Article on Writing: Journal Writing

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I never travel without my diary. One must always have something sensational to read on the train. Oscar Wilde

(Read the previous blog – Thinking about Life – entry before this one at https://fieliesdekock.com/2014/03/17/article-on-writing-thinking-about-life/.)

People keep journal for different reasons and therefore there are various kinds of journals, such as spiritual journals, therapeutic journals, ideas journal, memoires, personal memories, research journals, journals keeping track of illnesses, art journals, travel journals, thank you journals, etc.

Why do People keep Journals?

The function of journaling is to keep record of information (or statistics/thoughts/memories etc.) regularly for later use. Another definition (according to the website http://42explore.com/journl.htm) is:

A journal is a continued series of writings made by a person in response to their life experiences and events. Diaries contain a description of daily events. A journal may include those descriptions, but it also contains reflections on what took place and expresses emotions and understandings about them. It doesn’t matter what you call your writing, either a diary or journal, as long as you see the distinction between these two ways of writing.

Different journals have different styles. In some journals, like that of a researcher, a therapist, or a traveller, the writer must be meticulous about recording facts accurately to write academic papers, truthful articles or medical reports later on. In other journals used to record memories or spiritual growth, feelings, emotions and thoughts play a more important role.

Examples of Journals

One can almost record anything in a journal and although there are more types of journals, we will look at only a few.

Spiritual Journals. Prayer requests and notes on one’s personal spiritual growth, conversations with our Father and life lessons learned, are the basic aspects recorded in these journals.

Therapeutic Journals. Psychologists and patients can both keep record during therapy. Therapists will write entries about their patients’ progress and treatment, while patients will write down their emotions and thoughts and also about their physical wellbeing and/or symptoms.

Ideas Journals. It is a good idea if you want to be an inventor or a designer to keep a journal where you can dot down your ideas. Painters or song writers find this extremely helpful. In today’s busy life, we tend to forget easily, but when you use a journal, all those wonderful ideas you have won’t go to waste if it is penned down immediately. These days, cell phones’ memo pads and voice notes come in handy to quickly type or record a thought for later use. So does laptops, iPads and tablets.

Memoires. Many people, especially famous ones, want to write their memoires or autobiographies in the future. Keeping a journal helps one to preserve important memories. (Keep in mind that there is a difference between autobiographies and memoires.)

Research Journals. Scientists, archaeologists, journalists, statisticians, mathematicians etc. normally keep journals wherein they record their research and findings for later use.

Progress Journals. Teachers, scientists, project managers etc. use journals when monitoring the progress of projects.

Medical Journals. People who are seriously ill use journals to keep track of symptoms, treatment, reaction to medicine, etc. Doctors do the same when monitoring illnesses or researching new treatments.

Art Journals. Artists use journals to plan paintings, write down ideas for art pieces etc. It helps them to plan projects which they cannot work on right away.

Travel Journals. Journaling helps travel writers (or just for-fun travellers) to write down important notes while travelling, on detail such as routes, costs, contact numbers, addresses, web site addresses, names of people and places etc. They can also use their journal to keep track of pictures taken.

‘Thank You’ Journal. Some people like keeping a journal of the things they are thankful for. It is a wonderful way to learn to write regularly and it also helps a writer to always be on the lookout for something to write about and a good way of learning to be thankful for what you have.

Dream Journal. Some people record their dreams in their journals just after they have woken up. Some dreams have meaning and it helps people to write down their dreams before they forget them.

‘Diary’ Journals. These are the journals most people keep. It is a journal containing daily events, thoughts, feelings, dreams and sometimes, even secrets.

Tips on Journal Writing

  • Make your own rules. If you want to write every day, it is up to you. If you only want to write in your journal twice a week, that’s okay too. You can write long, thoughtful pieces at a time or only two sentences. You can write, draw, design or do whatever you like. You are a unique person and only you know what you want to preserve in your journal.
  • Always keep your journal and a pen/pencil/phone/tablet near – in your backpack, schoolbag etc. so that you can write down an idea when it pops into your head. If you don’t write it down, you will probably forget it. Otherwise know how your cell phone’s memo pad and voice recorder works.
  • Write the date at the beginning (or end) of all your entries. This will help you especially if you need to write factual pieces or even your memoires later on.
  • Don’t stop if you haven’t written for a few weeks. Just keep on where you left off. Remember, you make your own rules! I keep a journal on my computer and I don’t write every day, but I keep writing. I include thoughts, experiences and even world events, because they can also influence our lives.
  • Don’t try to impress anyone in your journal. It is a personal thing and it is about personal growth. You don’t have to try to perform when writing in your journal. Be honest with yourself and WRITE FROM YOUR HEART. Write about all your fears, emotions and your losses in life, as well as about the things that make you happy and the dreams you have for the future.
  • If you keep a spiritual journal, provide space where you can later come back and write down answers to prayer, i.e. write on the one side of your journal and keep the other open.
  • As already mentioned, you can also keep your journal on your PC/laptop/iPad/tablet/smart phone. Just make sure that you make back-ups regularly and keep an extra notebook to take with you wherever your computer can’t go with you.
  • You don’t have to let anyone read your personal journal.

You don’t have to limit yourself by having a separate journal for every different aspect of your life. You can use only one book to record all the different facets of your life. I use my journal for writing poems, keeping story ideas, dotting down lists and keeping recipes. That way I only grab one book when leaving the house and I don’t need a trailer to transport all my journals every time I go somewhere. These days the tablet is a wonderful tool, because I can immediately store my writing in the cloud or send it to my email address.

Did you Know?

  • Journals had been used to record history. Many famous as well as unknown people had kept journals, recording important historical events and so preserved history that otherwise would have been lost.
  • Some journals had been published as books (like Anne Frank’s).
  • Secrets in people’s diaries or journals had led to crimes being solved, lives being saved, conspiracies brought to light and it lead people in love to each other after years of being apart…

Famous People who Kept Journals

  • Louis Tregardt, (yes, that’s how he wrote his surname in his diary) Boer/Voortrekker leader. He recorded how the Voortekkers trekked and the battles they had.
  • Anne Frank was a girl who lost her life in WWII. She called her diary ‘Kitty’ and had various ones. The ‘Kitty’ diary was later found and published by her father.
  • The famous author of Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (alias Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) kept quite a few diaries of which some had disappeared.
  • The English novelist, Virginia Woolf, was another keen keeper of journals.
  • Most U.S.A. presidents kept journals, including George Washington, John Quincy Adams and Thomas Jefferson. However, one unique diary belonged to Harry S. Truman, who wrote in his diary constantly, recording notes on and even his feelings about every appointment he had during each day!
  • Even fictional people like the TV character, teen doctor Doogie Howser, wrote two sentences in his diary (on computer) each day. So did the movie characters, Bridget Jones, Mia Thermopolis (The Princess Diaries) and Indiana Jones, who recorded treasure maps and notes about important artefacts in his’.
  • Song writers are keen on journaling. They write down songs that sprung into their heads at strange times of day (or night). One of them is Jessica Simpson.

Who knows, maybe one day, I will add your name in an updated version of this blog…

Creative Writing Exercise

Write a 10-minute journal entry in your current journal or a note book if you don’t have a journal yet. Write from your heart. You can write about something you did or about something that you feel sad about or something that makes you very happy or something that you are thankful for or all of the above! Or write about things you want to do.

Remember to write the date with every entry.

Try to make at least two journal entries per week from now on. Schedule a special appointment with yourself on a Saturday/Sunday afternoon and one week morning/night.

Happy journaling!

(Read the previous blog – Thinking about Life – entry before this one at https://fieliesdekock.com/2014/03/17/article-on-writing-thinking-about-life/.)

©2007 Riëtte de Kock          www.thewritingclub.co.za

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