Start A Journal

Include the flotsam and jetsam of life.

  • Grocery lists
  • Keyword memos
  • To do lists
  • Honey do lists
  • Doodles
  • Descriptions of your workspace or reading room – spatially and in detail
  • Events
  • Odd facts to rewrite and organize later
  • Photographs
  • Nonsense and notions

Step up a notch and include personality

  • Feelings – make it tangible, use metaphor
  • People that are honored – why?
  • Dark nights of the soul
  • Things that are hated – why?
  • Writing ideas
  • First drafts

Look up

  • Dreams and visions – for interpreting divine messages
  • Prayers – for others and yourself
  • Bible verses – that resonate with your spirit

All of life in the grand scheme of things is not really flotsam and jetsam. Journals can be historical documents for family members and posterity. They give an account of a culture during a period of time.

God sees.

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Luke 12:7

Once Upon A Time It Was Now Review

Once Upon A Time It Was Now, 2nd edition, written by James Alexander Thom, is a wonderful book on the art of writing historical fiction. His ultimate goal is to write books that inspire others, regardless of whether the endings are happy or sad.

He does not dwell much on the craft of writing itself, but his focus is how to write historically. In this regard he does bring up life experiences that need to be considered that most would not think of, especially since in the past they thought and did differently than we do today. No glossing over either, he brings up the grittiness of life that most of us would prefer not to think about.

A chapter on technology discusses the use of paper vs. computers from a few of his fellow historians and historical writers. And a few ideas for research organization, which if done right will produce reams.

His book was written in response to Stephen Ambrose’s quip, “A novelist doesn’t have to have facts.” Most of this book goes into detail on how and why historical novels should be as factually accurate as possible. One of the best reasons I read was that they are read when history books would not be. I count myself one of these people, loving to read novels about historical figures.

His wife, Dark Rain, wrote most of the chapter on genealogy, and if you are writing a book dealing with Indian history, she has some very valuable tips.

My favorite quote: “The climax of a novel often is a moment that seems impossible to endure. If you can force yourself to exhume and record some personal horror you wanted to leave buried, then you will have trained yourself to write powerfully about anything the protagonist of your novel has to do.”

I will probably never write a historical novel, but I learned much from his book. His advice can be used for other genres as well. The humor had me laughing quite a bit. And he was in the USMC, another thumbs up from me. A hearty recommended read.

To Many Ideas?

Scanning the internet and reading magazine articles, I see a lot of writer’s block solutions, but not hardly any who have to many ideas. A few of us feel overwhelmed with what and how to write.

When choosing a poetry form, sometimes I am overwhelmed with what poetry form to use. If I keep pluggin’ along the subject matter determines the form, or as some say, form follows function (which originated with late 19th and early 20th century architecture). Sometimes I write according to form, e.g., my ghazals.

For all of us writers, regardless of what genre we use, too many ideas can stifle output. One idea I found many years ago showed this problem as a problem of organization.

Write all the ideas in a free writing exercise – a list. Use different color highlights to group all the ideas and see if the ideas can become a part of bigger projects. Suit the grouping according to individual preferences: I shuffle different page notes between poems as the need arises. Some ideas may need to be tossed or kept for a later date, but if kept at least they are not clogging creativity.

As far as which one to pick first, go with what gives you joy. Reading poetry is not drudgery, and writing it should not be either.


Storytelling is how we’re moved to take care of each other when we recognize how extremely thin the veneer of civilization we cherish is, and how very hard it is to keep that veneer from shredding in the wind.

Barry Lopez from Poets & Writers magazine

Spiritual Journaling Hearth Style

One of the most, if not the most important, aspect to the Christian life is hearing the Lord’s voice. And He communicates in various ways and through various means. Dreams, signs, the Bible (the most important way!), impressions through our soul and mind. He is not a cookie-cutter God; He talks to us in our own individual ways. Since I am a poet, He sometimes sends me to a poem.

But if I don’t record what He says, then I might miss what He is trying to say to me. For sometimes it is a series of things – as the Bible says in part, or confirmations of what He said the first time. Confirmations come as repeated themes in a short time-frame; for me about one to two days. If I don’t record them then I have lost an opportunity to search out what He is trying to say.

Journaling is also not a cookie-cutter activity. I prefer pencil and paper. And scraps until I can permanently record. Dated, sometimes out of order because perfection is not the main goal.

Always it is important to hear Him, but in days like these it is extremely crucial. Stay in the peace that passes understanding.