I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Do you Journal?

Jennie's Garden

Do you keep a journal? Some people keep a diary of things that happened during their day, week, or month. Me? I keep journals of things I learned.

As some of you may know, I am an avid gardener. (Yes, this is a picture of my yard.) But when autumn approaches, and faded blooms, wilting foliage, and yellowing leaves are the only remnants of my once beautiful garden, I start preparing for next year. I do this by stepping outside with my journal in hand and walking through each of my nine flower beds. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking . . . it sounds more like obsessive gardening, rather than avid. I've been told it is.

I examine each flower, much as writer does a chapter or scene in their story. I look for plants that have overgrown their space, or weed infested areas that, come next spring, I will need to pay closer attention to. Perhaps I purchased a new plant and it thrived – I note that in my journal, as well as the ones that didn’t do so well.

I mark each item in my book like a trail of breadcrumbs in my gardening journey. A post mortem, if you will, of the year’s highlights while everything is still fresh in my mind. Then when my gardens start coming to life next spring, I have a good idea of where I need to start working.

I have applied the same principle to writing. I keep an ongoing journal. I have a growing list of favorite words -- you know, those ones that seem to appear over and over again your writing. I make notes of things I learned at conferences or from books I read that I want to apply going forward. I keep notes of ideas for future books and a list of blog sites I discovered during my journey.

Now as I start my next story, I can go back and look at what my pain points were and hopefully avoid a repeat. It makes it easier to improve on the next story I write.

Do you keep a journal? If so, what do you write about?

Jennie Atkins

UPDATE ON OUR FRIEND, TERI: She is still hospitalized in Cambridge, following surgery for an aneurysm. The doctors found a second aneurysm, but were unable to operate on it and are trying to determine the course of action. Will be making decisions in the next few days. Please continue to pray for Teri, who is experiencing disorientation and pain. Her family--husband and two sons and a daughter, are with her.


  1. Ooh, do I win a prize for commenting first? :) Jennie, I don't keep a journal, but I wish I did...a writing journal is a wonderful idea. I do have a mish-mash of notes, premise ideas, etc. lying around in notebooks...I should find some way to keep 'em together, though, and then, perhaps, it could count as a journal!

    Your garden is beautiful! Love the gazebo...

  2. Jennie, great idea on how to journal! I'll admit, I'd love to be a journaler, but I'm not so good at being diligent about it. I have many a blank book to journal in, but once you write in them, they lose their new perfection. (I know, I know, I'm seeing someone for this...)

    As always, love your garden pictures. I can kill a cactus plant, so gardening is cruel and unusual for even the hardy bushes we have around our house.

    Miss you.

  3. Jennie, great suggestions on how to journal. I journal, but only in my devotional book. I really need to start writing down the neat words I come across. And like Amy, I have a black thumb...actually the thumb of death. Beauitful garden you have!

  4. Sounds like we are all "wish we were" journalers. I used to journal faithfully. Not any more.
    My ideas for novels are scattered here and there in notebooks. Like everyone else, I need to make a better effort to be more organized like you, J.W.!

  5. Beutifully done (and beautiful pic!) How big is your back yard? (As big as your heart, and as beautiful?) I usually journal most on trips so I can "see" for and share with those who weren't privileged to go. I get as full as a sponge, and then when someone bumps into me....
    Like you, I also jot down some favorite writing examples and words that I think work super well, that I hope to use some day when I grow-up.
    Thanks & continuing prayers for Teri & family!

  6. Melissa,
    Yes! Your prize is you get an extra hug the next time I see you! I started keeping a journal for that very reason. I had notes written on napkins (I bet you remember where I got that one from! wink, wink). I had scraps of paper and various little notebooks where I wrote down story concepts, so I decided to put it all in one spot. It does help.

    We built the gazebo before my daughter's wedding. She got married in it!

  7. Amy, Believe it or not, I'm the same way! So my journal is in an ordinary bound notebook. I have so many pretty ones in a drawer, but I always resort to the plain ones because I don't want to mess up the pretty ones! LOL

  8. Pat,
    My journaling is very sporatic. I don't do all the time, but it is a work in process. That's another reason I put my notes in a plain notebook because a dated diary is very unforgiving when you've forgotten a day...week...er...year!

  9. J.W. here...
    Beth, I think journaling is much like a blog, so in a sense you are journaling. I just have a very short memory sometimes...I guess that comes with age. LOL But I found it easier to put my notes in one place. I think that is my logical side winning out.

  10. Delores,
    We have three acres, however, the garden area you see in the picture is about 60x100 feet. When the kids were growing up, the rule was they could play anywhere except that side of the yard - they had the rest of the yard to destroy. ;-)

    That is a wonderful idea to document your trips. I'm usually too busy trying to relax or enjoy what I'm doing that I don't even think about it.

    The list of words I keep are ones I find I use over and over again. Have you ever read a book where the same unique word is used in multiple unique ways, that you think why can't that author think of another unique way of saying the same unique thing? When I'm done with my story, I do a search looking for the words I tend to use repeatedly. I'm getting to where I recognize them now, but it does help.

  11. Jennie,

    I love your garden-yard! Gardening seems to be one of those things, for me, that I hope to "get around to," some year. :)

    Now journaling, that's different. :) I began journaling to God when life was hard as a college student. I found He could speak to me through my pen. I "heard" Him in ways I couldn't always hear him when I prayed out loud. I still do this, but not as often as I'd like. :)

    Does keeping a composition book (plain black and white, Amy!) with book/chapter/plot/character notes count as journaling? :) I enjoyed your practical ideas and, again how you wove your other passion into your writing life. :) Thanks, Jennie!

  12. I don't garden as I have lost a small fortune in plants that have died on this acidic oak forest. I do journal important things in my life. I also keep a character journal as I learn something about my characters. That way I have the information on hand when I need it.

  13. Jeanne,
    A God journal - how neat! Those are nice to have when things get tough and we need a reminder of God's grace.

    I think journaling is up to the person. For me I want a go to reference so I don't have to remember all those little details. But like you I do start a new notebook with every manuscript. By the time the story is written, I'm ready to throw the notepad away. It contains information I need to remember throughout the book like hair color, my hero's favorite car, etc. That way I don't have to search back through my ms for the information.

  14. Ginger,
    Yes, keeping a character journal is a great idea.