It’s a journal, dahling, not a diary…

One of the most common pieces of writing advice I’ve read, is this:

Keep a Journal.

For most writers, it’s a great way to expel their thoughts and ideas onto paper.

That’s why I do it… mostly. Other times, I just question my mental health over and over again, and whine about why my novels aren’t writing all by themselves.

If you’d also care to question my mental well-being, here’s some entries from 2010/2011 that I felt acceptable to share with you all.


20th August, 2010: I
believe writing a truly good book takes craft and skill, and I’m
going to learn it if it kills me (although I’m sure it wont).
27th July, 2011: I
just wrote the penultimate entry into my wee purple diary, and
totally squashed up the last page and rushed the ending, to save enough
space for when I go back to it, in whatever time it takes to make a
success of myself. I feel quite sad. It’s like finding out your
best friend is moving to Australia the next day. We didn’t get a
proper goodbye.
31st July 2011: Please
note it is 6:19 on a Sunday morning and I am awake, writing this
entry. Please let this be an encouraging sign that I’m ready to
write like a motherfucker.
20th August, 2011: (On
Nancy Mitford’s “The Pursuit of Love”) I thought Uncle Matthew
was a big arsehole: violent, aggressive and vile. But the teeniest glimpse of him softening (the small edge of the wedge) made
me instantly adore him. But that says more about me than the book.
Give me an inch and I will call you master, unfortunately.
15th September, 2011: Colin
explained Scottish Football to me this morning, and I despair. It’s
like the more I learn about something, be it the government, the
country’s history, football associations and politics, the more I
wish I didn’t know. Does
the privilege of knowledge come at a cost of personal contentment?
I envy the blissfully ignorant.
And lastly, on what I learned from NaNoWriMo, written on the day I completed it:
can’t sit and do 1667 words a day. I work better when I do clumps of
5-6k words every 2,3 or even 4 days.
can try and plot and outline and create spreadsheets all I want, but
at the end of the day, I’ll probably not use it. From now on, I’ll just be
writing the stories, then focusing on the craft later.
I write until I get to a certain restless point. It comes to me
through no choice of my own and trying to battle through it is about
as effective as a chocolate teapot. My little mind is stubborn. If I
try to force myself to think about something, it will rebel. So, I
go for a bath. I watch a cookery program. I do the dishes. I
always end up drifting off into the land of my novel, thinking about
my characters and writing the story in my head. THEN I’ll go back to
writing it.
learned that I have to treat my writing like a good marinade or stew.
Sometimes, it’s better to be left to develop. Perhaps for a few
hours, even better overnight. Too long, though, and it’ll go off.
learned that I’m at my happiest when writing, or thinking about
writing, or watching my characters coming to life. Even the nasty, vindictive ones. I love them too.
also come to suspect that I may be quite mentally ill. I mean, who
can come up with some of the sinister shite I have in my novel?
Troubled soul? Or too many Virginia Andrews books in my lifetime? I
hasten to prefer the latter.
Honestly, I have about three years worth of this (and counting). Anyone want to buy it as a book? No? OK then…
Do you write a journal? Do you think it helps you with your writing?
Today’s J music video, is Jefferson Airplane, with Embryonic Journey. It reminds me of my twinny 🙂


13 thoughts on “It’s a journal, dahling, not a diary…

  1. I think I would pay to read more of this, it made me laugh!

    I don't keep a journal because, frankly, my life just isn't interesting enough lol!

  2. This made me laugh! I always wanted to keep a journal but just found myself feeling very self-concious when writing in it. So now I just write story-related stuff whenever it comes to mind and leave me out of it! I'm the same as you with the thinking then writing and discovered that I also work best in less frequent but larger word count bursts. I am off to a retreat in Devon next week where hopefully I will finish novel #1.

  3. @Kyra Lennon: Thank you! Aww I'm sure your life is very interesting. Or at least you're a good enough writer to make it sound so! Haha 🙂

    @Amanda Saint: I am sickeningly jealous of your writer retreat! I bet it's somewhere beautiful and green and scenic and… *faint* I hope you have a wonderful time, and good luck with Novel #1 – let me know how you get on!

  4. Um, yeh, I journal (journaling woman). 🙂 Not only are both my blogs a journal, but I have "real" jounrals too. The blogs are a great tool for journaling. I'm hoping they'll be there for future generations.


  5. What a great journal! Thanks for sharing, Catherine. I don't personally keep a journal, but I blog a lot, and save emails and so forth.

  6. @Journaling Woman: I thought you might! Haha 🙂 Yes, that's the good (and sometimes bad) thing about the internet; we've stamped our words foreeevvveeerrr… :

    @Bob Scotney: I'm not sure about anyone else, but I keep a word document open whilst I'm writing, and often turn to it to vent before, during and after my projects. I like to write what I plan to do with my writing time, then make a note of what I'd like to do next, at the end of it!

    @Matthew MacNish: Thank you! 🙂 I'm sure blogging is just as productive/therapeutic as journaling in some respects (mind you, most of what goes in my journal would never make public viewing 😮 I'm quite a private person, despite all evidence to the contrary). 🙂

  7. *shudders* That picture is awful. It's so photoshopped but still awful.

    And we have to find out own style for writing. Just like all books aren't the same, all creative processes aren't either.

  8. I suppose my blog is a type of journal as I write what I'm thinking about. I started a journal for my granddaughter when she was born last August. It's a lovely pretty book with he pasge edged in silver, and that reminds me I must go and write it up.

  9. I used to write a journal years ago. It was part diary, part thoughts, part poetry, part prose. Perhaps, I should start again and it may benefit my writing.

  10. I always think a journal is a really good idea when I see a pretty or cool one at the store. I'll buy it and write in it for like a week. Then, six months later, I'll read how mundane (or maybe it's just my thoughts that are mundane) are and I'll start again and can't come up with anything better so I give up. I have a lot of quarter filled, beautiful journals in various nooks and crannies of my house.

  11. @Donna B. McNicol: Happy to hear it gave you a giggle 😀

    @Donna K. Weaver: The photo gave me a smile 🙂 100% agree with you on that one!

    @Cassam: That is a wonderful idea! I would have loved my grandmother to have done that for me! I hope your granddaughter treasures it 🙂

    @a.eye: Oooh let me know how you get on!

    @deathwriter: This is where I admit I have a stationary obsession. I love buying pens and notebooks and folders… but I do most of my journaling on my laptop! Mind you, I spent a good two hours journaling in the library last night *hand cramp* I'm sure your thoughts aren't mundane 🙂

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