Keeping a journal is a helpful tool which many successful writers use. It can include anything that stimulates you on any level:
cuttings from newspapers or magazines
things you’ve read
pictures you’ve seen and cut out or remembered or thought about
ideas, snippets of thought about anything, especially one of your projects
funny, beautiful, ugly, sad, shocking, strange things
something, anything that you thought was unusual, interesting, made you cross,
taught you something, etc
observations of people, places, moods, sounds, smells, sights, weather, fashion,
interactions – people are everywhere! But don’t just keep it between people, think about animals, the environment, technology, politics, food, media, news…
You might keep a journal that is specific to something your are working on. It might include any or all of the above. Jotting down thoughts and ideas and research relative to the project, whether you use it or not is helpful. Writing down a sentence or title or plot point or piece of dialogue or a description might do no more than develop the actual writing project in your mind. That’s ideal for adding to the overall texture and richness of the end result.
I was struggling for an idea for a play some years ago so I went through my journal. I had two female characters I had wanted to write about for some time but couldn’t get anywhere with either of them. So, I tried putting them together and voila, I had two opposites in an isolated situation who just had to rely on each other. The finished work, Shedding, was performed at the Gasworks Theatre in Melbourne in 1994.
There is no right or wrong in keeping a writer’s journal but a couple of cautions. It isn’t a personal diary. When we write what happened to us, unless we can put it into fictional context and it works for the character we have made up, it won’t work as anything other than a piece of personal writing.
The main caution, however, is DON’T USE IT AS AN EXCUSE NOT TO GET ON WITH YOUR PROJECT!