A journal can be the following:
a chronicle of everyday life
the record of a unique time
a tool for working out emotional or spiritual problems
a potpourri of a writer’s notes: story ideas, sensory images, glimpses of
What can you put into a journal:
memories of long ago or a few minutes ago
dreams and fantasies
real or imaginary conversations
quotations from something you read or from someone
a list of personal goals
ideas for stories
descriptions of people or places
Writing in journals is great experience for aspiring novelists and investigative reporters, for budding playwrights and “Dear Abby’s.” But journals also can be a terrific place for a budding scientist, politician, or business person to start taking the world apart. Artist-scientist-inventor Leonardo da Vinci wrote five thousand journal pages in forty years, filling them with plans for inventions; accounts of conversations, dreams, and stories; speculations on science, anatomy, politics, and philosophy; sketches and poetry.
Journals help us see ourselves and the world “up close and personal.” That’s a good experience for anybody. Keeping a journal gives you the chance to be a friend to yourself. You and your journal can talk about a problem (and work on solving it), dream dreams, analyze your emotions, or set goals for the future. Writing in a journal can calm you down. A journal allows you to “talk out” feelings, etc.
Your journal is kind of like a little box where you stick all sorts of odds and ends, bits and pieces of your thinking and your daily life. You keep them there so they will not get lost--trash and treasure all jumbled together. From time to time, you will go back, pick and sort through what you have put into the box, see what catches your attention and shines. Those bits that shine you can take out of the box and examine. These become the basis of future writing.
Another plus to keeping a journal is that the more you translate experience into language, the better you will be at it. It is like PRACTICE. So write. . . write. . . write about anything. Write in the morning. Write in the afternoon. Write at night. If you do it enough, it will become so natural and spontaneous that it will almost be a reflex. You may be surprised at how good some of that writing is.
A journal can also make you a better student. If you record your work in your journal and think about it, this process helps to internalize your work--react to notes, lectures, discussions, and other assignments.
Above all, ENJOY YOURSELF! Vary your entries--unsent letters, lists, letters, want ads, songs, poems, etc. The possibilities are endless.
EXAMPLES OF JOURNALS AND DIARIES:
Go Ask Alice (Anonymous author. Beatrice Sparks, ed.)
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll
Walking Through Fire: A Hospital Journal by Laurel Lee
** Journals will remain in the English room.
**Each time you write, record the place and date.
**The instant I say journal time starts; journal time begins. Journal time is silent time that you spend with your journal. I will not talk to you; you will not talk to me; you will not talk to each other or share your journals with others until journal time is over. One word and you will lose points. Likewise, you must spend the entire time busy with your journal. Be forewarned!
**Journal time will be about 5-7 minutes. It is not over until I say it is over. You do not have to write the entire time, but you must give attention to your journal.
**I will not read your journal. I will only read what you choose for me to read (unless it is a class assignment.) If anyone is caught reading another person’s journal, it is an automatic time after school and a teacher-approved apology letter to the owner of the read journal.
Each nine-week period, your work in your journal will be worth 100 points. At the end of the nine weeks, you will receive a grade for your journal based on two things:
1. My observations of how you used journal time
2. A journal summary or evaluation form that will ask such things as how often you have written and to copy chosen phrases, sentences, entries, etc. that you select for me to see to read.
At the end of each semester, you will prepare a portfolio of at least 10 typed journal entries that you consider to be your best journal work. It may include poems, essays, descriptions, etc. (No pictures.) Consequently, spend time working on your journal pieces.
Entertain your fifty-year-old self: Write a journal entry (perhaps in letter form) to yourself at the half-century mark. Tell about today in a way that will “bring it all back” to your future self. Be specific and exact: details are important.
Dream dreams, analyze emotions, set goals for the future.
What is the best thing that could happen? What is the worst thing that could happen to you?
What does the word “friend” mean to me? What are my “requirements” for a friendship?
What do I have to do today? What do I WANT to do? How do I predict that my day will go? Do I have any particular expectations or wishes for this day?
Look back. How did it go? What was accomplished and what wasn’t? What happened that changed the type of day you had expected? What did you handle well--or wish you had handled better? And last but not least. . . What can I celebrate about this day in my life?
Tired of real life? Try fantasizing about an ideal “free day”--no obligations, just whatever you would especially like. Come back in a week and read what you wrote. You may be surprised at how much your fantasy says about your current mental and emotional state, about your personality (did you fantasize about lying under palm trees or climbing Mount Everest?) or about what (in everyday life) you feel the need to escape from. . . .
Write lists! For example: The people I love. . . My goals for this year. . . What I want to accomplish by the age of forty. . . What I like best about (me, life, sports, school, friends). . . What’s NOT very important to me. . . YOU name it.
Tell yourself a secret. What am I afraid of most? What makes me bubbling-over happy? What about myself do I avoid thinking or writing about? Pick a secret thing and write about it.
Begin a journal entry with “I remember. . . . “ You can remember one thing or many.Just keep going for a page or two.
What king of animal are you? Write about your adventure as a fox, horse, fish, eagle, squirrel, or. . . your favorite animal.
Write a journal entry describing yourself entirely in nonhuman images (no names, dates, and places. . . no facts or figures). One writer began this exercise with: “I am a river heading out of town.” Write without stopping (if you can) for one page.