Keeping such a long-form journal is really time consuming. Fantasies of devoting lots of time to recording deep thoughts and in-depth recollections usually founder on a simple reality.
The solution? Keep the journal idea, but ditch the length. Write down a sentence or two each day to record your most prominent memories.
One sentence is enough. Just make sure you keep your journal somewhere handy to make recording that short recollection of your day convenient, avoiding any excuse to skip days.
Before you go to bed, write in order everything you are going to say the next day. Picture the day clearly: getting up, the breakfast conversation, parking the car, passing familiar faces in the hall. Then, the next day, stay with your script.
Take note of what you were able to expect and what came out of nowhere.
To write a good memoir you must become the editor of your own life, imposing on an untidy sprawl of half-remembered events a narrative shape and an organising idea. Writing a memoir is the art of reinventing the truth.
Writers who keep journals tend to produce more work than those who wait for inspiration to hit them. Writing every day keeps the creative juices flowing, and the journal becomes a source for ideas as well as an instrument for practising and refining writing skills and techniques, such as description, character delineation, and dialogue.
Writing a journal does not need to be a factual record of what you did or thought. Writing can help you pay attention to your life. Write your way into clarity.
Childhood stories are about friendships, laughter, bravado, tears and pain. Ask yourself a few questions to spark those memories.
As a child:
your favourite toy was …
your favourite book was …
your favourite sport was …
your best friend was …
your favourite sweets were …
Write about the twisted circumstances that account for your life – the setbacks, hopes and triumphs.
“I kept long journals from the ages ten to twenty-two, chronicling events and describing emotional states, but again and again missing the physical immediacy of experience, the tiny hooks by which experience could have been caught and held.
I failed to record how we looked, what we saw, and the minor eccentricities of circumstance which gave a special character to a day.
I ignored these elements not only through lack of training but through misplaced priorities: I mistakenly assumed that one could discuss the heart of things without discussing the immediate details of life.” Robert Grudin
Write ‘Who Am I?’ on ten cards. Then write rapidly without censoring. Now, sort the cards in order of importance.
Read these back. Imagine them written by someone else and ask :
1. What do these cards tell you about this person?
2. What things are most important?
3. What types of things would this person enjoy doing?
4. If this person had six months to live, how would he spend his time?