For her the point is to “[r]emember what it was to be me.” That’s what I use a journal for – not a notebook. I would split the hair again and claim that there’s a difference between a diary and a journal – that it’s sort of like the difference between an autobiography and a memoir: in a diary you record each day’s events and in a journal you write whatever you want about your day whenever you want to write about it. I, too, keep a notebook – a writing notebook – and when I mentioned this during a presentation I gave on research in creative nonfiction, a hand in the audience immediately shot up: What did I write in my writing notebook?
Though the typical essay in opinion section ranges from 800 to 1,200 words, essays can be as short as a single image and as long as a book.
Here’s the definition I came up with: Essays are written in a personal voice, involve one or more journeys, and are relevant not just to the writer but also to the reader.
She claims that at no point have I ever been able successfully to keep a diary; my approach to daily life ranges from the grossly negligent to the merely absent, and on those few occasions when I have tried dutifully to record a day’s events, boredom has so overcome me that the results are mysterious at best. But I’m happy to talk about the physical practicalities of craft – I want to know about your Pilot G-2 and your Clairefontaines. When I answered the question many people took notes – perhaps in their writing notebooks.
What is this business about “shopping, typing piece, dinner with E, depressed”? Here’s a version of what I said: I keep three versions of a writing notebook: a journal, a writing notebook, and a writing planner.
That journey—physical, emotional, intellectual, or some combination of the above—often becomes the structure of the essay.
For an essay I wrote about reactions to the Paris climate agreement, my question was, “Why are more experienced climate journalists so much grumpier about this than I am?
In her essay “Pathologies,” published in her book , Kathleen Jamie writes: “I had some turning in my head, though I didn’t raise my hand.
About ‘nature,’ mostly, which we were exhorted to reconnect with. ” For me, essays usually begin with a “turning in my head,” a persistent question that sets me off on a journey of discovery.
Like good science, good essays start with a question.
While scientists test their hypotheses through experiments in the laboratory or the field, essayists search for answers through interviewing, reading, and the process of writing and revising.