I am not into journaling. You read everywhere that if a writer keeps a journal of daily life it will become invaluable for his fiction at a later time.
This doesn’t work for me. I can’t keep a diary for more than a week at a time. I simply cannot record real conversations I hear that day. Conversation is not dialogue. Conversation is dull, repetitive, and you can never catch the flavour on paper. When I write fiction, all this stuff comes out of my memories at random, here there and everywhere. A journal compartmentalizes memories, limits you to what is written, and makes you flip pages when you should be writing. I can sit and stare out the window instead.
But I do keep two writing journals. Both of them are faux-leather-bound books of lined blank paper. Also important is a really nice-writing pen that you keep attached to the book so it’s there when you need it. And I think it’s important that the journal itself is of decent quality so that you will respect it, use it gladly, lovingly, and don’t lose it.
1. My “To-Do” journal. This beloved book sits on my bedside table. You know how it goes. In the middle of the night your churning mind is keeping you wide awake with the next scene of your novel, and it’s SO good you just know you will remember it in the morning. Surprise. With that journal of empty pages at your bedside, you turn on the light, write it down, turn off the light, and peacefully fall asleep at last, knowing that the idea is safely recorded. In the morning, there it is. What a way to start a writing day.
I do all my reading at night in bed, so this journal also collects my notes from research pertinent to the writing at hand, and in the morning, there it is.
2. My “Done” journal. This late-comer (I only thought of it a month ago) sits beside my computer. At the end of a writing day I fill in where I am in the manuscript, what I plan for tomorrow, how many words I wrote today, how many total words are in the ms., and how tough or easy it was. It keeps track of my progress. Then I can look back and say, “Hey! Look where I broke out of that writer’s block!” I can also use it to boast honestly to my friends.