Friday, September 10, 2010

Writing Journal: Online or On Paper?

For the past couple of years, I’ve only used my writing notebook sporadically. Instead, I began journaling in a computer file. It was easy -- I’m usually at the computer anyway, working on my novel. It’s a snap to search through the file for a key word if there’s something I want to check back to see. I can add interesting quotes or bits of information I found on the internet. All good reasons to stick with it. Except I missed my notebook.

This summer, I took my writing notebook on vacation with me. With nothing but my pencil and the smooth, soft paper of my notebook (actually an approx. 6” x 8” sketch book), the ideas burst out. The more relaxed atmosphere of the vacation might have had something to do with it. Or not. In my notebook, I mess around with doodles, notes in the margin, inserts & crossouts, glued in scraps of paper, thumbnail sketches, and different colours of ink. It’s more fun.

So, I’m going to stick with my notebook. Besides, when I’m feeling a little stuck or low, it helps to see my notebooks, lined up in their row on the shelf in my writing room. Full of ideas and fun stuff. They remind me of who I am. A writer.

Any thoughts on what I should do with my on-line journals? If it didn’t take so much paper, I’d print them out, and at least put them in a folder somewhere so they can be part of the collection.

P.S. Over at MiG Writers, I posted today on The Scrutiny of the Teenaged Critic.


  1. You're right, there is something about writing by hand. I write marginalia as I write text, and adding tracking comments to a word doc just doesn't do it for me.

    If it were me I would want hard copies of the online journals. If you make the font smaller—very small—would it still be too much to print out? Get less expensive, multipurpose copy paper?

  2. What to do with online-A-LOT-of-stuff is the question, isn't it? It only lasts as long as the hard drive, flash drive, technology. I often worry over what will happen to history.

    That said, I'm also scaring myself over my greater and greater aversion to hand-writing anything of any length. I have the same row of notebooks you do, but I filled the last few up very slowly. I'm halfway through my current one and started it three years ago.

  3. I agree. When I'm not stressed, my creative juices really flow. Suppose that's why they aren't flowing right now!

  4. I'm so fascinated that the smooth paper led to such a different relationship to your writing. But I agree--something about the material reality of certain surfaces seem particularly inspiring and invigorating. I know some of my work dictates typing into a computer; some requires using a pen. Lovely to read. Great post.

  5. Andrea, I think I will print out the online journal. The paper one feels more permanent to me.

    Marcia, your point about history is an interesting one. There's a dystopian novel in that, I'm sure. I think my handwriting has changed, since I've been using it less.

    Thanks for your comments, Samuel. I hadn't thought about how I use different work for different mediums, but I do find paper the best for writing fiction, computer for non-fiction or short easy readers (since there's so much revising as I go along).

  6. I do think the brain works differently when writing in a notebook. I write slower, so I think the brain has more time to process and leap ahead to other ideas.

  7. I posted about journals too, and found your comment and am now following here. I love the process of writing in a notebook, writing by hand. Even tho my journal time (which used to be excessive, I admit) has been cut by blogging (like right now I would normally be writing in my journal)-- I love the pen on paper, thoughts flowing, pensive nature of journaling.


  8. Even when I journal/ plan on the computer, I always print it out and put it in a file.

    I tend to keep notebooks. I think just having something concrete that I can look at AND touch makes me feel as if it's more substantial -- as if I've done something. That's the problem with writing on a computer for me ... it doesn't feel real.

  9. KarenG, I liked your post about journals! I think I'm going to try to keep up my journal and your blog. Though you're right, now that I'm not on vacation, my journalling has been drastically reduced.

    Quinn, I'm not sure why, but paper does seem so much more permanent to me, too. I do like to take my journals and flip back through them from time to time, discovering things.


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