|Tips for Keeping a Journal from Judy Reeves
Become Your Own Muse – Keep a Journal
People keep journals for a variety of reasons. Some people like to write down their experiences to get to know themselves better, others want to be able to recall funny or quirky family dynamics, and others just want to hone their writing skills. Although people have been writing in dairies for centuries, journaling as a practice became popular in the 1970s.
Local author, Judy Reeves, is one of the founders of San Diego Writers Ink, the hub of the San Diego writing community. Reeves has written four books on writing, wrote a monthly column for Personal Journaling Magazine from 2000 - 2003, and has taught journal workshops and led journal groups since 1988. She was also a founding member of JADE (Journal and Diary Enthusiasts), and served as director of JADE’s International Journal Conference in 1992.
If you’re interested in the fundamentals of journaling or the movement’s history, Reeves recommends books by writers such as Christina Baldwin, Tristine Rainer, Kathleen Adams, and Ira Progoff. Their books approach the practice from many perspectives, from journaling as a therapeutic tool, to a spiritual companion, to a way to stimulate creative thoughts.
“Rather than just writing down the facts, what journaling does is open you to the deeper world,” Reeves says. “I think any time you go into the intuitive, you always write more creatively.”
Reeves went on to explain that, in her book “A Writer’s Book of Days” she notes that the difference between creative writing and journaling is that one can feed the other. If you’re journaling, you could touch on something that might evolve into a poem, a personal narrative essay, parts of a memoir, or even the start of a work of fiction. Journaling can serve as the catalyst to a writer’s creative process or simply be an outlet for feelings and experiences.
“I think journaling and the creative process support each other in many ways. I always tell my writers that they should keep a journal,” she adds. Reeves also recommends John Steinbeck’s “The Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letter” to all lovers of the journaling process. The book contains a series of letters Steinbeck wrote to his literary editor, Pascal Covici, while he was writing his novel, “East of Eden.” The letters chronicle Steinbeck’s experiences as he grappled with the creative process during this period.
Cecilia Donohue of The Literary Encyclopedia gives this detailed account of the book. “These letters, originally written on the left-hand page of Steinbeck’s journal (the right-hand side was reserved for the manuscript), served as a “warm-up” for the author before beginning the day’s work on the novel. Steinbeck defends these supplementary efforts to Covici, saying: ‘You must think I waste an awful lot of time on these notes to you, but actually it is the warm-up period. It is the time of drawing thoughts together, and I don’t resent it one bit.’”
Journaling is a very personal experience, but often coming together with other writers can help stimulate thoughts and ideas. Reeves explains that journaling classes and journaling groups are two very different concepts. When teaching a class, Reeves uses a lecturing technique that gives examples and provides students with journaling exercises. She gives them ways of understanding the contents of their journals, as well as how to pull things out and use them for other creative projects.
“The leading of a journaling group is an entirely different process. Usually it’s a much smaller group. We’re not sitting at tables or desks. We’re gathered with our journals in our laps, and there may be a meditation to center us in a place. Sometimes we use poetry or readings to help us set the mood to write,” she says.
If you’ve never journaled before but are interested in starting, Reeves recommends getting a notebook that that you won’t treat as “too precious” or you might be inhibited about what you’ll write in it. Don’t be afraid to cross things out or scribble illegibly. The journal is for you and whatever you feel comfortable putting in it. She also recommends asking yourself questions to help start the process.
Taking a writing class or joining a writers’ group is also a good way to stimulate your creativity. “When writing in your journal you don’t have to worry about creating a story arc or the craft of writing,” Reeves adds. “You just write.”
Where to Begin?
If you are drawing a blank, Judy Reeves recommends asking yourself questions to help start the process, and provides a few examples:
San Diego Writers Ink
If you’ve always wanted to get involved in the local writing scene but didn’t know where to go, check out San Diego Writers Ink, a local writing organization located at The Ink Spot in downtown San Diego. Here you’ll find writing salons, readings, and a variety of classes and workshops lead by accomplished writers. Some of their classes include Write What You Know, Further Into Fiction, and Screenwriting Fundamentals. There’s something for every type of writer, from novices to published authors.
Visit their website at sandiegowriters.org
You can contact Judy Reeves and find out more about her books on her website at judyreeveswriter.com