journal

What to Do With Your Journal

What you do with your journal depends on many things.
You may be using the materials for personal development – to understand yourself better through the objective recording of your story. Or you may use it as a unique resource for your fiction writing, recording stories drawn from life – your own and other people’s. You may write down conversations overheard on public transport, or in the pub, or at the doctor’s surgery. And you can turn all this into a story without end – writing this in daily or weekly installments until it grows into a volume of anecdotes with its own themes and enhanced with images, cartoons and objects whether discarded tablet packets or sea-shells.
From either of these kinds of journal you have ideas and notes which will make your fiction and your autobiographical non-fiction authentic. And this will mark out your writing’s unique selling point – its individual ‘voice’.
When you come to review your materials, of course, other issues become significant.
OK. So you’ve had an interesting life; your journals are waiting to be mined for information; your family and friends are clamoring for ‘the book’. What next?
Autobiography is now an industry and – as with any other kind of writing – certain rules underpin success. Even if you are thinking of self-publication, consideration of these can make all the difference between a book people want to read and a book that stands neglected on the shelf.
Your reader – the audience – is as ever in pole position. Who are you telling your story to? This will dictate what words and expressions you employ. Would you, for example, want your mother to read what you write for your friends?
And then, there’s the thorny issue of what you include and what you leave out.
The trick lies in the vexed issue of goal-setting. A recent visit to a writers’ group left me convinced that not one among the seven people who read their ‘stuff’ out had the least idea about goal-setting, either for their literary career or for their individual project. Planning for this group was anathema and so was review. People wrote what came into their heads with no idea of where to go with it. The resulting prose excerpts were shapeless, unstructured and cliché-ridden. Their material was raw beyond belief – although not irretrievable. And their goal, if any, was to enjoy their writing. So – in that sense – they had achieved one goal. And yet – in spite of all this – they still hoped that publication would happen.