The Benefits of Journal Writing
Practice makes perfect, right?
That’s exactly why journal writing is essential for writers.
Do all writers keep journals? Of course not. But most of us have kept journals at some point, and for most of us, journal writing has been instrumental in generating ideas, developing a strong voice, and learning how to flesh thoughts out onto the page.
Journal writing is an excellent way to improve your writing by taking a little time out of each day to hone your skills. It’s perfect for stashing all those creative writing ideas that you just don’t have time to develop right now, and journal writing gives you an opportunity to explore your thoughts in greater detail and to access those thoughts that are somewhat elusive.
Probably the most famous application of journal writing comes from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. In it, she encourages people who are trying to connect with creativity to write every single morning. “Three pages of whatever comes to your mind — that’s all there is to it.”
Writing morning pages is like boot camp for your muse. By writing every day at the same time, you train her to show up when you say it’s time to work. Cameron’s methodology also involves turning off the inner censor, that little voice that berates every sentence.
The key is to simply let the words flow.
Think about this — if you write three pages a day, then in seven days, you’ll have twenty-one pages. In a month, you’ll have about ninety pages and in one year, you’ll have well over a thousand pages. That’s a lot of creative material to pull ideas from. And that’s why journal writing is a great tool for all creative people.
Get on the Writer’s Express
If you’re new to writing or want to explore writing as a career or hobby, then journal writing is your ticket onto the expressway to becoming a writer. You can use your journal to draft stories, sketch characters, jot down poems, or record the events of your daily life. Maybe after one year and over a thousand pages, you’ll be able to do some editing and publish your memoir.
Journal writing is also great for commercial writers (technical writers, copywriters, etc.), who spend all day writing and editing copy for clients. This type of writing is a lot different than writing stories or poems, so journal writing can help to get your head out of business and into more creative forms of writing. The creativity you cultivate will then seep into your professional writing and it will become more vivid and engaging.
Sticking to a Schedule
Even if you don’t stick to a rigorous schedule, it’s important to journal somewhat regularly. This helps keep ideas and language flowing and helps you to build the journal writing habit. You may only be able to journal on weekends or on certain days of the week. While I do think sticking to a schedule (preferably daily) is the best way, it’s not always realistic.
The most important thing is that you commit to journal writing and then proceed to keep your journal with you or nearby at all times. You can also carry smaller notebooks or scraps of paper and either glue or tape them into your journal later.
You’ll Need a Journal
I’ve been writing a journal on and off for more years than I care to admit that I have under my belt. Throughout all those years, I’ve tried every type of journal under the sun, and finally, I found my favorite for journal writing.
Technically, the Watson-Guptill Sketchbook is just that, a sketchbook. The pages are blank instead of lined, so you can doodle and write sideways.
Some writers can journal using anything — composition books, legal pads, napkins. I can do that too, but I don’t feel the connection to it as when I have my own sacred space especially for journal writing.
When I journal, I usually do freewrites or describe the goings-on in my life. Sometimes I write about my goals or beliefs. Other times, I draw, and I usually do that with Crayola Markers of all things!
Recently, I’ve got it into my head that I’ll start journal writing on the computer, now that I’ve got a shiny new Mac. But it’s just not the same as having that pen and paper in my hand. It’s almost like I’m closer to my creativity or my subconscious when I’m using a pen. I’m not sure if that’s true or even possible, but it sure feels that way.
Have you ever kept a journal? Do you keep one now? Let’s talk about how journal writing has impacted our writing or even our lives. And don’t forget to mention what type of book or paper you prefer to use for journal writing — or do you do it on the computer? Online? Is your blog your journal?