I’ve been keeping a journal off and on since I was a child. While I must admit that I often let my journaling practice lapse, often for months at a time, I always bring a journal with me on my travels and I usually make a point of at least scribbling a few lines when I’m on flights, waiting for trains, or otherwise looking to kill a bit of time.
I also try to jot down experiences that are particularly striking or moving, not only because it helps me process my feelings, but also because I know that doing so can be helpful if I want to write a story about the experience later, when my memory may be a bit fuzzy. Here’s why I’m convinced that keeping a journal can make you a better travel writer.
Maintain a writing habit
As with anything, practice makes perfect and the more you write the easier it becomes to write. Keeping a journal, even if it ends up being nothing more than a quickly jotted-down description of your day’s events, is an excellent way to get you into the habit of writing every day. And by writing every day, even if just a little bit, you’ll end up getting plenty of practice.
Hone your observation skills
Keeping a journal is great for your observation skills, particularly if you make a concerted effort to use all of your senses when writing about your experiences. The idea is to observe what you see, smell, hear, feel, and taste, whether you are traveling or at home. As a bonus, having all of this detail written down can help you greatly if you’re going back to it later for writing fodder.
Go deeper than just taking notes
While journaling will definitely help you organize your thoughts and take notes, it will give you a place to really process your thoughts as they come to you, without the pressure of writing a story for an audience.
With a journal, you can not only write about what you experience externally, but also how you experience it all internally, your reactions, your feelings, right in the moment.
It’s easy to forget how experiences impact us internally when writing about them months or years down the line. Rereading journal entries can help you rekindle the emotional impact of your experiences, leading to deeper and emotionally richer prose.
If you’re new to journaling, or haven’t kept up the practice for a while, here are a few tips to help get you started. First of all, buy a journal that you love, that brings you joy.
For you, that could mean a book with a beautiful piece of art on the cover or maybe just a slick little moleskin. If you tend to doodle a lot, you may want something unlined. If you are on the road a lot, or prefer to journal away from home, make sure you get something portable.
Once you have your journal, it’s time to sit down and start writing. You may wish to give yourself an assignment of writing a certain number of pages, or for a certain amount of time, every day, or you may prefer to just wing it. Some days, you might feel a sense of writer’s block, other days the words will just flow. Both are part of the process.
And remember, if you feel like you have nothing to write about (especially at the moment as we are all limited in our experiences) just write about the mundane. It’s good practice, no matter what. Finally: don’t forget to note the date! This can help you jog your memory much better in the future.