Writing a Personal Journal: It’s in the Details

As a prolific writer, I find myself drawn to reading other journals and letters from people of the past. If the book says, Personal Diary or Personal Letters of so and so, I buy it.

Virginia Woolf was a prolific writer herself, both as her ‘work’ and on a personal level. It was reading a passage from one of her journals that encouraged me, as a writer of journals, to pay attention to the details and maintain my journals as an important extension of myself.

At one point she wrote something to the effect in her personal journal that she had reviewed what she had written previously and deemed it ‘sloven’ which made her unhappy.

My interpretation of her thoughts was that to spend the time writing in a personal journal, one should paid heed to the quality of writing that goes into it. Even if it’s personal.

From the point in which I read her words, I looked at my own journal, deemed certain entries as sloven as well and from then on out I’ve taken care in what I write.

For example. The blah days that pass without event or interest. I no longer describe my days in a sloven way, the ‘it was boring’ way but rather, I’ll opt for a description that my day felt lackluster and mundane. Same concept, different writing approach.

When others ask me about writing journals or letters, I always encourage them to pick up a published diary of another. Take the time to read it, mentally list the things they liked about it and what they didn’t like about the journalists style and then apply the techniques to their own personal writing.

A sloven journal can easily be something you’d like to forget or look back upon with indifference. But a well written personal journal will record details about life you’ll always relate to, remember or at the very least appreciate when you re-visit .

Remember: Put a date on each and every journal entry. 

As they say, life is in the little details we remember.


Featured Book: A Writer’s Diary ~ Virginia Woolf

An invaluable guide to the art and mind of Virginia Woolf, drawn by her husband from the personal record she kept over a period of twenty-seven years. Included are entries that refer to her own writing, others that are clearly writing exercises; accounts of people and scenes relevant to the raw material of her work; and comments on books she was reading. Edited and with a Preface by Leonard Woolf; Indices.

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