One of the most important aspects of being a writer is making sure everyone lucky enough to breathe the same air as you knows you’re a writer.
One of the best ways to accomplish this is to keep a journal. It doesn’t take too much time. Not as much as, say, writing a novel. It’s also cheap and practically screams ‘Professional Writer!’ to even your dullest of friends.
There are lots of advantages to keeping a journal. Aside from the obvious, ‘I AM A WRITER’ image it projects, it’s a great place to indulge in your side-tracking, meandering, fecal-fueled rants. When your family has heard it all before, and your friends will never be drunk enough to listen (though, bless them, they try), you have your journal to take all your ideas, your moans and your observations without judgement. Of course, the most important reason is it’s a significant part of your image.
I am a writer, therefore I journal. Well, keep a journal, what with ‘journal’ being a noun and not a verb. I’ll grant you it sounds a bit precious. “No, darling, I can’t go dancing tonight, I have to write my journal…”
Then again, if you’re a writer a little precious is to be expected. It’s perfectly OK for you to stop in the middle of supermarket and stare glassy-eyed at the broccoli before whipping it out. Your journal, I mean. Obviously.
Everyone will understand why you ignore your family when they visit while you sit in the corner writing up the idea that will be a sure-fire bestseller. It’s about this boy, see, and he meets this girl… Quick, write it down before you forget!
In the middle of a conversation about water charges (you have to be Irish to get that one), you suddenly pause, dreamlike, and say, “I actually have something just like that happening in my novel…” Perfectly normal.
You want to be taken seriously, so none of these things are really silly. I mean, James Joyce did it, too. Probably.
Your journal-keeping is a way of coping with the mass of creative thoughts that fill your brain on a daily basis. (Memorise that sentence. Use it next time someone calls you a hack or a dilettante.)
It helps, of course, if said journal is elegant and serious. The battered, tea-stained notebook with fluffy kittens on the front is not the image you want to project, not if you want to be taken seriously. No, you want something streamlined and elegant, preferably covered in black leather. Ooh…
Your notes should be written in fountain pen (thanks again, Dick, for the gift!) or how will anyone know you are a serious writer? I mean, ballpoints and fluffy kitten notebooks are for shopping lists, not great literature. Excuse me, Great Literature.
Some of you cool, hip types will think it’s OK to keep your notes on your mobile phone. AVOID! People will think you’re just texting. How is anyone to know you are a serious writer if you don’t give them a practical demonstration by way of the aforementioned notebook in black leather? Plus fountain pen.
Speaking of fountain pens, it is helpful if you are fussy about your ink. You probably want to avoid purple (or someone will make the inevitable disparaging comment about the colour of your prose), but teal is outré enough, or you could use forest green. Basically, any colour will work so long as you demand a specific and uncommon shade. I say these things to help you, you understand. I wouldn’t want you to look ridiculous.
Carry your journal everywhere you go. Don’t bother with something discreet that can be slipped into your pocket. You need a notebook big enough for your humongous ideas, and to catch the attention of any mere mortal who hasn’t yet realised that you’re a writer. Speaking of which, you can probably get your leather cover embossed with your name followed by the word ‘writer’ or, better yet, ‘author’. You know, in case someone missed the point.
Of course, there will be some of you who don’t want to draw attention to yourselves. You won’t care what your journal looks like. Probably you won’t even call it a journal. It’ll be a notebook or something equally prosaic. You’ll write your notes discreetly and without any fanfare. Some of you might go so far as to hide in the bathroom or wait till you’re alone in your bedroom before you jot down your ideas. The broccoli counter is safe from you.
You’re the type to use your journal for overheard fragments of conversation, for new words you’ve just discovered, for something you just discovered in Fowler, for books you want to read, for plot twists or characters that will elevate your work in progress, or to record a phrase that just popped into your head. There are always a few like that.
Some people don’t know what it means to be a writer.