Author Topic: Creating a Journal: Ideas and hints for a good one?  (Read 4738 times)

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Offline Stevenp

Creating a Journal: Ideas and hints for a good one?
« on: February 14, 2011, 05:04:48 pm »
I have learned so much through these forums and they are such a great place to share information so I thought I'd run this question by everyone also.

I am at the point of starting up my journal for my Across The U.S.A. trip that will begin in July and I am wondering what the best way of doing it might be. Now, I know that Crazyguy... has journals that many use and I have also seen them on separate blogs. What do you think?

Also, when telling the story on the road with a camera as I go, what are some things to think about or to do, or not do in my journal as I go?

Any thoughts on any of this based on your experience?

Thanks!

Stevenp

Offline cgarch

Re: Creating a Journal: Ideas and hints for a good one?
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2011, 07:12:42 pm »
Just my opinion, but why wouldn't you use CGOAB? The website gets a huge number of hits and you're in the company of world travelers, where many folks are more likely to see it. Plus somewhere in one of the topics is a discussion of what makes a good journal - people you meet, the various odd adventure, you name it. Photos of the people you meet, that which captures your eye, all those things that make a trip anything other than what you expected. Setting up a journal on CGOAB is pretty straightforward. Take a look at the featured journals for the best examples. How you write about your trip will make a world of difference too. Good luck . .

Craig

Offline Stevenp

Re: Creating a Journal: Ideas and hints for a good one?
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2011, 07:48:07 pm »
Just my opinion, but why wouldn't you use CGOAB?

As of right now, I agree. I like how it is set up and the ability to place so many photos on the posts—it seems like the place to post my trip. I just wanted to throw the question out to see if there are ideas I haven't thought of or to hear others take on it.

You put it well though, there are many reasons to post my trip on CGOAB.

Thanks! I am still interested in anyone else's take on journals though, including insights on the actual posting.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Creating a Journal: Ideas and hints for a good one?
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2011, 08:28:03 pm »
I like the CGOAB journal format, with text intermingled with pictures and captioned pictures. It also gives you whatever kind of hierarchical structure you want, and it takes care of the mundane things for you such as accumulating mileage. Neil provides good support and the help page there will answer all your questions, as well as offer many suggestions on how to create an interesting journal. I like how easily you can navigate the site. I often get a bit lost on journals hosted on other sites.

There are a lot of different opinions about what makes a good journal. In my opinion, don't tell me what you had for breakfast, but tell me about the waitress who served it or the conversation you had with the couple at the next table. Don't tell me that there was a lot of wind or hills (of course there were), but tell me (and show me) about something charming that you saw along the way.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2011, 08:31:29 pm by John Nelson »

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Creating a Journal: Ideas and hints for a good one?
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2011, 11:24:15 pm »
The more details the better. Contrary to the popular cliche, a picture is NOT necessarily worth 1000 words, though pictures do help. Pictures trump words where the writer is not all that good at it. Keep detailed field notes. After the tour, when you have time, refine it. Many revisions and knowledge and practice in good writing may be required. It could be time consuming. If you are going to take the trip of a lifetime, make many copies of your well written journal and pass them along to future generations.

If you don't already know how, learn description. Keep a lightweight, digital recorder for capturing details as you go along. Try to remember details of conversations. I have extremely detailed journals and some less detailed. For cyclists, vivid descriptions of road conditions and traffic would be of some interest. Good writing can make most anything interesting or most anyone. If you are all that serious about it, you might want to seek out a night course in creative writing. Actually, good writing can be hard work, quite time consuming, and require a lot of serious thinking, and also the reading of other good writing in your subject. For reading, you might want to start with "The Great Ride," "Miles From Nowhere," and a book written by an Englishman many years ago which has been described as the greatest book about round-the-world cycling ever written, but I don't remember its title.

The journals on CGOAB are fine as those sorts of journals go, but if you really want to produce your magnum opus, you would not use them as models. They are somewhat interesting and engaging and imaginative. I have read many CGOAB journals, and while they are OK, they are not what I am trying to tell you to do, but several grades below. It's up to you what you do and how you go about it. You may eventually decide that the time required for putting together a really well-written, detailed journal is not worth it. I have written many journals and many hundreds of thousands of words and studied good writing and I have taught it. Revision is a key to good writing. Books are not written. They are re-written.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2011, 06:23:43 am by Westinghouse »

Offline Galloper

Re: Creating a Journal: Ideas and hints for a good one?
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2011, 06:37:17 am »
Totally agree with Westinghouse.   One additional comment I'd make is to keep a separate small notebook and make notes of each photo as you shoot it.   Otherwise, if you have lots of photos, it can be difficult to remember the circumstances and even the location of each one.

It's also a good idea to keep a scrapbook for things like park entrance tickets, restaurant bills etc.   Brings the whole thing wonderfully alive later on.

Offline Tandem4Rider

Re: Creating a Journal: Ideas and hints for a good one?
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2011, 07:05:31 am »
In addition to everything else already said - be yourself.  If your personality is appealing to at least one other person on this planet it is not because - I hope - you are pretending to be someone you are not.  My guess is you have your circle of friends and they like you because of who you are.  Your journal should be the same way.  Don't try to win my attention trying to be someone you are not.  The people I gravitate to (authors are the same) pull my attention because of something unique or particular about their personality that comes out in their words.

Offline Stevenp

Re: Creating a Journal: Ideas and hints for a good one?
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2011, 08:10:54 am »
Great comments! Thanks for the time to explain all that you have to me about a good journal! Really great! I agree with the importance of details and lots of description to bring the reader to where you are trying to explain.

For me this trip will be a lot about starting life over again. I come from an addiction that stole my life and will be writing a lot about just thoughts of what was and what now is. What I look forward to most is those times of sitting on the edge of a mountain having the deepest of thoughts and analyzing life itself. I think my journal will be an autobiography mixed with the beauty of life and the experience of experiencing life to the fullest. Something like that.

I do want to have a journal worth reading. What I really want is a life worth reading and I think this trip adds an interesting chapter or two to my life. I feel like I am among many interesting people when i am on this forum. Thanks for all the comments!

Offline staehpj1

Re: Creating a Journal: Ideas and hints for a good one?
« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2011, 08:17:59 am »
In addition to everything else already said - be yourself.  If your personality is appealing to at least one other person on this planet it is not because - I hope - you are pretending to be someone you are not.  My guess is you have your circle of friends and they like you because of who you are.  Your journal should be the same way.  Don't try to win my attention trying to be someone you are not.  The people I gravitate to (authors are the same) pull my attention because of something unique or particular about their personality that comes out in their words.
It all depends on what you want the journal to be.  A few possible goals might be.
  • A way for friends to follow your journey.
  • A way to share your journey with the touring community.
  • An outlet for your thoughts.
  • A journal that rises to the level of art
  • A book that makes money for you
  • A book that is great writing
For the first three cgoab is a very good venue.   It could be for the 4th as well.

For the last two... I am not sure if any of them made much money, but none of the touring books I have read have been all that well done.  I did enjoy, "Hey Mom, Can I Ride My Bike Across America?" but great literature it wasn't.  I read some of the other touring books that are often mentioned and they didn't do much for me.

OK, assuming you are sticking to some subset of the first 4 items in my list, I'd say just write about what you are doing and how you feel about it.  Family and friends will enjoy that, you will enjoy it, and in all probability some subset of the touring community will as well.  Our Trans America journal (http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/staehling2007) was written without the effort that I would have given to serious writing and was mostly targeted at family and friends with some additional effort given to sharing knowledge with other tourists and would be tourists.  I was surprised to see that it wound up having somewhat of a following.  I often hear from people who remember some detail or other of our trip or say they feel like they know us.  Overall it can be a very positive experience without too much effort.

If you should want to write a book that makes money or is a truly good book then, in my non-expert opinion, the focus need to be on writing a good book that just happens to be set in a touring situation.  Again, in my opinion, it needs to be interesting to and enjoyable to read by folks other than cyclists.  I am not sure if any of the touring books written so far rise to that level.

My suggestion is that it makes sense for 99.99% of us to do what I did and just share your experiences simply and in your own words for whatever audience finds them interesting.  Intersperse that with some good pictures and you will have a successful journal assuming it is where your audience can find it.  I think that cgoab is the logical place where an audience will find you.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Creating a Journal: Ideas and hints for a good one?
« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2011, 08:28:05 am »
Great comments! Thanks for the time to explain all that you have to me about a good journal! Really great! I agree with the importance of details and lots of description to bring the reader to where you are trying to explain.

For me this trip will be a lot about starting life over again. I come from an addiction that stole my life and will be writing a lot about just thoughts of what was and what now is. What I look forward to most is those times of sitting on the edge of a mountain having the deepest of thoughts and analyzing life itself. I think my journal will be an autobiography mixed with the beauty of life and the experience of experiencing life to the fullest. Something like that.

I do want to have a journal worth reading. What I really want is a life worth reading and I think this trip adds an interesting chapter or two to my life. I feel like I am among many interesting people when i am on this forum. Thanks for all the comments!
Good luck turning your life around.  A cross country tour can be a life changing experience, I hope it is for you.


Offline John Nelson

Re: Creating a Journal: Ideas and hints for a good one?
« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2011, 09:46:25 am »
I carry my notebook in my handlebar bag. As I ride, I frequently reflect on my experiences and what words seem to best describe them. When I hit upon a phrasing I like, I stop right there on the shoulder of the road and write it down before I forget. In the evening, these notes get moved into my journal.

Offline Elessar

Re: Creating a Journal: Ideas and hints for a good one?
« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2011, 10:04:52 am »
I love this place.  You guys are so full of it, good information, I mean.  Thanks for sharing.
"The road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began.  Now far ahead the road has gone and I must follow if I can."  J.R.R. Tolkien

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Creating a Journal: Ideas and hints for a good one?
« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2011, 10:15:41 am »
It all depends on what you want the journal to be.  A few possible goals might be.
  • A way for friends to follow your journey.
  • A way to share your journey with the touring community.
  • An outlet for your thoughts.
  • A journal that rises to the level of art

OK, assuming you are sticking to some subset of the first 4 items in my list, I'd say just write about what you are doing and how you feel about it.  Family and friends will enjoy that, you will enjoy it, and in all probability some subset of the touring community will as well.  Our Trans America journal (http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/staehling2007) was written without the effort that I would have given to serious writing and was mostly targeted at family and friends with some additional effort given to sharing knowledge with other tourists and would be tourists.  I was surprised to see that it wound up having somewhat of a following.  I often hear from people who remember some detail or other of our trip or say they feel like they know us.  Overall it can be a very positive experience without too much effort.

Pete's journal was one of the inspirations that led me to ride the TransAm two years later ("documented" at (http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/LambTransAm)).  His journal was a good read.  I hope mine was, too.  I wrote it mostly for my family, and let a few acquaintances in on the journal location.  They surprised me by passing it on, and those others seemed to enjoy reading it.  Two families with young children read it to their kids, and tracked our progress with pins on a big map.  That was cool.  I've heard that it helped push yet another newbie tourist to do the Southern Tier last year.  That was very cool.  Those are the things that lead me to conclude my journal was a success.  But I don't aspire to be a great writer, just a decent storyteller.  And if somebody else wants to see what I saw, or experience what I did, that's icing on the cake.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Creating a Journal: Ideas and hints for a good one?
« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2011, 11:22:08 am »
Patrick, thanks for the compliment on the journal.  I enjoyed reading your journal as well.  It really is satisfying when someone else is inspired enough by your journal to do a major tour, isn't it?