English 281/282

Writer’s Journal

Throughout the quarter you will keep a daily journal of story ideas, observations (overheard dialogue, setting descriptions, character sketches, situations), story starts, technical experiments and the like. Unlike the more personal journal you may have kept or heard of, this is not a place for you to record your secret thoughts and desires. On the contrary, in this journal your attention will be focused outward, toward the world at large, not inward toward yourself. Think of it as a sketchbook such as a visual artist might keep, full not of self-portraits but portraits of others, landscapes, still lifes, studies, etc.

You should get a small, portable notebook that you will keep with you always. Get it out at odd moments when you have a few minutes to spare, riding the bus or waiting for a friend, and write down something interesting that you saw or heard during the course of the day. It might be an interesting snatch of conversation, an awkward scene at home, a stranger's funny way of walking. Or, jot down an idea for a story that's been kicking around in your head, or describe a person you know or one you make up-how they dress, their favorite food, movies they like, where they live, what they care about most, their deepest secret, some formative event in their lives, what kind of weather they would be. Or, take a technique you've noticed in your reading-some way of reporting dialogue, or a certain type of sentence you really admire-and try your hand at it. Software developers use what they call a "sandbox," a place to play where they try out ideas where it doesn't matter if they work or not. This journal is your sandbox, and a place to store fragments and ideas you might use later.

Write at least 100 words a day, on any topic other than yourself. Please date the entries and separate them with a blank line or some other clearly visible marker so I can see at a glance where each day's entry begins.

Turn your journal in each Monday. I will return it Wednesday.