Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Seeds for Writing from Journal Entries

Week of June 10, 2012: Finding Inspiration
Wednesday, June 13—Seeds for Writing from Journal Entries
Do you keep a journal? Yes? Good for you. No? Why not? A journal can be an author’s best friend. The best way to become a writer is to write. The more you write, the better you can become at your craft. A journal allows a writer to write freely, without judgment, and without any other purpose but to write and record thoughts, feelings, happenings, and so on.

I write a lot about my Granny Raney—she’s one of my go-to topics when I’m writing with students. My students end up loving Granny Raney and they feel like they know her. So when I tell them I have something awful to tell them about Granny Raney, they are on the edges of their seats. Then when I go so far as to say Granny was a-w-f-u-l at keeping a journal, they are almost ready to fight for her honor. Then I tell them:

“My Granny Raney wrote in a diary every day for decades. When she died, we expected to find hordes of great stories, insights, and scandals. Instead, we found entries like the following.

Rained today.
Maybelle came by.
New chickens.

“June 14
Hot. Dry.
Not talking to Maybelle.
Chickens on the loose.”

I stop and ask my students why they think I said Granny was awful at journaling. “What didn’t she tell you in her journal? What else do you want to know?” And the answers coming flooding in:
            “Who is Maybelle?”
            “What happened to make Granny mad at Maybelle?”
            “What happened with the chickens ? Did they catch them?”
“Were the run-aways chickens the new ones, or ones she already had?”

I answer each question, “We’ll never know.” Then I lament, “Oh, Granny Raney, why couldn’t you have filled in the blanks, added the details, told us the stories?” Finally, I face my students and say, “Do not be a Granny Raney when you write in your journal. Write all the details. Don’t leave one, single thing out.”

Now I’ve already said that your journal has no other purpose but to be the place where you write and record thoughts, feelings, happenings, and the like. That’s only half true. Let’s be honest . . . if there’s a good story, a juicy story, a hilarious story in my journal, wouldn’t it make sense to see if that journal entry could inspire another piece of writing, even a picture book? Of course. And that’s why I created the sheet below.

The purpose of this sheet is to isolate those journal entries that you could use to inspire a story. A sheet like this can be kept in your Writer’s Notebook along with your other ideas. Instead of flipping through your entire journal to find a certain entry, you can look at this sheet to guide you easily to what you are looking for.

An even simpler approach to finding ideas for writing within your journal is to scan the journal and place a star (hand drawn or the sticky, foil type) by each idea that has merit or that inspires you.

No matter which approach you choose, keep a journal and let the journal inspire your writing!

1 comment:

Susan said...

Granny Raney reminds me of the grandma in Richard Peck's "A Year Down Yonder." Will Granny Raney appear in a Rob Sander's book?