Here is a third entry in a series about craft books that I have found useful. And while many wonderful books on the writer’s craft are available, sometimes when writers face a temporary lag in their productivity, when the flame of inspiration flickers a bit, it helps to read practical books on craft. I offer my impressions about these four books in no particular order, other than the order in which I plucked them from my reading desk. I hope to offer just enough information to whet your appetite for more. For the next four weeks, I will present some thoughts on each of four books that I recently reread.
A quick scan of the contents of Leaving a Trace, reveals an inviting organization of three parts that explore: Part 1 – The Successful Journal: Practical Inspiration, Part 2 – Transforming a Life: Patterns, and Part 3 – Meanings, Crossover: Moving a Journal into Creative Work. Johnson’s book inspired me to dig through dozens of my old notebooks to see what kinds of things I had recorded in more than thirty years of writing journal entries about my life and what I have seen and done.
Part One – explores ways to use past journal entries to trigger memories of events and to increase our observational skills of the world around us. Whether writers decide to use single purpose journals dedicated to topics like travel or books read, or whether they combine a range of experiences in daily journals, the journal is rich soil to replenish the imagination when we feel depleted and come up empty in our writing.
Part Two – looks at finding hidden patterns in journal entries that can only be recognized as writers see anew those topics and descriptions recorded over time.
Part Three – moves forward describing methods for using journal information in both fiction and nonfiction. Mining the journal data allows writers to “leave a trace by regaining a past and imagining a future.”
I did not reread the chapters in order. Instead I dipped into some that were particularly relevant to my current projects. And am pleased to say that after a couple of days of reading only two of my journals I gleaned three ideas that I will use in three stories that had stalled to a crawl.
Special Note: I have turned off the comments section temporarily. Am having hundreds of inappropriate email/comments from websites unrelated to writing.