Saturday, 23 January 2010

Is Writer's Diary Useful?

There are always opposing opinions about these. Some people say it's totally pointless, while others swear by it. Here is what Virginia Woolf thought: ...I got out this diary and read, as one always does read one's own writing, with a kind of guilty intensity. I confess that the rough and random style of it, often so ungrammatical, and crying for a word altered, afflicted me somewhat. I am trying to tell whichever self it is that reads this hereafter that I can write very much better; and take no time over this; and forbid her to let the eye of man behold it. And now I may add my little compliment to the effect that it has a slapdash and vigour and sometimes hits an unexpected bulls eye. But what is more to the point is my belief that the habit of writing thus for my own eye only is good practice. It loosens the ligaments. Never mind the misses and stumbles. Going at such a pace as I do I must make the most direct and instant shots at my object, and thus have to lay hands on words, choose them and shoot them with no more pause than is needed to put my pen in the ink. I believe that during the past year I can trace some increase of ease in my professional writing which I attribute to my casual half hours after tea. Moreover there looms ahead of me the shadow of some kind of form which a diary might attain to. I might in the course of time learn what it is that one can make of this loose, drifting material of life; finding another use for it than the use I put it to, so much more consciously and scrupulously, in fiction. Have you ever tried it? Have you found any useful material for fiction from your diaries?


  1. I think the closest I've ever gotten to a "writing" diary is my blog...and it is quite interesting to go back over my progress and see what I've learned, or struggled with, etc. As far as getting ideas for fiction from that, not often, unless you count the prompts, flash and serials. The Wednesday prompts quite often spur my imagination.

    I'm not disciplined enough to keep a hand-written writing diary though...I've tried, but always fail due to the time it takes. I can imagine it would be a good thing...but I doubt I'll make it a priority.

  2. You will love what I found today... a book called:
    "Dear Me - A letter to my sixteen-year old self". Some of the world's best loved personalities have written a letter to themselves at age 16. It offers a unique glimpse at people such as: Lynda LaPlante, Jonathan Ross, Will Young, Alan Carr, Emma Thompson, Paul O'Grady, Alison Moyet, Joanna Lumley etc as teenagers.
    Hilarious, heartbreaking, shocking, compassionate.....!

  3. Jamie, I can see how blog would be a good measure of progression. But of course as you well know I am completely on hand-written journal side. Today was a good day. I wrote 7 pages. :-) No everyday isn't like this.

    You are right. I do like it. I will add that book to my wish list :-)

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  5. For me, I write down either how I am feeling about a situation, funny episodes of individual days, descriptions of people, aspects of characters I come across, initial introductions... some of which inform my writing or will lead me to features to develop in the future. I have notebooks to-hand, from bag to bedside for handwriting/jottings and yes, even the odd sketch chucked in, if I feel the odd visual will help. I do have a "Budding Author" folder on my laptop where I create chapters that some day I will bring together. I need time out, PAID, to enable me to focus on finally completing a book.

    I am about to thumb through, "Vintage Woolf - Selected Letters".

    My read for this week's bus journeys is "The Day Job" by Mark Wallington.

  6. Budding Author folder - that's fab.

  7. I used to keep a writing journal that was separate from my regular journal specifically so I could look back in it for ideas and to gauge my progress. Recently I've tried to amalgamate the two, but I can't say that the experiment is a total success.

  8. C R,

    I have considered combining the two as well, since my regular diary already includes a lot of things about writing. But in the end I have decided that while it's okay to write about writing in regular journal, to write actual passages or specific thing related to a project are better off seperate because then I wouldn't have go through lots of personal stuff to find that information.