By in Writing

Writing Up a Mess - 2

Tip Number 1 - notebook

This was given in the first article in this series and it was to keep a notebook on you at all times. And I mentioned that the tiny notebook I had in my bag (and the pen) had enabled me to record a funny conversation , I had overheard on the train. It helped me again today, when I heard another conversation over a period of time. not too far away! And that gave me another PersonaPaper article.

Tip Number 2 - journal

Tip 2 is to keep a journal. This is NOT the same as Tip 1. Tip 1 is to keep a notebook on you at all times, to capture something at the time. With a journal, you may not keep it on you, you might write in it first thing in the morning or last thing at night and you would write about anything at all.


There are different kinds of journals you can keep. Julia Cameron, who wrote "The Artist's Way", suggests keeping a journal and writing 3 pages long hand in it every morning. Since learning to use a keyboard, my handwriting has gone to "pot", so I prefer to keep a journal on the computer. There is even a free program on line called 750 words, which sends you a daily email to get you to write 750 words. This type of journal is one where you sit down and write ANYTHING. If you can't think of anything to say, then you literally write "I can't think of anything to say" and keep writing that or something similar until you have filled up your 3 pages. I have tried this and I find that after a few lines of writing, "I can't think of anything to say..", something actually comes to mind and my hand takes off writing on some different topic. It can be anything, from anger at a friend's death, to disappointment in work, to a new recipe that suddenly comes to mind. Write anything at all until your 3 pages is complete (and more if you want). This type of journalling is cathartic generally, that is, it helps you to work out your hopes, fears, anger, emotions, anything that may be stopping you writing. Very often, this type of writing is the kind that you throw out because it often has your darkest secrets, fears and worries. Of course, this type of writing can be useful and you may find that you can use it but the journals I wrote in this way are ones I have never been back to and which I intend to destroy. This type of journalling is designed to break writers' block.

A research journal - now that's something different. I have a couple of research journals, mostly on computer but you may find it helpful to keep a physical one. In those, you gather any information that you find interesting. It might seem like nothing of use to you at all but if you find it interesting, note it down. Keep the web page, bookmark it, print it out, copy and paste. I have a computer program called One Note from Microsoft and another called Inforecall. Both of these programs and other similar ones allow you to keep a whole mix of information on different subjects. I found interesting information on caterpillars, glaciers, ocean flows and bees that I was able to use in a science fantasy story I was writing. They were in the news at different times and I might have forgotten one by the time another was in the news but by capturing the information in a research journal, I was able to look back through it and devise a plot. Another research journal saved my bacon when preparing for a presentation for my university studies. I had written that one long hand on the train journey, before I had a tablet to record electronically. When the presentation came up at short notice, I was able to gather information together and create something that got me a good mark. emoticon :smile:

You can find Tip Number 3 here.

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AliCanary wrote on September 15, 2014, 10:07 PM

I love to write in my journal, and I have actually mined it for stories that I posted online, so it's as useful as it is enjoyable! I think you should go back to Part One of this series and put a link to Part Two so that people can just click through to keep reading, if they would like more tips. Back-linking is awesome, but so is forward-linking!

MegL wrote on September 16, 2014, 12:41 AM

Thank you very much. I had intended to do that but forgot. Will go and DO IT NOW! (good principle)

paigea wrote on September 16, 2014, 6:45 PM

This is a very helpful description of keeping a journal. Something I have never done.

HappyLady wrote on July 17, 2015, 5:30 PM

Another useful tip. I would probably spend all day writing a journal; but maybe I should. It is a useful tool.

CoralLevang wrote on October 11, 2015, 2:22 PM

I never have had much success with journals. Goes back to the fear of being "discovered." But that is a story that goes back to my childhood. It is a story that has permeated many attempts of writing and creating art.

MegL wrote on October 11, 2015, 3:27 PM

My journal at present is a research journal. It contains information of use to my thesis. Anyone is welcome to read it. It does not contain any private thoughts, yet it still gives me material for writing. I also keep note of interesting science stories because they can help me make my science fiction stories richer and more interesting and believable.