One of my favorite classes in college was freshman English. The instructor was interesting and, more importantly, he gave constructive critiques. My creative writing skills improved significantly during the semester.
He introduced our class to the use of alliteration and urged students to stay away from commonly used words that lack description, like really and very. Thanks to my professor, I try to remember to use more illustrative words, for example: remarkably, extraordinarily, tremendously, decidedly, particularly, assuredly… and I’ve learned that when I am stumped while trying to find a fitting word the thesaurus is a fruitful friend.
He gave me the desire to stretch my vocabulary and put more creative energy into my writing. I became an exceptional writer that semester. Everything I’ve written since ‘freshman english’ has been a literary masterpiece… okay, I know you are laughing. Did I just hear a snort?
Okay, seriously – I went though some of my old journals. The pages were filled with “rambling mind dumps.” Not that I don’t encourage random mind dumping – it is quite therapeutic; however, sadly, even though I was writing every day, I wasn’t writing about my life. I missed the opportunity to write memories of activities and events while they were fresh on my mind. I only occasionally shared the things that were truly important to me.
I realized I have pages and pages of handwritten words that would put even the most enthusiastic reader (myself included) to sleep. Until I started going back through my old journals hoping to find forgotten memories, I had never considered how or what I was writing. I was disappointed in my work – I knew I’d been taught better.
I was determined to change my journal writing habits. I made a goal to change the way I kept a journal. Memories are precious and time is precious. The time I spend writing should produce something of value, right?
A few of the things that have helped me improve my journals:
1. Journaling by subject - I began creating Journals to help me focus on certain subjects that I wanted to be sure to write about. Sample Journal Subjects: specific people (I like to keep journals for my children), spiritual matters (gratitude, scripture study), events or activities (travel, vacations, holidays), goal journals (to track progress), Knowledge journals (when you are studying about a specific subject)… well I could go on all day. Hopefully I have conveyed the idea. (By the way, Journella™ makes it really easy to Journal by category – check out this post about creating categories.)
2. Story telling - When I am writing memories from the past I think it is helpful to tell it in story form, with a beginning a middle and an end.
3. Keeping Prompt Lists - I don’t always have the time to write in paragraphs. I’ve found that making lists with key thoughts helps me to remember details that would otherwise be forgotten.
Starting in January 2012 I started a new journal project called “Life.in.Lists.” – come take a look may be one of my lists will spark an idea or memory for you.