The Sunday Salon: Keeping Separate Journals

This morning I spent a few minutes browsing Amazon, having fantasies about books I want to buy, borrow or steal (jk), and thinking in particular about books on writing creative nonfiction.

Of course that means browsing books by the “godfather” of creative nonfiction Lee Gutkind, coming upon a listing for The Art of Creative Nonfiction, and clicking the Look Inside link on the book cover to get a taste. I scanned the Table of Contents and saw a section titled “Start a Writer’s Journal,” which was intriguing because I’ve kept journals for years, writing not only personal stuff, but also stuff about writing, observations, notes, etc.

Often, though, when I’ve gone back through journals, I find it hard to sort through the personal and pick out the “writerly” entries, things that might make a good story or a good detail in a story. It really never occured to me to keep separate journals, a personal journal and a writer’s journal. Or, it did, but it seemed to be a “why bother?” thought. Wouldn’t that become confusing? How many notebooks do you need?

But Gutkind advises writers to keep a separate journal. A personal journal, he notes, can be, well, too personal, divulging too much of his or her life, too much that may not be fit for public consumption. Or maybe it is?

A writer’s journal, Gutkind says, is a little less personal, though not lacking in personality. It’s where “you conduct an ongoing, spontaneous dialogue with yourself about writing, developing the subjects you intend to or are actually writing about.” Gutkind compares the writers journal to an artist’s sketchbook: “It’s where the masterpiece begins.”

It’s certainly something to think about, though at the moment I’m confined to one notebook because that’s all I can afford. I suppose I could open a new blog, but then that would confine me to the computer, wouldn’t it?

So, do you keep a separate writer’s journal? How do you use it?


4 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: Keeping Separate Journals

  1. Quite often when I’m sitting down to write, I give myself half an hour in my personal journal to offload all of the daily personal nattering and general nonsense — taking out the trash, as it were.

    When that half hour is up, it always feels good to close that notebook and reach for the other one.

  2. I personally keep at least two separate journals. One for personal reflections, the other for professional writings. But I often find that the content can become blurred. So when writing personal reflections, it often leads to ideas for publishable pieces, and vice versa. So eventually my efforts to become organized never truly work out. But who said writing was neat.

  3. I have one hardcover journal I always have for personal journaling, although I do write about my business and writing in my personal journal.
    I also have a spiritual journal for writing down insights.
    I have a smaller notebook journal I keep for quotes, bits of prose, and note taking.

    Dawn Herring
    JournalWriter Freelance
    Be Refreshed!

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