Once upon a time as a young girl, I kept a journal. Well, it was a diary, because I don't think of journals as the place where one writes about ones' childhood crushes or which boy was cutest at the dance. Those diaries have since fallen into oblivion, or a trash bin somewhere, many years ago. I no longer keep a journal or recording of my daily activities or innermost thoughts. I don't think my life is interesting enough for that, especially compared to the lives of my characters. This is precisely why I did begin a writing journal.
I received this lovely leather-bound journal as a birthday gift, and it sat on my bedroom desk for months before I finally realized how to use it. It became my writer's journal. It's not a daily account of my writing for that day, or even the day before. I don't measure my progress or give myself pep talks about how I'm going to finish the book on time. What then do I write?
Each day before I get comfortable, set up my laptop, and mentally transition myself from the day-job day to the writing-job day, I jot down a few notes in my writer's journal. I don't even allow myself to begin on the book until I've completed my entry. The words aren't deeply personal or enlightening, but rather a place for me to write about my feelings towards a character, or what might be blocking my progression with a particular scene. I might put my writing goals down, but rarely, and only as a sense of understanding my own capabilities as a writer.
Basically, I write before I write. It might be a few sentences or a full page, but I make sure it's done. Not only does this process help smooth out the jumbled mess that is my mind after a hectic morning, but it helps me connect with the characters on a more personal level, and in ways the reader will never understand, but that I hope will reflect in the story. The few minutes it takes to spend with my writing journal is a few minutes more I get to spend alone with my characters and their story.
Not to mention, it's kind of fun to write down thoughts about my writing that no one else will see. It keeps me "real."
Are you a journal-writer?