“What, exactly, are good journals?” asked Toby Fulwiler, of the University of Vermont, in his classic guide, The Journal Book.
If you currently keep a writing journal or are thinking of starting one, the list of features Fulwiler uses to answer the question is useful to think about.
Language Features: The language of journals will look a lot like written speech.”
- Colloquial diction: …often informal…with a minimum of exertion and a maximum of speed.
- First person pronouns: …each journal entry is a matter of personal reflection…
- Informal punctuation: whatever gets the job done…
- Rhythms of everyday speech: …there’s simply no point in writing formal or pretentious prose.
- Experimentation: …whatever form, style, voice, or persona a journal writer wants to try on for a while.
Cognitive Activities: …it is worth listing a few of those which serve an especially useful function…
- Frequent entries: the more often a journal is written in the greater the chance to catch one’s thoughts.
- Long entries: the more writing one does at a single sitting the greater the chance of developing a thought or finding a new one.
- Chronology: …good journals have systematic and complete chronological documentation.
Fulwiler’s book has been around for years. Both Nancy and I have used it to help writing students to get the most out of journaling. It’s still available on Amazon.
In future posts we’ll examine some of the types of prompts Fulwiler and other journaling experts recommend. But don’t wait for those discussions to get your own journal going.