Friday 6 March 2015

Writing From Fragments

By Elaine Fraser

I’ve always loved writing and, as an angst-driven teenager, I used to keep a diary, until my mother found it and told everyone what I’d been writing. 

That’s where I lost the art of keeping a diary to record the events of my days and the attempt to make sense of the world through writing out my innermost thoughts. 

As a result, the discipline of keeping a journal in my adulthood eluded me. Many of my friends have journals filled with daily notes and memories. At times I’ve felt journal-guilt when I admit that, even though I'm a writer, I do not journal.

I do, however, have shelves full of notebooks with random jottings. I always have one in my handbag in case I want to write something. I have them on my desk and all over the house—one for each new project  I’m working on. A blue polka-dotted one is my next YA novel, an old-school lecture notebook is my contemporary women’s novel. Over the years, I’ve built up a collection of scribble-filled notebooks and I plan to fill many more.

Rather than keep a journal of memories and complete thoughts these are fragments of memories, ideas and quotes that I keep on my shelf, waiting for the right moment and the right circumstance that causes me to pull one out so I can use a scrap of information for a new article, novel or blog post.

I scroll through these notes maybe months or years after they were written and memories flare up, or ideas are sparked. Notes from sermons I’ve listened to, quotes, thoughts about life and what was happening to me and  vignettes of travel moments fill the pages. 

The notebooks are not diaries in which to keep track of every detail of my past, nor do they contain all my innermost thoughts. They function as a history of my thinking, the inputs that speak to me, the fragments of ideas that may someday form into something more concrete.

The memoirist Tamim Ansary wrote:

I do keep something -- it's not a journal, it's a log. Each day there might be like 12 words in that log, or 12 phrases. For example, what we're doing right now will end up in the log, "Huffington Post interview." And another item in the log will be, "My stolen car recovered today." [Laughter]
…That’s the better way to remember, to keep a skeleton so that your narrative-making machine, your memory, it can wake up and do its thing.

This thought encouraged me. All the fragments I’d written over the years, all the scribbles on random pieces of paper, in notebooks, or even on Facebook, were a mechanism to stimulate my ‘narrative-making machine’.

My son gave me a beautiful leather notebook for Christmas—it’s vintage leather and recycled paper—rustic and old-school—just the way I like it. I wondered what I would use it for. It was such a thoughtful gift, I didn’t want to just put it on the shelf or use it as shopping list paper.

I began writing a new book in it. The book is a 365-Day journey of adventure—adventures in creativity, travel, family and spirituality, the inspiration behind them and tips on cultivating an adventure-filled life will fill the pages of this beautiful notebook.

On each page, I’ve written fragments—only 150 of them so far. They will be fleshed out over the year through my blog and, hopefully, will become a book by the end of the year.

Articulating this process has given me inspiration on my writing journey. It's also helped me to understand how the writing process flows within me.

The fragments become fleshed out, then go into development, editing and rewriting before being published in a book, but it all begins with these fragments.

God plants in each one of us a creative spirit with differing gifts and talents, so it makes sense that we will all carry out the creative process uniquely, creating a work that will speak to the reader in a way that only we could do. 

I don't suppose it matters what our process is, if we're called to write then write we must. 

Elaine Fraser

Author Beautiful: beauty tips for the soul 
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Perfect Mercy Book #1 Beautiful Lives Series 
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  1. Thanks, Elaine. I also received a beautiful new notebook for Christmas that is a reproduction of a 1688 binding and has a wonderful, embossed cover and a little, old fashioned clasp on it, so I can relate to your lovely gift from your son. Like you, I also write snippets of things I've read, quotes from Scripture, prayers etc, but I do often include my innermost thoughts as well. That must have been devastating when that journal from your teenage years was made so public--but it's so good that God enabled you to keep writing.

  2. Thanks for sharing your writing journey Elaine. I keep a journal if I'm doing something specific, like an overseas trip. But usually I just write down snippets too. I have an ideas book that I keep handy so that if I ever get an idea for a piece of writing, I just jot down the thought and an annotation to indicate whether I think it would be good for a blog, devotion, poem, story, article etc. Then when it comes to write one of those pieces (e.g. a devotion), I just have to flip through all the "D" ideas and can hit the road running. I also have a separate quiet time journal where I note things relating to my spiritual journey (e.g. words of knowledge, answers to prayer, questions, things I've learned etc). Looking forward to hearing more about your year of adventure :)

    1. I like your idea of tagging ideas with a letter. I'll have to try that.

    2. Iola it works well except for B. Mmm ... now was that a book idea or a blog idea - LOL

    3. Iola it works well except for B. Mmm ... now was that a book idea or a blog idea - LOL

  3. Lovely post, Elaine! Welcome to ACW and thanks for sharing your inspiring writing journey with us :)

  4. Hi Elaine - loved your post! I've got a couple of notebooks in my handbag too. One for incidentals and one for inspiration. I love the sound of your Christmas gift. What a thoughtful present. Looking forward to hearing the results of your scribblings for 2015 :)

  5. Hi Elaine Thanks for your post. I'm amazed that your mother would do that to you! I've never been good a keeping a diary - many abortive starts but I do have a whole stable of notebooks that I keep notes in, one for each book I'm writing plus others. As it happens, my current unit (and last) of my post-graduate course is on journalling as a writer. And the flexibility of approach you've described reminds me a lot of Tristine Raine's description of The New Diary (1978).

  6. Thanks for the inspiring post, Elaine. I also stopped keeping a diary as a teenager (only I stopped after friends read it, not my mother), and have never got into the habit of journaling. I like the alternative you've found.


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