Journaling Toward Inspiration: Five Ideas
[*I’ve got a lot of passion (and gratitude) for my diaries, but I realize not everyone has the inclination to keep a diary. If that’s you and you find yourself blocked or uninspired, you might consider opening a notebook or a new document on your computer and trying out one of the ideas below.]
1. Setting Goals. This is one of the best things a writer can do for herself. The goals can be anything from finishing a draft to planning how to get the next scene ready for a critique group meeting. Goals should be achievable (don’t set yourself up for failure!) and they should come with a deadline. When I have some good goals, I’m motivated to work, and that motivation often leads to inspiration.
2. Introspection. Examining past dramas of my life can dredge up various feelings—pain, joy, embarrassment, annoyance, and more—and those feelings and events will often make their way into my fiction. I’m not saying the loss of my kitten when I was eight is going to become my next YA novel, but something about it—the feelings, the people involved—might show up in my writing…and sometimes I won’t even realize it until much later.
3. WIP Issues. My diary has saved my butt so many times! If I come across an unfillable plot hole or a weak character motivation that I can no longer ignore, I go crawling into the arms of my diary like the repentant egomaniac I am. And the diary (nearly) always comes through. (One time it did not, and instead Katy Longshore came through in a three-hour brainstorming session and I will never ever forget that, Katy. You rock!) As I was saying! Somehow the very act of listing random ideas, of being free to suggest the most ridiculous of possibilities and crack up laughing—somehow that inspires me.
4. General Writing Introspection. Thoughts on the journey, explorations of my strengths and weaknesses as a writer, kvetch sessions on how nobody understands my pain as a suffering artist—all that goes into the diary. Also, those fantasies where J.K. Rowling calls up begging to beta read my next book? The ones where my book gets turned into a movie directed by Joss Whedon and starring the cast of Firefly? Straight into the diary. If I write that stuff down at night before I go to bed, I’m practically aching to get to work on my book the next morning.
5. Dreams. I am a strong believer in dreams. So far one dream has turned into a novel, others have become short stories, and many more have gone absolutely nowhere (but they’re fun to read about years later). Even if you don’t usually remember your dreams, if you start writing them down when you do remember, you might find that you remember them more often and in more detail. And all those crazy (or creepy) situations and characters can inspire your fiction.
Do you keep a diary or journal? How do you use it to capture or nurture inspiration?
Also, if you want to snap a photo of your diary or journal and show it to me on Twitter, I’d LOVE to take a look. I’ll post a few of mine throughout the day.