I can jot down thoughts, ideas, observations or resources. I outlined the novel I’m currently working on with notes made in it. I use one of those cheap note pad covers with refillable lined pads. When the pad is full, I put it on the stack with all the others on my writing desk. Flipping through the collected information occasionally provides “inspiration” or information. Not organized, but it’s worked for over 25 years.
    By the way, I agree with Beth – getting out of bed to jot something down in the middle of the night is a waste of good sleep.

    • Beth

      Very cool! “Nerd Book.” Love it. 🙂

  • Alana Gladden

    Glad to know I’m not the only “non-journaling” writer. My brain simply doesn’t work “on demand” any longer. I’m on the go alot as a traveling accountant by day. I do my best thinking in my car with the music turned up. Therefore, my journal consists of my trusty little digital voice recorder. The best $50.00 I ever spent. I just fill up all the folders with voice notes then plug into my lap top and it records the voice to a data file. Badda Bing…Badda Boom…instant notes. Then I’m free to sort and file as I wish.
    I am interested in trying this new “Dragon” something voice recording software I keep seeing advertised on the tele. I used to journal when I was younger. These days it seems to take my brain and fingers longer to communicate. So, I find ways to cheat. If all I had to do was put a headset and mic on and start talking my ideas out…I would start journaling again. Though, I do miss the ratta tatt tatt of my grandma’s old manual typewriter.

    • Beth

      Hey Alana,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I’ve used “Dragon Naturally Speaking” and it’s a fine program except for a couple pet peeves: 1. You get some WEIRD spelling errors. They’re hard to catch, too. Synonyms are especially tough… there, their, they’re… the program couldn’t figure out which to use. 2. I found it messed up my train of thought because you have to be explicit in your instructions. For example, for a typical sentence you’d have to say, “Open quote ha exclamation point close quote he said period” just to write, “Ha!” he said. Drove me nuts. Just an FYI, it’s not as slick as on the commercial. It’s faster for me to type because I can insert punctuation nearly unconsciously.

      Hope you have a wonderful holiday!

      Beth 🙂