The Journal Newsletter
This month (August 2001) marks the first full year of The Journal Newsletter!
11 issues have been sent (I missed December 2000), with articles submitted by quite a few users of The Journal, from “How I Use The Journal” essays, to articles about alternative learning, geneaology, and both personal and professional journaling. If you would like to read past editions of The Journal Newsletter, they’re all online here:
If you follow the writing and journaling exercises we include in the newsletter each month, you’ve no doubt noticed that last month we included more of them than usual. That’s a trend we expect to continue, offering at least 4 exercises per month from now on!
Thank you for supporting DavidRM Software’s The Journal!
TIP: Adjusting the “Security Level” of The Journal
The Journal includes a number of security features to protect your entries, including password locking and encryption. However, like most other features of The Journal, there are several ways these can be set and adjusted.
- You can change your password by clicking on the “User” menu, and selecting “Change Password…”
- Don’t want a password? You can have a “blank” password simply by not entering anything into the “New Password” and “Confirm New Password” fields. With a blank password, you can simply hit ENTER at the login prompt and you’re in.
- Don’t want The Journal to prompt you at all? Check out “Single User Mode”. On the “File” menu, select “Single User Mode”. After confirming your password, The Journal will automatically log you in when you start it. You can turn this option off by selecting (and un-checking) “Single User Mode” on the “File” menu again.
- You can set a separate password on a particular category. Right-click on the category tab and choose “Category Properties…” You can set the category’s password on the “Security” tab.
- A category password can be prompted for either once per session, or every time the user clicks on the category’s tab to bring it up. How paranoid are you? 😉
- You can “hide” The Journal quickly by pressing Ctrl+J. If you someone walks up while you’re typing, you can use Ctrl+J to hide The Journal, without having to use your mouse to click the “Minimize” button.
- You can “lock” The Journal when you “hide” it or even when you minimize it, or both. Click on the “User” menu, choose “User Preferences”, and check out the options on the “Security” tab. “Lock on Minimize” locks The Journal if you minimize it, or if The Journal “idles” past a certain length of time (see below). “Lock on Hide” only affects when you hide The Journal using Ctrl+J.
- The Journal can also “idle out” if you want it to. For instance, if you walk away from your PC and forget to minimize The Journal, it can automatically minimize, hiding your information, after so many minutes of nothing happening. It’s similar to how a screensaver works. On the “Security” tab of the “User Preferences” form, check the “Lock When Idle” option, then set the number of minutes.
by Susan Michael
Journaling Exercise – Describe the most important thing in your life. Describe the 2nd and 3rd most important things. Then the 4th and 5th most important things.
Writing Exercise – Select a scene that involves 2-3 characters. Write a paragraph from the point of one character, then write the same interaction from another character�s point of view. For example, the point of view of convenience store clerk contrasted with a customer’s point of view of the same incident.
Journaling Exercise – What element of nature would you choose as an emblem for yourself as a writer. Is this a symbol that you use when writing? Does the tone match your writing? Write using it as a metaphor.
Writing Exercise – Without using color names, describe a tree.
About the author: Susan Michael has facilitated several writing groups, and has lead writing & creativity workshops for the Arts & Humanties Council in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
THE SEVEN LAWS OF WRITING
by David Michael
This article is somewhat experimental for me. It is modelled after the book, The Seven Laws of Money by Michael Phillips. While not exactly “hard financial science”, The Seven Laws of Money does present some very pointed observations about money and the philosophies that surround money.
I thought it would be interesting to take the “framework” that is evident in The Seven Laws of Money and apply them to writing. This essay is the result.
The First Law
Easily the most obvious “law”–and possibly the most overquoted litany–heard from and by writers is that “Writers write!” But when you compare how many people call themselves “writers” with how many of them actually write on a regular basis, it’s understandable why this bit of wisdom is brought up frequently. It seems we all need to be reminded that “Writers write” from time to time.
All too often, we stop writing, or balk at the actual task of writing, suffering from “writers block” or “lack of inspiration”. And it’s even understandable. Writing something new and unique can be a daunting task, especially on a regular basis, and suddenly we lose faith that our worst critic (ourselves) is simply not going to be satisfied with what we put forth.
But as I tell my 8-year old son so often that he’s probably going to harass me about it in my old age, “Everything takes practice. No one is as good as they can be the first time they do something.” And the only way to practice writing is to write.
The Second Law
Writing has its own rules.
Whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction, prose or poetry, fact or opinion, there are “rules of writing” that must be followed. Each language has its own rules of writing, often rather boring rules. But the rules exist, nonetheless.
While the avant garde and the Truly Trendy among us speak in lofty tones about writing being “an artform”, and about “breaking the rules”, the fact remains that in order to be called “writing” there are certain fundamentals that cannot be ignored.
Writing requires writing. Whether it be with a pencil on paper, keyboard on computer, or spray-paint on wall, writing is the act of making your mark. In private or in full view of the public, you have to make your mark. You have to scribble, type, or paint *something*.
Writing is not just “making your mark”, however. Writing is about selecting words, and conveying a meaning or emotion with those words. It is words strung into sentences–or at least sequences–that creates a particular meaning or feeling. That is “writing”.
Even poetry, seemingly the least “rulebound” form of writing, has rules. Certain poetic forms are purely rules. Japanese haiku, for instance, or English sonnets, are poetic forms where not only is the structure of the poem laid down, but also the type of content that the form is intended to convey.
The Third Law
Writing is a dream.
Writing is a dream, a state of mind. When the muse is upon us, we almost wish we could step back and watch ourselves at work. We are so in the moment that even basic concerns such as food, clothing, and shelter become trivial worries.
When we write, we create. Whether it’s a new world or simply a view of an instant in time, it is our creation, unique and beatiful–at least to us (and with editing, possibly beautiful to others).
Writing is a dream that can seem incredibly real. And in a sense it is real. The dream is not just the act of writing, it is what we write. And we can share this dream with our readers. With our writing, we provide a snapshot of the universe as we see it, both with our eyes, and with our minds and experiences.
The Fourth Law
Writing is a nightmare.
The dream-like aspects of writing can also make writing a nightmare. Sometimes the words simply do not want to come, the sentences will not form. Or if they do, we look on them with disgust and dismay, fearing that we’re fooling ourselves with this notion of writing.
The First Law of writing can be the source of our nightmare, as we force ourselves to write write WRITE! Whether we want to or not. Or the Fifth and Sixth Laws, as we struggle to express ourselves uniquely.
The Fifth Law
Only you can write what you can write.
No one else can write the stories, articles, essays, poetry, or even journal entries that we write. They are ours and ours alone, as intensely personal as our bathing habits. Through reading, we can share the dreams of others, but when we write, we write alone.
The Sixth Law
You cannot write someone else’s story.
“Copying is the most sincere form of flattery.” While this may or may not be true, copying is a lousy form of writing. Without a doubt, we are influenced by the writers we read and enjoy, but even as we adopt these influences, we integrate them into something new and different.
Trying to write in the style of someone else is similar to trying to force a left-handed person to be right-handed. It causes stress as we are doing something that we “don’t do”. *We* don’t write like this, and we know it. The whole experience feels awkward and uncomfortable. And even if we create something that someone else admires we *know* that it’s not how *we* would’ve written it.
The Seventh Law
There are worlds without writing.
Writing is not the entirety of our lives. We have families and friends that we interact with. We read. We see movies. We go to concerts.
It’s important to realize that writing is a part of our lives, and not let it overtake our lives. Sometimes we have to wake up from the dream.
These “laws” are hardly definitive. They are merely my own take on the process of writing, born of observation of myself and those writers I know.
David Michael has designed and developed software for over a decade, but even before that he had aspirations of being a professional writer. David has kept both a personal journal and professional journal since 1993. In 1996, he formed DavidRM Software to sell his award-winning journaling software, The Journal.
|The Seven Laws of Money by Michael Phillips
Shambala Publications, 1974
If you would like to contribute to the “How I Use The Journal”, “Writing Exercises”, or “Tips & Tricks” sections, or would like to submit an article about journaling, writing, or another The Journal-related topic, we would love to hear from you.
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As always, if you have any suggestions for, or bug reports about, The Journal, please feel free to email them. Both are always welcome.