You don’t have to read about the craft of writing for very long before the sage advice to keep a writer’s journal appears. It’s good advice, often handed down from the writing gods. So do you? Do you have the wisdom to use one? Or do you, like me, find them troublesome?
In this modern world a journal can now be many different physical things. No longer is journaling done only in a hard backed book but it can also be done on your personal digital assistant (Blackberry etc), your mobile phone, your PC, your dictaphone, your camera or your video camera. One author apparently kept a journal written on napkins and bills, all very loosely organised in a carrier bag.
So what’s my problem? For a start I am old fashioned, I like notebooks, I like flicking through pages and glancing at the notes. For me a notebook works. The problem arrives when I try carrying it and its associated pen around with me.
Small pocket notebooks die incredibly rapidly in my back pocket. Pens snap and then dye everything else. They are fiddly to write on, have no hard back and get covered in pocket filth.
Medium notebooks, A5 (1/2 Letter) are great, especially the ones with a hard back. You can write easily in them, each page carries enough words before having to be turned. The thick ones hold loads of words and diagrams, yet are still not too heavy to carry. You can cram them full of tickets, leaflets, flowers and whatever else fits in between their handy pages. Unfortunately, they do not fit into your pockets so you have to carry them. Usually resulting in hopeful trips back to where they were put down and forgotten. They don’t hold a pen and so the slight trouble of inadvertent clothes dying remains.
Large notebooks are stay at home affairs. Too big to carry, impossible to open up and work in, unless placed upon a desk. They are even too awkward for use when moving around your own house and of course the pen problem remains.
So I have been on a quest for a solution, sampling every variant I find hiding on the stationer’s shelves.
Was it worth the trouble? Yes, absolutely, irrefutably, yes!
Adding notes, thoughts, immediate emotions, playing with scenes and beats, when and wherever you are, all allow you to work continuously on your current or next project(s). There are many other gains from journaling but they need a dedicated post of their own.
Happily, I have found a solution and like all the best solutions it is a simple one, doesn’t require batteries and can even accommodate the problematic pen. The answer to my prayers is a variant of the carrier bag, only it is made of canvas, has pockets, holds an A5 note book, mobile phone, camera and a selection of pens.
Yes, it’s a shoulder bag. Now apart from having people give me those funny looks that they so often do when questioning someone’s sexuality, all is good. I can pick it up instantly; keep it with me at all times, collect bills, napkins and any other small memorabilia, as well as capturing photos, sounds or short video. It holds a thick A5 notebook and I can have it out and be scribbling, in seconds. The bag itself has become my writer’s journal and the contents are the tools that make it work. I can now work when waiting for the Doctor or walking in the park. Details of interest can be recorded at the time along with my immediate feelings.
So my writer’s journal is now a canvas bag and at long last it is finally working well.
What is your journal and what do you record there?
What problems have you encountered and what useful tips have you found?
And if you don’t use a journal, please let us know why they don’t work for you.
Photo; My Journals, cc A Shackcloth