I began writing a journal when I read Anais Nin’s Diaries years ago. I’d checked it out of the library and became fascinated with her account of her friendship with Henry and June Miller and other artists of the early part of the twentieth century. Before long I was hooked by that style of writing. I’d started keeping a diary, and on rare occasions when I could remember, I’d record my daily activities. Then I’d lock it; anyone who really wanted to see what I’d written could have easily opened the lock with a paper clip. However, after reading the Nin diaries, I soon found that the small white book I’d purchased was too confining. I needed to write down more than my daily mundane activities. So I purchased a large notebook and thus began my years of journaling.
I now have volumes including a travel journal, one when my son was a baby, a gardening journal in which I keep track of how my plants are doing and my main journal in which I include some of my everyday activities as well as how I feel about those events, describing them in detail. I write poems. I write about heartbreak and breakthroughs. I rant and rave, laugh and cry. My journal is cathartic. When I go back and read my entries from years ago, I can relive the experience, though that is not always pleasant. Sometimes I get mad or feel heartbreak all over again. But sometimes rereading my journal leads me to understand why things went the way they did, and I remember people and incidents I’ve long forgotten.
Keeping a journal is an invaluable tool for me as a writer because it lends authenticity to my stories. It keeps me from having writers block. I don’t need to search for ideas. I would suggest that every serious writer keep a journal. In it you could include detail descriptions of people, events, and places. Practice turning narration into dialogue. In revisiting your journal for material to use for your stories, you’ll see themes that can be used, conflicts which can be developed and resolutions to those conflicts, all the elements that can be used when writing fiction or non fiction. Most importantly, keeping a journal is good practice. Writers write. In my journal I don’t worry about anyone reading it. I don’t worry about correct grammar or punctuation or writing in complete sentences. Most of all, I don’t censor what I write, and because of this, my writing is much freer.