My experience keeping a Diary, how it helped my writing and what other writers have to say.
After keeping a journal almost constantly for 25 years, I'm convinced that a diary can benefit writers in any field. A Diary helps you to begin writing. Write regularly in your journal, and you will write easily and naturally. Soon your diary will become a confident to whom you can entrust intimate secrets without interruptions or criticism.
In a diary, you write about life as you live it, as if you were telling a story to a friend, in a notebook, you jot down notes for future reference. Like many other writers, I use one book for both purposes.
If you can, write every day, before you're too tired to make an entry. Describe your experience before your memory changes it. Let each entry relfect the immediacy of your life.
Make diary entries spontaneous and conversational. Describe a scene. Record events, travel notes and dialogue.Once on a Greyhound bus, I overheard a fascinating converstion between two teen-age girls who dated men in motorcycle gangs. I recorded it in my diary,word for word, and used it in a novel with almost no editing.
A journal must be small enough to fit into your purse, pocket or briefcase. Take it everywhere--the doctor's office, the bank, on a plane. Keep it next to your bed at night. You never know when inspiration will strike; a forgotten insight can be a lost opportunity. Record dreams as soon as you wake up; they can teach you about yourself and enrich your writing.
The journal helps you learn to use facts, quotes, anecdotes and impressions. Make lists of characters, titles, themes, plots, people you've loved, your worst fears, places you have lived or visited, books you hope to read or write.
Read published journals for glimpses of ordinary moments in the lives of famous people and extraordinary moments in the lives of ordinary people. Experiment with various writing styles, and choose what works best. Don't worry about grammar, punctuation, or spelling. Let your writing reflect you.
Include letters, stories from family members,descriptions of your children, and other items of interest. Immortalize your love affairs in your diary.
Diary writing is the most private of all writing. Include your innermost thoughts, no matter how silly, selfish or strange. Each time you write about an experience, examine your emotions. Explore and declare who you are and what you believe. Once you understand yourself, you will be better able to create believable characters and plots.
Your diary helps you understand life. You can experience anger, fear and depression as you reread your writing.
A diary aids memory. When I reread journals I wrote 20 years ago, I feel as if another person had written them. I read about old friends, and places that were once home for me, and often must read five or six times before I can recall them clearly.
Often there is little similarity between what I remember and what actually happened. But both versions have meaning for me as a writer.
Sharpen all your senses. In a restaurant, describe sensually in writing what you eat, including the aromas, textures, ambiance, and your reactions. One day when you need a restaurant scene, you can draw on this entry to your diary.
The journal is a key to the past and offers a glimpse into the meaning of life. make your diary entries so real that when you read them over, you feel as if you've stepped into a time machine. Expeience again those passionate goodbyes, hear that orchestra play, feel the ocean breeze on your face. These sensations will help you make your characters come to life. Park enough meaningful details onto your pages to create realistic characters and plots.
You'll learn to enjoy the process of creating, not just the end product. You'll begin to love writing as much as you love having written. Your journal will become an invaluable resource for each new writing project. It will furnish ideas and inspiration for both fiction and nonfiction, and cure or prevent writers' block.
Just writing in your diary can get your creative juices flowing. And the diary helps you remember what it was like to be you at different stages of your life. The theme is always personal, but you also describe your significant relationships as well as casual acquaintances. If you look deep enough into yourself, using all your senses to describe your world, your writing will become universal, touching everyone's truth.
Your diary can be a work of art in itself. you may even decide to publish it. Anais Nin published diaries that she wrote between the ages of 11 and 73. In one journal, she wrote, "We write to create a world in which we can live, to heighten our awareness of life, to lure and enchant and console others, to serenade our loves, and to transcend our life."
She advised writers, "Don't generalize in your diary. Don't intellectualize. Write what you see, what you hear, what you feel."
Keeping a diary can be a powerful course in writing, and you may produce a tool that will help you all your life.