Journals, Diaries, Letters, and Blogs
Journal writing is a good way to get that important practice without the pressure of grades and expectations. Journals are for you and you alone to read; you can be as creative as you like, you set your own guidelines, and you don’t have to worry about a deadline.
You may think a journal is the same as a diary, but in general a diary is a straightforward account of your day, while a journal entry reveals more about your inner thoughts and feelings. The following excerpt would be a diary entry:
Today I turned sixteen, and went to the DMV to get my very first license. It was crowded and noisy. Afterwards, my friends and I got together for cake and ice cream. We went home before ten o’clock, because it was a school night.
Pretty straightforward. Now look at the same passage as a journal entry:
I turned sixteen today. It’s supposed to be this big adult milestone, but I spent the morning in DMV lines trying to get my license sorted out. I suppose the road to adulthood isn’t paved with college parties and exciting dates like I thought—instead, it’s a grey shag carpet and a tired woman stamping overdue applications.
Dismal, but interesting. The writer is analyzing the events, not just writing about them. She’s taking the time to think about what the events mean, and crafting metaphors and descriptions to further her explanation. It’s her own private journal, but she’s getting fantastic writing practice for the future.
A few things to think about when you’re journaling:
First, be regular. Journaling is first and foremost a habit. Set a timer and write nonstop for 10-15 minutes. If you get stuck, write “I’m stuck!” Writing is something that comes by doing, so if you push through the writer’s block you’ll be rewarded in the end.
Second, focus on ideas rather than events. See what you can discover about your own thoughts and motives, and push those ideas as far as you can.
Thirdly, experiment as much as possible. Perhaps you want to mimic your favorite author’s style, write in a foreign language, or use a dialect. It’s a safe, private place to practice, and you’ll find your own personal voice along the way.
Another, more public way to journal is to write a blog. But beware! While a blog offers a free place for you to share your thoughts without grades or deadlines, it’s not private. While you can certainly choose to limit your viewers to friends and family, you’re still going to have something you never had with your private journal—an audience.
Still, blogging can be a great way to expand your writing skills. If you’re starting a blog, think first about the purpose. Do you want to document your day-to-day life? Do you want to write reviews of the books you read? Do you want to give your readers gardening tips, or would you rather wax eloquent on the latest sci-fi themes? Whatever you choose, be consistent in your writing and in your purpose. It’s an excellent way to practice long-form writing, where you have to keep cohesive themes through a book or thesis.
Maybe blogs are too public, but you’d still like to share your writing with a friend. There’s no better way than letter writing. Letters may sound old-fashioned, and they certainly take more time than a text, but they’ll give you a chance to see how other people receive your writing without laying your thoughts at the feet of the Internet.
Informal letter writing—not to be confused with professional, formal letter writing for work or business purposes—is a great way to stretch your creative genius. Jot down the topics you want to make sure you hit on a piece of scrap paper, then get to writing. Give yourself the same quiet time and focus you would give a school or work assignment, and try to craft a letter that will be both pleasant and engaging for your friend.
So what are you waiting for? The best way to improve your writing is to write. Go ahead, pull out some paper and begin.
I hope this video was helpful. As always, happy studying!