Write It Down


Vision 68


Write It Down


Ruth O'Neil

Copyright © 2012, Ruth O'Neil, All Rights Reserved


First published in The Writer April 2011

Journaling can be fun; however everyday journaling can be tedious, monotonous and boring. At least it’s boring with my own life. I spend each day struggling to keep up with everything that has to be done when everything about life seems to be moving faster than I am. I end up falling farther and farther behind. And what is there to write about every day anyway? Let’s face it – most of our lives are not exciting enough to write about on a daily basis. We get up and get the kids off to school and then we go to work ourselves. We come home, fix dinner, do homework, bathe the children, put them to bed, and do a few chores before we fall into bed ourselves. Our lives have become routine than ever with only minor interruptions of excitement.


But there are other forms of journaling we can do that may spark our writing creativity and also give us ideas to use in our writing at a later time. First, I purchase several blank journals. These are readily available at most dollar stores. (Another fact of life is that the freelancer’s salary is not enough that calls for squandering money! You can also stock up on notebooks at back-to-school time. I just bought thirty at $.10 each.) Keep several of these journals handy and use each one for different categories.


1. Start with your memories from childhood. Surely, there is a plethora of things you can recall! Remember how it felt when you tried out and made the basketball team or cheerleading squad? There was the time you gave yourself a black eye pretending to be Wonder Woman while playing in the woods one day. You got a little too dizzy with all that spinning and ran right smack into a tree! (Yes, I really did!)


Even if your childhood memories are not something you want to remember because it was not a happy one, you can still use those unpleasant times for your writing. Write an article about those experiences and your reaction to them. How did you feel then? How do you feel now? You have no idea who you might be a help to because they are in the same situation and don’t quite know how to handle it, at least until they read an article you have pulled out of your journal. Don’t underestimate the negative experiences in your life; they can be quite useful.


If you have trouble coming up with memories from your childhood, siblings can be a great help. They have a tendency to remember all the things that your mind wanted to forget. My sisters have reminded me of so many of my blunders that I wished I had never asked them in the first place!


People from our childhood that have stuck in our memories can help develop characters for longer works such as novels. Remember that teacher you had that really helped you with your schoolwork? What a about that friend that lived down the road for just one summer? This will also give you incidents you can use to move the plot along in your stories if you are searching for just the right event.<


2. Children can themselves be a treasure trove of stories. I have begun a journal for each one of my kids. You never know when they will say and do something funny (or stupid if you’re my son.) I have had several things published as fillers because I took the time to write down what happened, when it happened. Magazines love cute kid sayings and they can be used in all types of publications. Those fillers may not pay a whole lot, but they can more often than not be sold over and over as reprints and one-time rights. Even if you never pull anything out of those journals that you keep for your kids, they will make a great gift later in their life. I plan on giving my kids their journals when they are grown and have children of their own and maybe inspire them to keep a journal for each of their own children – maybe they will let me borrow those for even more ideas!<


Kids also give lots of ideas for stories for children’s magazines and articles for parenting magazines. My oldest daughter has given me more opportunities to be published with things that she has experienced. If you’re going through something difficult with your kids, you can bet there will be someone after you who will be going through the same thing and may need some advice. <


Write down all your kids’ important dates and your feelings at the time. We often forget how we really felt when they won their awards or succeeded in a big accomplishment, but if we jot down a few words during the moment this can help us recall those emotions when we need to for our writing. Actors use sensory recall when they are preparing for a role, why can’t we as writers do the same?


My kids have given me ideas for whole stories based on one incident. I have written fiction stories on the clothing they wear, their struggles fitting in with others, decision-making, and even on what they want to do with their lives when they grow up, not to mention the articles on just being a parent.


3. One of my friends uses a journal to pray each morning. She does a lot of devotional writing for the Christian market. While she may not be thinking of articles she is writing down her prayers, she can often go back and pull out ideas. Many times all she has to do is type into her computer what she has already written. With a few changes in format, she is all set to send out another devotion.


4. Journaling is also good for those small bits of writing time. We all have to wait in line somewhere, whether it is the DMV, the bank, the mechanic’s shop, or restaurant drive-thrus. Sometimes two minutes is all that is necessary to jot down a short memory or at least a couple of sentences of it to help you continue the thought later.<

During these down times when you’re in line you can also be taking notes on characters. I call it people watching. If you take time to notice people you will find all sorts of interesting characters. Does someone catch your eye because of his or her appearance? How do they walk? Do they have any interesting mannerisms? Write down any descriptions that you may notice. Get a whole journal full of diverse characters then find pictures of people in magazines that resemble those characters. Keep the pictures, along with the descriptions you wrote, together in the journal. Later, when you need a new idea for a character you will have whole journal to look through.


5. Parents and grandparents are also great for memories. They can have hilarious stories cooped up in their heads just waiting for someone to ask it to be told. My brother had to write about a grandparent’s memory for his college English class. I can’t remember exactly how the whole story went, but I do know there was a chicken at the bottom of the outhouse and it ended up being given to the doctor for payment of services rendered. On a more serious note, maybe parents or grandparents could tell you about a war in which they participated. Get a journal, take them out to lunch, and scribble down whatever they want to tell you. These types of articles are great for history magazines.


A word of advice to you would be to always keep pen and paper handy. One of the best presents my husband gave me was a little notebook in a metal case that fits in my purse. I always have it with me if an idea or memory surfaces. Even if I’m driving, I’ll have one of my kids get out the paper and pen and write down a few words for me. Sometimes they look at me funny, but it’s worth it for a memory not lost. Keep journals all around the house, in the car, and in your purse or pocket. Ideas will come to you in the strangest places and at the strangest times. You will be surprised at what objects you see or scents you smell that trigger your memory. When my husband bought a new truck and I rode in it for the first time, the smell reminded me of my dad and all the special trips I took with him in his work truck when I was a child.


Also, in my experience, memories come in bunches not just one at a time. If you are someplace where you can’t really give your writing much attention at the time your memories come to you, jot down just enough so that you can take the time to thoroughly write about them later.


Lastly, what are you waiting for? Go buy some journals and get busy writing. Even if you don’t have any kids and your grandparents and parents are deceased, you did have a childhood and you can begin writing down all your memories. You will be surprised at what you will see come of it.