- Hemingway used one. Even if you’re not Hemingway, or even if you don’t really care for his writing, it’s still cool.
- You know how much is left. And, it seems that no matter how small it gets, there’s always a little bit left to write with.
- You have to sharpen it, which requires a knife, which is all kinds of adventurous. And the shavings from sharpening could act as a fire starter.
- You can erase. Did the fish seem bigger the next morning? No problem.
- Low risk – they’re mostly disposable. Ok, the really nice ones might be $2 a piece if you paid a very high price or a lot for shipping, but even then, it’s not that much.
- Some people think a pencil will write 45,000 words. That should be far enough.
- They’re light. Outdoor adventures always seem to involve carrying stuff, and the less the better.
- Water resistant. Alcohol resistant. Fade proof. While erasable, pencil is very resistant to the other things that might wipe out what you’ve created.
- Heat & pressure resistant. Pencils don’t leak on airplanes, or in hot cars.
- Sketching with a pencil is more forgiving than with a pen.
A new reader contacted me with a question about format: Did I write entries like a letter to someone?
I don't have a specific format that I use, although I don't start entries with "Dear…" I suppose I do have a few different ways of doing it though.
- If I just make an entry, not for anything specific, it's generally in a prose, story-telling kind of style. "Today was ok, work was fairly boring, Susan picked the girls up from camp. They didn't want to leave the place, so much for worry about their homesickness…"
- If I'm recording an idea then it might just start with a brief heading, and then the idea. "Idea for website: Dorkwagons.com – let people post pictures of silly-looking or badly parked cars."
- I might do a drawing or a bunch of doodles. Not related to anything, except that I just decide to do them.
- When I write a long entry and I'm changing subjects, I'll write a squiggly line between the paragraphs – not all the way across – to denote that I'm changing subjects. Otherwise it reads very strangely later!
- When starting a new day I draw a heavy line across the page under the last entry, then write out the date. If there's a holiday or some other event, I write it next to the date – Happy 4th of July!
The only bad format is one that makes you unhappy but that you feel obligated to use. It's your book that you're writing, so write it how you want to.
If you have some old entries to read, go back and read them and see what you think of them. Writing in a journal provides half the value, reading old entries is where the other half comes from. As you read them, you'll quickly develop a sense of what works and what doesn't. The trick is that it takes some time to create enough distance between now and an old entry to read it on it's own merits. I'd say weeks rather than days.
There is a bit of a knack to keeping a journal. Sometimes you'll do very well, sometimes not. It's ok. The book won't judge, and you'll learn and adapt and make it better.