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Journaling

Many of us keep journals to reduce stress or to record life’s events for posterity, and writers especially should make use of this creative outlet. Journaling can be a great tool for writers—the journal becomes a repository for fresh ideas and a safe place to write. Whether it’s a spiral notebook or a leather-bound book with a beautiful cover, a writer’s journal should be a source of inspiration.

There is an endless variety of journals to choose from. Select something that inspires you, that makes you eager to crack your journal open and turn to a fresh page. A beautiful diary with fun pockets or an elegant cover will make writing a pleasure. Invest in a fun or really fancy pen to use just for your journaling. Then, you are always ready to write!

Keep your journal handy for jotting down those whimsical ideas or brilliant first sentences that pop into your head at the oddest moments. If your journal is large or bulky, keep a spiral-bound pocket-sized notebook around. You can then transfer your ideas to the larger journal.

Write regularly and on a schedule. Get into the habit of writing each day, and you’ll be perfecting your craft at the same time.

A journal is meant for no one’s eyes but your own, so let those ideas flow unfettered. A little stream of consciousness is good for the soul, and no one will be looking over your shoulder, judging you on punctuation issues or your choice of simile. Sometimes when we let ourselves go and just write, we gain priceless personal insights—and these insights can help us to be better writers.

Later on, you can use your journal entries to write a memoir of your life before you became a famous writer!

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If the ideas aren’t flowing, try some writing prompts and power your way through writer’s block. Sometimes the very act of writing will clear the path for new ideas and recharge your sagging muse. A Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux includes writing prompts applicable to either prose or poetry at the end of many chapters.

Some writers add newspaper clippings, sketches, or magazine articles to their journals—anything that inspires them. Others keep pictures or make lists. That’s the beauty of a journal—there are no rules, and this freedom is the catalyst that can unleash your creativity.

We can also go paper-free and buy journaling software, keeping a record of our thoughts and ideas on our personal computers. These programs have the standard word-processing capabilities, and most allow the user to add graphics, sound bites, and charts. If you’re thinking of buying, try the 30-day free trial period available with most of the software. If a trial period is not available, make the most of user-review sites like www.epinions.com. A few to check out:

Alpha Journal (www.alpharealms.com/journal/index.htm)

Digital Diary (www.ajebe.com)

The Journal (www.davidrm.com)

Thinking of turning your real-life experiences into a series of essays? Writer’s Relief can help you publish your creative prose in literary journals and magazines.

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