Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Diaries: not just for girls

People say: "Write a little every day!" The good thing? No one says you must continue writing your WIP. Nathan Bransford recently posted on how he can't write every single day. He needs distractions of some kind. And if you're looking to vent, need some time to sort out a particularly tumultuous day or want a bit of serenity and reflection, diaries are the perfect solution.

I think we need to address the problem of "diaries are for girls" right now, though.

First of all, there's the general aversion to the word "diary". FYI, "Dear Journal" works just as well. So does "Yo, ma tough homie notebook" (you know, just in case a thug decided to crack open a Moleskine). A discreetly coloured notebook will also let you answer the question "Dude, why're you carrying around that book?" with "This is confidential material unsuited for the regular civilian's eyes." Learning how to waggle your eyebrows like a CSI agent on TV would be beneficial as well. However, this obviously doesn't work with pink notebooks. Just saying.

Next, the question: what to write? Here's where anything goes. The purpose of a diary/journal/tough homie notebook is to get words down on paper. Trains and trains of thoughts can chug in here to get a maintenance check and let off some steam. If recapping the day's events isn't interesting at all to you, give yourself permission to let loose all those snarling thoughts about your boss's annoying tea addiction, or how you hate the weird dog that's always sitting in a puddle of its own pee at the corner of your block.

If all else fails: write song lyrics. I think this method works tremendously because everyone has a song or two that they relate to, that they consider their song. Record how the lyrics make you feel, how the crescendo over the bridge can always make you catch your breath, and the way the final beat of the bass goes right through your chest.

No matter what you write, your diary will be filled with genuine emotion. It's personal, it's real; and being able to transfer that emotion into your writing is powerful. Another thing people say often is "Write what you know". And what do you know better than your own life story?


  1. That's some damn good advice. The only snag that I've come across is that I never write my true thoughts or feelings in a diary in case it ever gets read by someone (it has happened on a few occasions) so my diaries are usually a boring recap of the day. Still, if it means that I do some writing during the day then it's all good :)

  2. Jessamyn West said, "People who keep journals have life twice." I've been writing in diaries/journals/notebooks since I was 7. It's feels good to get everything out onto the page! And it's hilarious (and a relief) when I reread them to see how far I've come. :)

    I wonder if the popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid series have made diaries more acceptable for boys? That'd be interesting to look into.

  3. Yo, G, I ain't keeping no diary.

    Just kidding. I don't know that I would ever get into an actual physical journal, and keeping up with writing in it daily, but I suppose a web log (blog) is somewhat similar, just not quite as personal.

  4. I've never kept a diary/journal. It's just not me. I think they are a valuable tool for people in general, and of course writers, and probably something I should do, since I have the memory of a gnat! ;) And journals are not girlie! :)

  5. I think Samuel Pepys would agree that diaries are not just for girls :)

  6. I've kept journals off and on in my adult life--mostly I keep them when I'm on some kind of wilderness trip. My journal entries from my kayaking trips in Prince William Sound really helped bring to life the setting in my MG novel, Stranded.

    Now, I've just returned from Italy, my first time there. I had a journal with me and intended on writing in it daily---I wrote in it once....

  7. I used to be fascinated by the little locks on diaries, and the little keys. It made the whole idea of writing a diary seem so important!

  8. So lame am I that, piqued by this nice post, I just Googled "Diary of a.." Believe me, the diary is sizzlin. There's the expected stuff -of a geek, madman, quitter, call girl but, my favorite, there's the diary of a wombat. Who knew those Aussi critters kept secret diaries?

  9. You just have to preface every entry with "Captain's log..." and enshroud all of your personal details with intricately complex technical jargon. Hopefully intruders will give up before discovering any juicy bits.


  10. OMG I so agree! I often find myself wandering through the journal/diary sections of stores wondering, "where are all the ones for boys?"


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!