Who Journals? Melissa Donovan Does

Creative writing in your journal

If you haven’t tried creative writing in your journal you are missing out on some fantastic fun. There are multiple ways of accomplishing the creative writing bits which could go into your journal. And one way to find out about creative writing is to visit the website of Melissa Donovan, Writing Forward.

Melissa’s is the site I visit when I need help with any number of writing issues. At Writing Forward you will find everything from proper grammar usage to establishing good writing habits, from finding writing resources to developing poetry writing skills, from writing exercises to ways to find writing ideas and much more.

Melissa speaks journal

Another area of Melissa’s site which sets the bells to ringing on my dancing toes is the section devoted to journal writing.

Melissa writes

Melissa is a blogger, web designer, and copywriter. She attended Sonoma State University, where she earned a BA in English with a concentration in creative writing. She has written in a number of areas since that time, working as a technical writer, business writer, copywriter, and professional blogger.

Did you notice Melissa writes? I must add – she writes quite well.

Recently I was able to interview Melissa about journal writing and her own experience with journals.

JIB: Welcome Melissa, I’m glad to be able to talk to you about one of my favorite topics, journals.

Melissa:: Thank you for inviting me to Journal in a Box for this interview. I’m always excited to talk about journaling and how important journals are for writers.

JIB: Yes, you are right. I’ve noticed that many famous authors from the past kept journals. And, it is a practice still used by many. Besides helping writers develop good writing habits for what other reasons do you believe a journal is important to writers?

Melissa: As a writer, you never know when a great idea will strike. It’s helpful to keep a notebook on your person or nearby at all times so you can capture those ideas. Journaling is also ideal for fleshing out characters and story ideas, trying out scenes, and exploring creative ideas. Perhaps most importantly, journaling promotes good writing habits, primarily writing regularly or on a schedule.

JIB: I see you have been a journal user since you were a young teen.

Melissa: Yes, I’ve been using journals on and off since I was about thirteen. In eighth grade, I had a teacher who required everyone in class to keep a journal. He gave us about ten minutes each day to write, and I enjoyed the daily exercise. I kept my journal long after the class ended. I had another teacher in tenth grade who incorporated journaling into the curriculum and many of my college instructors also required some type of journal.

JIB: When did you know that putting words in a journal would be (had been) of value to you?

Melissa: I think I knew immediately. I remember being excited about that first journal assignment, and I always found those writing sessions to be sort of cathartic, whether we were doing free topics or writing about our studies. The blank page drew me in and I couldn’t wait to fill it with my thoughts and questions. Those sessions were never long enough. Of course, back then I was at that age where most of what I wrote was driven by the drama of adolescence. As I got older, I became more creative and reflective in my journaling.

JIB: Reflective journaling is something you recently addressed in one of your posts. You said, “Reflective journals allow us to practice self-reflection, self-exploration, and self-improvement, and through reflective journal writing, we gain greater awareness through observation, contemplation, and writing. By chronicling various aspects of our lives, we become more self-aware.”

In your experience, do you find there is a continuing cycle wherein your journal is a starting point for self-improvement which loops you right back to your journal for even greater progress, or perhaps alerts you to a new or different passion?

Melissa: I actually have limited experience in using my journal for self-improvement. However, I know may people find journaling to be essential when they are dieting, exercising, or engaging in any type of self-improvement project. I do know that sticking to a regular journaling routine keeps you focused on your subject matter, and I believe it also helps people stay driven. In this manner, journals are also great for setting and tracking goals.

JIB: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from your journals?

Melissa: When you keep a journal, it requires you to think about what is happening (or what has happened) in your life. It fosters a sense of self-awareness. Perhaps even more importantly, for me, was the act of writing regularly, almost every day. Keeping a journal during those early years gave me a lot of confidence in myself as a writer. Writing every day comes quite easily to me now. I’m not sure if that’s because of those early experiences with journaling, but I am sure those experiences helped me develop good writing habits.

JIB: Do you believe you have been able to accomplish more in either your personal or business life because you’ve kept a journal?

Melissa: It’s hard to say because I have nothing to compare it to. I’m not sure how different my life would be if I hadn’t kept journals. I might have written short stories or taken up some other hobby that would ultimately lead me to the same place. Many people find success without ever keeping a journal and some cannot possibly succeed without it. The whole thing is rather subjective, I think.

JIB: Do you have an emotional attachment to your journals?

Melissa: My creative writing journals, which are filled with stories, poems, and doodles are quite dear to me. These days, I rarely keep personal or diary-style journals.

JIB: What is the most important thing you’ve learned about keeping a journal?

Melissa: For me, it’s important to be flexible and adaptable in how I think about my journals. When I first started journaling, I felt like if I missed a day, I had ruined the whole thing. A few years ago, I realized I hadn’t kept a diary-style journal for several years and I actually felt guilty. But I had started blogging and instead of writing about myself every day, I was writing for other people, and I think that’s a good thing.

I have found that I keep different kinds of journals at different times in my life. When I was an adolescent, I kept a diary. As a young adult, I kept a poetry journal. As a self-employed professional, I have kept a business journal. I also keep a creative writing journal for all of my ideas related to fiction and poetry. I guess what I’ve learned is that as I grow and change, my journaling needs change.

JIB: Yes. That is so true. Our journal needs change and develop in different ways. I noticed you said you kept a poetry journal for a while. Did you write your own poetry, copy others’ or use a combination?

Melissa: I began writing my own poetry just before I started keeping a journal. As a kid, I was a bookworm and a music lover. One day, I spontaneously started writing poems and lyrics in my notebook. I occasionally copied poems or transcribed song lyrics but I always wrote my own poetry in my journals.

JIB: Do you distinguish between the words diary and journal?

Melissa: Absolutely. A diary is a type of journal in which we chronicle our lives. A journal is any type of log or record of experiences, ideas, and observations.

JIB: Do you have a favorite pen for use in your journals?

Melissa: I have tons of pens and pencils in different colors. For most writing, I prefer a basic Bic pen with black ink. But when I’m feeling artistic or whimsical, I’ll use a sparkly or colorful pen.

JIB: What advice would you give someone who isn’t sure keeping a journal is worth it?

Melissa: It doesn’t hurt to try and you’ve got nothing to lose! I know that sounds cliché, but it’s the truth. I don’t think journaling is for everyone. Some people will journal for a few years and get a lot out of it but find they don’t need it anymore. Others will become lifelong journalers. I am grateful to those teachers I had when I was young because I do think everyone should try it.

It’s worth noting that there are many different types of journals. People who are thinking about journaling should definitely experiment. You can keep an art or photo journal, dream journal, diet and exercise journal, travel journal, reading journal, even a journal about your favorite TV shows. There is something for everyone. The real benefit of journaling is writing and thinking critically about your subject matter.

JIB: Is there a story behind your Writing Forward website?

Melissa: I originally started Writing Forward back in 2007 to support and promote my copywriting business. I quickly realized that clients looking for a copywriter were not interested in writing tips, so I separated the blog from my business and Writing Forward was born.

The site is primarily concerned with the craft and practice of creative writing with an emphasis on fiction, poetry, and journal writing. There are also plenty of grammar tips, writing exercises and other goodies for people who enjoy writing creatively.

JIB: Thank you Melissa, for taking the time to talk with me today about your thoughts and experiences with journal writing. I appreciate your expertise and your candor.

To learn more about the art and science of writing, and to get more tips on the process as well as the soul of writing please visit Writing Forward. You will be happy you did.

You can also find Melissa on Twitter: @melissadonovan

As a lover of words, pens, paper and the dictionary I'm a natural for journal writing. But, I wasn't always faithful to the task and had to learn the hard way. Some trial and error as well as input from my journal writing friends helped move me along. I have a burning desire to help people who want to use and get the most out of their journals and diaries. I see journal writing as a self improvement tool and a way to avoid costly mistakes, bad relationships and my stinky-self. Finding my kindly self is part of the journey which keeps me writing. I Journalate and so can you.

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