Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.
QUESTION: We recently asked you what questions you’d like answered in our Friday Fun post. Today, we’re answering the following reader question:
Jamie Wallace: I don’t want you to worry too much (or, at all!) about what you “should” or “should not” write in your journal. Whether your journal is a mundane record of day-to-day activities or an archive of your deepest secrets and dreams, it has value – to you and to your writing. How a writer journals is a personal choice. There is no right or wrong way, and you can change your mind (and your practice) at any point in the journey. I like to think of my journal as a safe haven – a judgement-free zone where I can write whatever strikes me in the moment. If you’d like to learn more about all the different ways you might use a journal, please check out my post, 10 Ways Journaling Makes You a Better Writer. I hope it’ll inspire you to enjoy journaling in new ways!
Lee Laughlin: Any writing is good writing. Your journal should be a place where you feel comfortable writing whatever you want. Some days it will be deep thoughts about your life or the world around you others it might be your shopping list. If you are at a loss for what to journal about, there are numerous books of prompts. You could also do a Google search, I’m sure that more than one blogger has a list of writing prompts.
Your journal *can* be a place where you experiment with different aspects of writing such as dialogue, or description, but the most important thing about a journal is that it is yours, whatever you want it to be.
Diane MacKinnon: Someone just asked me this question recently. My answer? Write the date at the beginning of any entry. That’s my one rule. Otherwise, write whatever comes to you. Sometimes I write a list of my day, (6:00 AM Got up, 6:15 AM, made pancake batter…9 PM Worked on blog post, 10 PM Went to bed.) sometimes I write about something that’s bothering me, sometimes I write 5 things I’m grateful for. I take my journal with me most places, so it becomes a repository for whatever strikes me at the moment, whether it’s a snippet of conversation overheard at the coffee shop, or it’s a timed writing exercise that begins with “I have no idea what to write.”
My belief is that journaling turns our thoughts, which can go in circles, into a dialogue, which tends to come to a conclusion. My thoughts, once on paper, seem to evolve into some kind of resolution, even if that resolution is just, “this isn’t worth thinking about any more.” I find that kind of journaling therapeutic, but I’m also a fan of lists and categories and mind maps and schedules in my journal.
The most important thing isn’t what you write, I think it’s that you get in the habit of writing. Good luck!
Lisa J. Jackson: I believe journaling is more about getting the words out of your head that are taking up space to free you up to think more clearly. Now, having said that, I do what Diane does, date each page. And then I just start writing. Most times, it’s without anything particular in mind. Sometimes it’s to work on a specific thought that I’m spending too much time on (being distracted by).
If I find myself constantly thinking about, for example, what I need to do before I leave on vacation, I’ll take the time to stop and make a list. If, for example, I have a problem that I’m mulling over – whether with a client, project, neighbor, what-have-you, I’ll grab my journal and start with “Why is xxxx on my mind so much?” (or something like that) and then write whatever needs to flow onto the page. It’s a great way for me to get to the crux of what is bothering me — and once I have a shiny light on the issue, I can decide whether to continue working on it, put it on hold, or just toss it aside. But, bottom line is that I got a bunch of words out of my head — cleared the clutter — so I can get back to doing the good stuff!
Journaling is a personal endeavor — make it whatever feels the best for you.
Short answer: Anything and Everything.
Caveat: When it comes to journaling, don’t “should” all over yourself. Anything goes. But don’t confuse what you write in your journal with something that is ready to be published or broadcast. A journal entry might serve as a good draft, but it’s rarely ready for readers without spit and polish.