Here we fall onto another one of those areas I can’t rightly advise you on from any true personal experience. I don’t journal. I don’t on a plane. In the rain. In a house with a mouse. I just don’t.
Do you? Have you never but have been thinking of starting? Have you heard your fellow writers espouse its virtues, friends prompting you, teachers assigning you to get to it for this semester? Maybe, you want to dip your toe into writing for the first time and feel this is a good way to begin?
Sure, get to it, I say.
Why don’t I Journal?
First of all, despite some high-school, and college creative writing teachers indeed assigning journaling to me, non-writers assuming I do it all the time, and plenty of well-intentioned folks giving me journals as gifts (and I’ve received some very nice ones, over the years) I’ve always felt that the writing I do pretty much during most of my day, is all the writing I want to do. I’m not talking about keeping a pad and pen handy at my bedside table, or in the car; I am constantly scribbling down ideas, turns of phrases, snippets of conversations I know might lead me into interesting territories for stories, etc. (and this practice of having pen and paper handy is one I can and do advise).
But the self-reflective ruminations that journals are supposed to pull from you (don’t get on my ass here, I know one can write anything they like into a diary, and I talking about diary-like scribbling here), I feel I’m already slipping that into my fiction, blogs, poems, plays and songs, especially my songs). I’ve always worried that, for me, journaling would lessen the vitality of my ideas or see me puking forth so often in a diary that I’d be too exhausted to write any of these thoughts in my ‘real’ writing.
Pretty much what I have against blogging for oneself or tweeting all day long.
Yes, I know the argument could be made that prompting a steady flow of stream-of-conscience writing keeps one better in touch with one’s emotions. That all writing keeps one’s writing muscles in shape. I can’t argue either point, but none of this is true for me, or more precisely, I am not going to start journaling now when I have never done it, and certainly have enough writing to keep me busy during the hours of the day when I am trying to earn my bread-and-butter money.
For some people, the only writing they ever get to, is what they manage when they journal. And being an old curmudgeon eschewing technology as often as I do, I certainly like the idea of putting pen to paper for whatever reason (I love how it so often shocks people to see me sitting in a Starbucks or some other over-priced too-cool-for-school coffee spot, working furiously on the papers of a manuscript, or actually reading an honest-to-goodness book!)
Really, it’s not for me to tell you to journal or not; if you have read any of this column before, you know by now I would never demand that a writer has to do this or that. Whatever gets you there, short of smoking crack or going out chopping up city sanitary workers, burying them in your basement and then writing what you feel is authentic serial killer short stories, is fine by me. (Actually, if you are smoking crack, that’s fine by me, but leave those city workers alone ok?)
To journal or not to journal, that’s up to you.