Thursday, November 8, 2012

Confessions of a Reluctant Journal Writer

Writer Abroad has always felt there must be something wrong with her since she doesn’t enjoy keeping a journal. Shouldn’t all writers love that kind of thing?

A smaller notebook might encourage bigger thoughts.
It's not like she hasn't tried. She did keep a daily journal in third grade, since it was a required classroom activity. In this journal Writer Abroad recorded insights like, "Today was sunny." or "Today I went to choir. It was boring."

That’s why it was such a big deal for Writer Abroad to actually succeed in keeping a journal during Baby M's first year. And writing it turned out to be so emotionally freeing that it helped her deal with the loss of other kinds of freedom that most new parents experience.

Speaking of freedom, Writer Abroad had her first taste of it again when American Grandma came to babysit so Writer Abroad could go to China for two weeks. But Writer Abroad didn’t bring a journal to China. Imagine her guilt. Three days into her trip, she broke down and bought one in Beijing to justify her writer self. Just a small one. One that didn’t scream “write down everything you did today,” but rather, one that encouraged her to write down one interesting thing per page.

The small pages of the above notebook satisfied her short copywriter attention span and allowed her to fill pages fast.

For example, on one page she wrote,

The first thing I saw in China? A Starbucks.

On another page she wrote,

I don’t feel as tall as I thought I would.

And on another page she wrote,

An 80-year-old Chinese woman who is clearly on her first flight ever just examined a pad of New Zealand butter and ate the whole piece with a fork.

In the end, Writer Abroad didn’t fill her entire Chinese notebook, but she did conquer about two-thirds of it. All it took for her to enjoy journal writing was a smaller page. And that was a big lesson to learn.

If you’re a writer, how do you feel about keeping journals? Have you found a journal-writing style that works for you?


  1. I journal to warm-up for fiction writing, or when I want to vent about something. My journals are sloppily written and not something I typically enjoy re-reading. I should try this approach sometime -- I love the impact and the distilled feel of the sentences you've written.

    Great cover on that journal, by the way!

  2. I wish I could use journaling as a warm-up, but these days I have no time for warming-up. It's jump right in during nap time or miss the only writing opportunity of the day!

  3. I jot down my thoughts instantly and my journal is full of rhyming words. I think I should publish them someday.

  4. Rhyming words...that sounds like an interesting journal technique!

  5. Writing can most certainly make you a more emotionally balanced person. The thing is you can tell the journal whatever you feel. There are certain pains that people are not willing to listen to.

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