top of page

A writing journal worth keeping

A journal is a notebook with a fancy name, though not as fancy as chronicle.

Many writers keep journals filled with scribbles which are more important than they look - observations and memories and experiences and dreams, ideas for plots and characters and settings, juicy news snippets and eavesdropped secrets.

We do this because inspiration is transient and memory all too porous. There's also a theory we'll discover our unconscious selves, learn our unique relationships to the world, develop our voices.

I recently read my journals, kept since 2005. After much cringing and more shredding, here in a nutshell is what I've concluded:

Write the journal you'll want to read.

Like writing a novel, but with a frequently implausible protagonist. I've also come up with a few pointers for myself that experience suggests I'll ignore, but here goes:

  • Only address posterity if you’re having a genuinely original thought, which you aren't.

  • You are not the Queen: the pronoun 'one' is not for you to use (though I suppose one might use it ironically).

  • Polysyllabic braggadocio will not impress your future self.

  • Thanks for the lengthy descriptions of bureaucratic absurdities, humdrum irritations and socially awkward moments, but we have enough now.

  • If you must write about your emotions, please write beautifully, or at least interestingly. By the way, you’ll be jolly again in a couple of pages.

  • Should you find yourself writing in your journal about not writing, take that as a hint to do some real writing instead.

  • Develop story ideas, with actual plots - pitch ideas to yourself.

  • Collect one-line wonders - inventions and mysteries, natural beauty, oddities and obsolete words. You know what you love - collect it in delicious bite sizes.

Most importantly of all -

You're contained within the stories you tell yourself about yourself - so always make them sparkle.

bottom of page