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The Writer's Journal
Do you dream? Do entire novels play themselves out in your imagination each night as you are peacefully, or not so peacefully, slumbering? Perhaps you daydream? Do you lose track of where you are and what is going on because you have been sucked into a world that your mind has created? Does it distress you that when you sit down to write that you can never remember these dreams?
A great way to keep track of all the story ideas that go running through your head is to keep a writerís journal. Unlike a diary, you donít keep track of the daily events of your life, though you can track those as well, if you wish. Instead you write down story ideas, character descriptions, snatches of dialogue and anything else that you might want to use in a story.
Two separate journals would be great - one in a notebook that you carry around in your purse or car and another on your computer. The notebook in your purse or car comes in handy when you are away from home and your computer. You can jot down interesting things that you see, scraps of overheard conversation, descriptions of people, etc.
A journal on your computer is a great place to organize these ideas. It might also be a good idea to print out this computer journal and keep a copy of it somewhere. In case of an extended electrical outage, it would be nice to still have access to your notes when the computer is pretty much useless. Even if you have a laptop, the battery will only run for so long without power.
The notebook in your purse also comes in handy if, for instance, you run out of gas and have to wait on someone to bring you more. That happened to me once, and I used the time to sit and write about the experience in a journal I carried with me. I donít recommend running out of gas, though. The experience taught me a lot, but it really wasnít much fun.
Ideas tend to go running full speed through your head when you canít stop to write them down or take time out to type them on your laptop. When that happens, just rest assured that if the same ideas will come back to you if they are worth remembering.
Your writerís journal is a good place to write down the experiences that you go through and how you react emotionally and physically, and the reactions of others. Are you scared of storms? How does one make you feel? Have you gone through traumatizing times raising you teenage children? Have you ever been the victim of a crime? Have you ever had a parent die? Have you ever been attracted to someone who wasn't attracted to you? Has your marriage ever been on the rocks? All of these experiences are fodder for a future story, even when it hurts to write about them.
If you have a camera, digital or not, pictures speak volumes. Pictures of interesting things or places add to your journal and spark your memories and imagination. Pictures of a trip to the Golden Gate Bridge could start your muse thinking about a romance or murder centered around the bridge. Grab your camera, go outside your house, and look around. In the fall, take pictures of the trees as their leaves change to brilliant yellow, gold, and orange. There is a boat in my backyard. Yes, I said a boat. It is an unused boat, rather old and dilapidated, but right above this old boat is a tree whose leaves have turned the most beautiful shades of gold, orange, and yellow. Behind this gorgeous tree are other trees, already stripped of their leaves by the cooler autumn temperatures. One way to get your mind back on track when writer's block sets in is to pull out the pictures and stare at them. You will be amazed at stories that begin to run through your mind.
New words that you have learned can be kept track of in your journal. Subscribe online to receive a new word to learn each day at http://wordsmith.org/. It is free and you will learn new words that can be used in your writing. Todayís new word was eleemosynary. It is an adjective that means relating to charity. ĒEvery Thanksgiving our church has an eleemosynary dinner.Ē
Write down scraps of overheard dialogue. Iím not encouraging you to eavesdrop or anything, but when you go shopping or walk down the street in a busy town, you canít help but pick up scraps of conversation, especially around the holidays. ďI canít believe it. My mother-in-law is coming down to spend Christmas with us! I would never forgive myself if she tripped and fell on the ice.Ē No, that wasnít overheard, but if you happen to listen in on a scrap of conversation like that, questions arise. What does the lady have against her mother-in-law? Is she planning on 'accidentally' making her trip and fall on the ice? What will her husband do if he finds out? For that matter, what kind of person is the mother-in-law? Does she try to run her sonís marriage and try to tell his wife what to do? Does the son call his mother and ask her advice about everything, instead of talking to his wife about them? Could there possibly be some resentment there?
Look at your mind maps. Take, for instance, the items that bring you fear. Most everyone is scared of tornadoes, unless you are a tornado chaser. Write down why you are scared of them. Do the same for each of the words under each heading.
Ideas are everywhere around us. As writers, we need to keep track of them and be able prompt our muse to make stories out of them at a momentís notice. A writerís journal helps us to accomplish this.
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