When keeping a journal—regular (even daily), some people feel a release of energy they don’t have in other writing forms. Because of that, journal keeping can be an important developmental experience for you both as a person and as a writer. Because the journal is private by definition, you can write in it without fear of how an audience might react. No one will ever see it. Not ever—unless you want them to!
Your journal is a kind of writing laboratory. Scientists use a laboratory to conduct experiments. They check what results from adding this to that, from changing relationships and quantities and sequences. Sometimes when the results are interesting and prove worth pursuing, they continue conducting experiments in similar areas, pairing these findings with those from other experiments.
1) Keeping a journal can be this sort of laboratory for your writing.
What if you record your dreams? What if you make lists? What if you do free associations of ideas? What if you recreate the past as you wish it had been? (Give yourself a commanding role!) Have everything turn out “the way it was supposed to!”
2) You can also experiment with various styles and techniques to record your feelings and perceptions.
What if you write only in long sentences? or only in short ones? Or never use the word I? Or use stream of consciousness (thoughts just as they come without any editing)?
3) A journal can be a tool to get around writer’s block.
Perhaps your writer’s block is due to being cramped by the emotional limits you have imposed on yourself. Use your journal as a place to break free to a more authentic you.
Keeping a journal can be a useful tool when you are writing your memoir. It will give you a place where you can experiment with your writing style, form new themes and associations, and help you find your way around writer’s block.
Good luck keeping a journal and incorporating it into your memoir!
For more on journaling for the memoir writer, listen to Journals and Memoirs, an MP3, which is part of our new collection of MP3s, Making the Story Bigger, Second Draft Work.