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Scott Lax Blog

On Journal Writing, Blogging and Creative Writing

Writers have, as an option, the chance to take classes in "journaling" - journal writing. Or, as it used to be called, writing in a diary.

While I don't teach such a class, I write in a diary, by longhand, with pen and ink. It helps me separate out what I need to say to myself from what I need to say to the wider world. It works as a kind of therapy, and there's something deeply satisfying about it. Head to hand, hand to pen, pen to paper.

Blogging is another way to do this, but when someone blogs, even anonymously, there's an understanding that others will read it. So it changes the words. Even if the blog is brutally honest, I think that it changes the words, because it’s an other-directed action, not an inner-directed action. And that's fine, but not the same as writing only for you.

Then there's this kind of blog -- for advice (for writers, for example) -- or for any reason: politics, entertainment, cooking, ad so on. And those are all fine and often entertaining or helpful to others.

But literary creative writing -- fiction or nonfiction -- shouldn't be for therapy, or to rage against the machine, the wind, or your boss. It's for readers. Which doesn't mean it can't be a kind of (seemingly) unfiltered angst-ridden narrative (CATCHER IN THE RYE), or stream-of-consciousness (ON THE ROAD) or other works that seems as if they are coming directly from the writer’s subconscious. That seemingly unfiltered, flowing story or book that affects you is likely heavily edited (not so much with ON THE ROAD, but that’s an exception), and intricately crafted.

So how do you combine the two disparate things – a private diary/journal and fiction/literary nonfiction? Here’s my suggestion. Use your journal to find out about yourself – what’s really important to you, what your hopes and fears are, as well as ideas that pop into your mind while writing. Then take those ideas and, those hopes and fears and everything else, and use them to write honest fiction or literary nonfiction that is crafted and, you hope, read by others.

Some writers through history have used the bottle or the needle or other mind-altering stuff to access their unconsciousness. Too many of them died too young. There are other ways to access your inner writer. Writing in a personal diary is only one of them. If you haven't tried it, maybe it's time.  Read More