I have a confession to make.
I’ve never been any good at keeping a regular journal. Not that I haven’t tried. When I was in grade school, some well-meaning person gave me one of those small five-year diaries, the kind that has two cute little keys and a lock. I found it quite intriguing, and in a spurt of excitement, immediately filled in the little space allotted for that day.
I can’t remember exactly the course of events after that fateful day, but soon after, I lost the keys that came with the diary. Yes, both of them. And you know I locked the thing, because really, wasn’t that the whole charm of it all?
When I was in my teens, I gave the whole personal journal thing another whirl, this time with a small hardcover journal another well-meaning person had given me.
This is what I discovered back then: I would write consistently whenever I was feeling anguished, and I wouldn’t write at all when I was feeling grand or even partially good.
My problem was that, even during the whole hormonal mess of puberty, the days I felt pretty good outnumbered the days I felt angst by a whole lot. Which usually meant months and months would go by before I picked up my journal again.
Nothing changed since my teen years. The fact is (and I’ve finally accepted this, although very reluctantly), I simply do not have the disposition to keep a personal journal. I’ll only ever write in a personal journal when I’m feeling down, and quite frankly, I’ve always been quite an optimistic person.
Where I’ve had success, though, is with “specialized” journals. For example, I stayed faithful to writing daily “Morning Pages” as outlined in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way for eight years. I also have a spiritual journal which I find myself coming back to again and again. And the year after my divorce from my first husband, I kept a Gratitude Journal which helped me to keep my spirits up during a nasty custody battle.
Specialized journals work for me. They’ve proven to be rather magical, in fact.
The other day, I came across the idea of writing a book diary at author David Hewson’s blog.
Now, I’ve come across this idea before – in her book Write Away, Elizabeth George prefaces each chapter with an excerpt from her “Journal of a Novel”.
But it wasn’t until I read David Hewson’s thoughts about keeping a book diary that I felt really inspired to give it a try – the fact that I’m deep into WAVERLEY for NaNoWriMo is probably a factor, too.
Here’s what Hewson does with his book diary (he starts a new one for each book). It’s the place where:
…I note down ideas, concerns and, at the end of every week, a tally of the word count and any general feelings I have about the project. My wake-up thought this morning has gone into that diary already. So I know where to find it and it will stare up at me until I either accept or reject it.
While Hewson recommends the software program he uses, I always like to find free or shareware alternatives whenever possible. After a lot of searching around and trying out several different free and not-so-free programs (it was, after all, a nice way to procrastinate – not to mention, I ended up finding a lot of sweet-looking software that had very little to do with journaling), I decided on Efficient Diary. While there’s a paid version, the free version has all the features that I think I’ll need.
What I was looking for, mainly, was the ability to create several different diaries, the ability to print out my diary, and the ability to search diary entries. I also wanted to be able to add a picture if a diary entry felt like it needed one, as well as links.
What Efficient Diary lacks is the ability to use tags but since it has a search function, I figure I can just manually type in any necessary tags at the end of an entry (like “Revision”, “Edit”, “Chapter 9”) and I’ll find what I want eventually.
I suspect my book diary for WAVERLEY will be a success. I’ve only been doing this for a few days so far, but what I’ve been finding is that at the end of a writing session, the first thing I think of doing is opening up Efficient Diary, and jotting down my thoughts, fresh from the completion of a writing session.
There will, I trust, also be days when I open my book diary to add thoughts that come to me about certain revisions I’d like to make to WAVERLEY.
I may eventually move on to a paid journaling software – there are several on the market, and the company that makes the one that Hewson recommends (a Mac-based one) also makes a Windows-based one that looks pretty good.
But for now, I’m thrilled (and inspired!) by the idea of keeping a book diary of my thoughts while writing WAVERLEY.
What about you? Do you journal about your personal life? If you’re a writer, do you keep a book diary, or “journal of a novel”?
And now for my NaNoWriMo update: I went for three days without writing, because of the dinner party we had this past Saturday, and then a deadline that ended up dragging into Monday. So I’m about a day behind.
My total word count right now is 28,449 words.
I plan to do two writing sessions tomorrow, so hopefully I’ll get all caught up!