Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Writer's Diary

I was in second grade when my friend Lisa gave me my first journal for my birthday. Looking back, the gift was more than likely her mother’s idea (most kids would have picked out a toy), but it’s one of the few presents that I remember receiving when I was little. In fact, as you can see from the photo, I still have it. 

I enjoy picking it up from time to time and reading about what was important to 8-year-old Jen. There are also little stories, poems, and songs mixed in the pages. It’s riddled with misspellings that I later took a purple marker to in an attempt to (often incorrectly) correct. Of all the gifts I received as a child, this one played an instrumental role in the woman I would grow up to be.

Although I don’t keep a detailed account of every aspect of every day, I have since filled several more journals. I currently keep three: One in which I work out what life is dishing out to me. One keeps verses that stand out to me during my morning Bible time and what it is that particular passage means to me. The third focuses specifically on my writing.

Unlike my other journals, my writer’s diary is a Word doc that I keep on my laptop, newest entry to oldest. The initial entry is dated November 15, 2002. I was a junior in college and had just changed my major to English after belatedly realizing Pre-med was not the course of study I was meant to take. It was my first Creative Writing course, and I was in over my head. I had to write a short story for the second half of the term and had no clue what it was going to be about. The poetry piece I spent the first half of the term on was drastically different from the dark, morbid, and virtually unintelligible pieces many of my classmates had read. Mine was lyrical and told the story of a young boy called Philly and one of his adventures. It was childish. It was innocent. And I was mortified when I found out I had to read it aloud in class. For some strange reason, however, my classmates loved it and the week before my story was due, convinced me to write my story about Philly.

That day marked my first major step in my journey as a writer. Since that day, I’ve used this journal to document my high and low points; it tracks when I love writing and can’t get all my thoughts out fast enough. It also records when I can’t seem to grasp a single word. I use it to explore my characters, to vent my frustrations, and to serve as a reminder of why it is I write.

Like the journal Lisa gave me, it’s something I can look back on to see my personal growth. I can smile at the mistakes I’ve learned from, be re-inspired when I’m tempted to burn my WIP, and it’s a place where I’m free to dream the biggest dreams I can imagine, then use it as a springboard to push myself to dream even bigger.


How do you track your growth as a writer? Do you record your goals and dreams?  I’d love to hear from you!


  1. Jen,

    I've had a lot more years to track than you have :-), but I, too, have a journal on my computer. I'm not as good about keeping it up as I should be, but from time to time, I make an entry. Two of my three blogs also serve as a journal for me as they're the places I can share my photography and God's many blessings in my life. I have a lengthy spiritual journal on my computer, too, and in it, I let loose with praise and inspiration gleaned from day-to-day living and my many gifts from God. As writers, we're accustomed to using words to express ourselves and I find I can type or write my feelings more articulately than I can speak them. I love to look back over my entries and see where life has taken me and look forward to the places God will take me next.

    Great post!


  2. Agreed, Deb. It's much easier to express myself with a pen than it is with speech. I think part of that is because we can take the time to gather our thoughts and mull over what it is we're trying to communicate exactly when we're writing and we're less apt to get distracted and go off on tangents. I have found, however, that the more I speak in public, the more comfortable and effective with it I am becoming.

    My favorite aspect of journaling is that I often find in looking back the questions or decisions I'm wrestling with have often already been answered, I was just too focused on the issue to see the solution at the time.

    Thanks for posting!