Tag Archives: Writing Process

7 Ways To Use A Writing Journal

Most of the writers I know have a bit of a journal obsession. Like our love of books, our desire to bring a new one home with us doesn’t actually mean we don’t have a stack of journals waiting for us already, their pages blank and ready to be filled. It doesn’t always make any logical sense. In fact, all those blank pages taunt us. They serve as a reminder of all the words we’ve yet to write, and we may not even be able to imagine how we’ll fill them.

Certainly, the possibilities are endless, but below you’ll find a list of just a few ways to use your writing journals.

Writer’s Notebook

A “writer’s notebook” may sound a bit generic, but I couldn’t decide what else to call this. This notebook contains a little bit of everything: story ideas, brainstorming, free writing, outlines. To organize all of that, I suggest employing some sort of color coding/tab system or purchasing a notebook with dividers. Once you decide to run with a story, you can start a project-specific notebook where you write down all of your research, background information, character notes, and more for that particular project.

Pocket Notebook

This is a smaller version of a writer’s notebook. The point of a pocket notebook is that it be carried with you at all times, somewhere easily accessible. As you go about your day, you’ll likely hear conversations and witness human interactions. You’ll be in the grocery store or at an intersection and, suddenly, inspiration will strike—a scene, a premise, a passage of dialogue, a few lines of poetry.

You’ll tell yourself, “don’t be that pretentious fuck who pulls out their moleskin in the middle of the frozen food aisle to write a poem.” You’ll tell yourself, “I’ll remember it this time.” But you won’t. You never do. That’s not how this whole creativity thing works. So forget about what everyone else thinks or whether it’s any good or whether it will amount to anything in the end and write it all down.

HBO’s GIRLS and Hannah the Writer

Like many people, I was excited for Season 3 of the HBO show GIRLS to air this month. The season is only two episodes in, and already, Lena Dunham, the creator and lead character, is receiving feedback from critics. If not for the show itself, then for the photoshopped images of her that appeared in Vogue. But that’s another story for a different writer. My problem lies with the portrayal of Hannah, the writer, who is played by Dunham.

In the second episode of the season, Hannah, Shoshanna, and Adam head out on a road trip to pick up Jessa from rehab. Before I go any further, check out the clip below. Note: Skip to 1:48 for the specific scene I’ll be referencing.

 

“We are picking our friend up from rehab, and I just thought there’d be something I could write about in my book. That seems like a very rich area, but I’m just realizing that this road trip is just not a metaphor. It just isn’t. Sitting in car is not fun.”

Part of my obsession with GIRLS stems from the fact that Hannah is a writer. There aren’t many shows that feature writers. One depicting a female writer would be even harder to come by. I enjoy watching her character’s writing process and experience getting published. Yet after listening to Hannah complain about the lack of writing material she’s getting from their spontaneous road trip, something occurred to me that I couldn’t ignore anymore: Hannah’s experience as a writer is unrealistic.

A Realistic Portrait of A Writer

When I was younger, I had this romantic idea of what a writer was. There was magic in reading; there was magic in the worlds that existed between the cover, and writers were the Gods who spun that magic into being. I wanted to be a writer not because I too wanted to be a “God,” but because I wanted to create that feeling for others—that magic and that little voice in the back of a reader’s mind that thinks “Holy shit, someone actually gets it.”

Next week, I’ll be meeting with debut author Kim Fu before her reading at Powell’s, so I started doing a little more research about Kim, whose book For Today I Am A Boy came out earlier this week and has already been selected by Barnes and Noble for this year’s Discover Great New Writers program. A lot of what Kim had to say struck a chord with me, but two things stuck: 1. Being a writer is mundane, not magical. 2. To be a successful writer, you can’t hole up in your house forever typing away. You have to build a network.

1. Okay. I guess writing is a tiny bit magical. When I said writers were Gods, I was being awfully blasphemous, but, in a way, writers are a bit like Gods. They create worlds. They create lives. They can decide when those lives end, and if you’re George R.R. Martin, that’s about every other page. But the actual process isn’t that beautiful. According to Kim Fu, here’s what writing looks like:

“Someone parks their butt in a chair, stares at a blank computer screen, and slogs through.”

But I would add to that. Writers, like most freelancers I know, more than likely haven’t even gotten out of their pajamas half the time they sit in that chair, or ran a brush through their hair. Their eyes feel dry, puffy, and red because of how long they’ve stared at the screen—a headache may even start forming. And more often than not, the words that they’ve put down on the page are complete crap. They cut it from the story, chalking it up to the words that gave them the momentum to keep going, or, in some cases, they may abandon the story before they can even finish it, already realizing it isn’t going to work. That brilliant idea that came to them in a dream wasn’t as amazing in the daylight. That’s the writing process.

My Writing Process

I’m a somewhat frantic writer. I never find a quiet space to write, but honestly, when silence occurs, I do find that my writing comes easier.

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I’m too busy to look for that quiet spot, though, so I write on the go. I always carry a notebook with me and I jot down ideas. I always write down little lines or funny things I hear that I might think I can transform into a poem or short story later.

I buy those 99 cent composition notebooks and I doodle in them. I have two or three in my backpack at a time because I use them for different subjects – academic paper ideas, poetry ideas, and short story ideas.