Tag Archives: writing

The Art of Journaling

I’ve just read Eva Luna by Isabel Allende. It’s typical of Allende’s writing: rich, erotic and inventive. Towards the end of the novel, Eva Luna, explains her intent in writing, ‘I try to open a path through that maze, to put a little order in that chaos, to make life more bearable. When I write, I describe life as I would like it to be.’

This statement really resonated with me because I often ask myself, and other writers that I know, why write? This got me thinking about journaling.

This is me in the 70s, always jotting, drawing or reading. Haven’t changed much!

Journaling is a great way to put a little order in the chaos that might be happening around us. It doesn’t have to be the makings of a written piece for anyone else’s eyes but it can help the writer find ways to articulate what they want to say. My own experience with this is that I find kernels of good material that can be used in my writing that will be put in front of readers.

The idea of journaling is to dump ideas, thoughts and feelings onto the page. I suggest that these pages are hand written because you will be more in tune with what you are doing. It’s also great to get away from the computer. This is NOT the time to censor yourself or to worry about the state of the writing. If you start doing this, you won’t free flow. Remember this is not literary mastery but a way to get to the core of who you are and where you are. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar or complete sentences.

If you write in a free way for five to ten minutes, you’ll be amazed what comes out. It’ll be choppy to start with and you may feel a little stumped. If this happens, write about the mundane things that happened during the day and you’ll find that it becomes easier in a few minutes.

If you really can’t think of anything to write about, record what you are grateful for. Describe these things in as much detail as you can. In my journal there are little things like the joy of slipping between freshly laundered sheets or a description of our puppy chewing on a toy. Another way to get into the flow is to write about events from your childhood. They can be happy or sad. Be sure to use all the senses when describing the events. This task will unearth thoughts and feelings that you haven’t considered for many years.

Don’t be frightened by dark things that might come up. By writing through it you will find light to shine onto the darkness. These are the times when you can explore the darkness in a safe environment.

Showing up to the page every day will create good writing habits. Journaling can be a great segue into better emotional wellbeing as well as unearthing some great insights that can be transferred into other writing projects.


Where Fact Can Be Fiction

I’ve been in a book group for ten years. I’ll admit that the book discussion aspect of our meetings is fairly small compared to the gossiping. But that’s what is great about books. They bring people together.

Being part of a book group means that I read books that I wouldn’t normally choose. It’s a bit like a blind date. Sometimes the book doesn’t resonate with me, other times I’m glad that it was put in my hands.

Last month, we read Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (Vintage Books, 2009 – bestseller). This is a non-fiction account of a family during Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. There were parts of it that I skipped because it went into more detail than interested me but at the end I was quite enamoured by this family and what they went through during this horrific event. This was exacerbated by the fact that they are Muslim and were viewed suspiciously because of 9/11.

Being eternally curious, I went straight to Google when I finished the book. I was interested to know about what the family was doing six years later. I like to think that I am not easily shocked but what I found on Google was nothing like the image I had conjured in my head after reading the book. It proved to me that fact can be stranger than fiction and that we can’t believe everything that we read. I’m sure that Dave Eggers probably feels a bit duped too, since the Zeitoun’s portrayed themselves as the perfect couple.

As a writer and a reader, this raised so many questions in my head and reminded me that memory is a movable beast and can look different from every angle. Sometimes it’s what we leave out that distorts the truth.

Sometimes there is more truth in fiction than real stories.