How Keeping a Journal Makes You a Better Writer
The more you write, the better your writing becomes. That’s not an opinion; it’s a fact. Experience breeds expertise, so if you write a lot, you’ll become an expert writer.
Writing every day is the best way to acquire lots of experience.
Writers who come to the craft out of passion never have a problem with this. They write every day because they need to write every day. Writing is not a habit, an effort, or an obligation; it’s a necessity.
Other writers struggle with developing a daily writing habit. They start manuscripts, launch blogs, purchase pretty diaries and swear they’re going to make daily entries. Months later, frustrated and fed up, they give up.
When weeks have passed and you haven’t written a single word, when unfinished projects are littering your desk and clogging up your computer’s hard drive, you can give up entirely and take out a lifetime lease on a cubicle in a drab, gray office. Or, you can step back, admit that you have a problem, and make some changes.
Keeping a Journal
One thing sets successful writers apart from unsuccessful writers: commitment. When you’re committed to the work, your chances for success increase exponentially. And one of the easiest, most natural, and creative ways to commit to your own writing and produce better writing over time is keeping a journal.
Writers who are not working at the professional level are juggling their writing projects with full-time jobs, families, school, and a host of other obligations. Writers also get stuck. You’re working on a manuscript and then one day, the ideas stop flowing. You decide to step away for a day or two, and three months later, you’ve practically forgotten all about that book you were writing. In fact, you can’t remember the last time you sat down and actually wrote something.
Journals can be used for many things, but first and foremost, keeping a journal is a solution. Journaling is best known for its artistry and highly recognized for its self-help or vent-and-rant benefits. But few young or new writers realize that a journal is a writer’s most sacred space. It’s a place where you can jot down or flesh out ideas, where you can freewrite or work on writing exercises when you’re blocked, and where you can tackle writing prompts when you’re short on time. It’s a space where you develop better writing skills and learn new techniques through trial and error. And it’s superb for fostering a daily writing habit.
In other words, keeping a journal can make you a better writer. That’s not to say it’s the only way (there are many ways to become a better writer), but it’s a good way.
Inspiration and Productivity
The three biggest barriers to a writer’s success are writer’s block, time management, and procrastination.
If you’re working on a big project and writer’s block sets in, a good solution is to take a break and work on something else for a while. Too many writers take “something else” to mean “a different novel.” Instead of breaking from one big project to launch another big project (and ultimately ending up with several unfinished projects), use the break to write in your journal. This gives you time to step away from the project that is stuck and provides a space for you to continue writing (and possibly work through the problems you’re having with your project).
Everyone wants to write a book, even people who don’t consider themselves writers and who don’t want to be writers. But who has the time? Aspiring writers often complain that they’d love to take their writing hobby to the next level, but they are too busy. Journal writing is an ideal way to bridge that gap. Keeping a journal provides a time and space where you can explore ideas, develop good writing habits, and sharpen your writing skills, so when there is finally time in your schedule to write that book, you’re ready for it.
Distractions and Procrastination
You can keep a journal on your computer (or you can use an old typewriter, if that kind of thing appeals to you). But most writers use a good, old-fashioned notebook: pen and paper. While we can certainly crank out more words when we type, we are also at risk for the many distractions of the computer and the Internet. When your journal writing sessions are offline, your productivity may increase tenfold because you spend the entire session writing. After all, your journal doesn’t have Twitter or solitaire on it. There are no distractions, so you’re less likely to procrastinate.
The Benefits of Keeping a Journal
The truth is, you don’t have to write every single day to be a professional or published writer. Daily writing is the best practice, but many writers keep a regular, five-day work week. A few writers get by on the binge model, writing heavily for a few months and then not writing at all for a while. But one rule remains firm: those who succeed treat their writing as a job and they commit to it.
Keeping a journal is an ideal way for writers to fulfill that commitment. When you keep a journal, you rid yourself of excuses. You can no longer say that you’re stuck on a plot twist because you can write in your journal until the plot becomes untwisted. In fact, writing in your journal may help you do just that. When you’re short on time, you can always turn to your journal for a quick, ten-minute writing session, even while larger projects are sitting on the back burner. And your journal is distraction-free, so you can stay focused during your journal writing sessions.
Do you have to keep a journal in order to succeed and become a professional or published writer? No, of course not. There are many paths to better writing and journal writing is just one trail on the mountain, but it’s a trail that is entrenched with the footprints of successful writers throughout history who have benefited from keeping journals.
Do you keep a journal? How do you use your journal writing time? How often do you write in your journal? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.