Writing Process--Keeping a Journal

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I bought another journal the other day. I've always used the college-ruled comp. books--the ones with the cheap binding and dorky place for you to write your name on the front. You know, $1.49 at Walgreens. But I got a nice journal on sale at Books-a-Million the other day and I've already begun to fill it with lists, ideas, story fragments and notes.

I always enjoy reading the author's notes on the inspiration for where the writing comes from. Lansdale, King, John Cheever, Ernest Hemingway and Ray Carver have all talked in depth about how their stories were born.

The stories about their processes are equally amusing. King writes that James Joyce used to write in a milkman's uniform, thinking that the white in the jumpsuit caught the light and reflected it onto the page to accommodate his poor eyesight. Cheever wouldn't allow himself his "gin at mid-morning" until he conquered 750 words, and Hemingway used to place his typewriter on top of a set of dressers, then pace back and forth, typing when the words came to him. This was in Cuba, purportedly. He wouldn't allow himself a seat until he'd taken care of the day's work.

I write this because I firmly believe in documenting the process. There's some invaluable advice from writer Jeff VanderMeer over at this site. He gives you some of his guidelines for writing a novel in two months. There's a ton of useful insight there.

One of my guidelines would be to get a journal. I read each night between 10:00 and midnight. That will change in May when I'm back at the college (I'm on my summer break right now), but for now I'm just setting 'em up and knocking 'em down. Often, after I've packed my head with all of that fantastic storytelling, I'll have a solid idea. If I can't sleep, I tell myself a story. Sometimes that grows into something worth writing down. I jot those droppings in my journal.

I plot in there. I keep track of what I've been reading. I put in dates and specifics for tragedies (more of those lately) and triumphs (hoping for more of these) of the human condition, usually culled from the world news.

Keeping a journal (and I know that's what I'm doing here, but there's something more immediate about dragging the pen, I think) and communing with it daily will orient you to the project more soundly. You'll come prepared.

And speaking of newsworthy events, how many of you are already dreaming up the "cloned-food-supply-goes-bad" epic?

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