Dear Diary: The Importance of Keeping Journals

Every now and then, the posts in this blog would mention things one could do in order to improve one’s creativity or else force one to write, and keeping a pen and some pieces of paper on you at all times is one of those things. However, as with many things in life, just having something to write with won’t ensure that you’re going to get something. Instead, you should actually write something, anything, in order to produce results. But that’s putting it simply. Keeping journals are important because they’re there to help you pin down any ideas that might come in at random wherever you are, but that’s just the first thing.

Journals can help with other things, besides pinning down thoughts and ideas. Keep a journal, or a few loose pages (which you will have to keep later on, anyway), and sit down somewhere in public. Sit down, watch the people, and write them down. Describe what they’re doing, maybe what they’re thinking, or what’s happening to them, in contrast to everything else that’s happening around them. Take notice of the subtle shifts in the environment, and who comes in at what time. Speculate why.

Keep a recording device and walk around. Articulate your thoughts verbally without reprieve, or without holding back, as you walk. Look at everything around you, and talk about what’s happening around you, and intersperse these with the thoughts that are going on in your head. A veritable stream-of-consciousness exercise, if you will, taking down whatever pops inside your head with the voice recorder, because the speed of your hand writing down things, scribbling down things, won’t cut it.

Keep that journal, and doodle. Draw the worlds that you’re conceptualizing, draw the characters that you’re developing. Create an account of your brainstorming session, write down plot points and development trees, connect everything with a thousand arrows that don’t make sense at first glance. Keep that journal, and list down the books that you might want to read, and the books that you don’t want to read, and list down why.

The purpose of keeping a journal is simple, but the effects that it might have – and especially when you’re religiously putting something in that file – will be profound. Writing about people around you, and writing about what pops inside your head, are just two of the things that may change the game in terms of your creativity. People say “write what you know,” but knowing entails experiencing, and experience happens quickly, sometimes in the blink of an eye something happens that might just trigger something positive in you. For moments like that, while they do embed themselves in your consciousness anyway, especially when it’s a unique moment, it’s helpful to have something to help you attempt to capture the specific feeling and value of that moment right after it happens. One can certainly do a lot of things with the journal. One can certainly write about a lot of things. But keeping a journal develops discipline in two areas: the discipline of writing, and the discipline of comprehending. Because, of course, you can’t really write something and not come back to it later. Making sense of your own spur-of-the-moment scribbles and diagrams is part of the creative process that comes with keeping a journal (of any type, which I’ve neglected to explicitly mention).

So ignore anyone who looks down on journals. “Dear diary” is a great place to start, and if done regularly – even spontaneously – it will naturally and eventually lead you to places.

Something else:

You might also want to look at what Sasa said about writing, because it has the same thought as this post. We’re basically encouraging people to just keep on writing, so there.


Jillian is an English Literature graduate who loves reading science fiction and fantasy, and is a big fan of J.G. Ballard. She is obsessed with coffee, video games, and rottweilers, and keeps herself busy by writing and walking around a lot. She's currently reading Jeanette Winterson and a lot of YA literature.

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