3 Ways Keeping a Journal Makes You a Better Writer

Diary

 

Everyone writes, often because they have to. If you’ve fallen in love with writing for pleasure, it’s easy to forget you don’t have to stick to one medium to do it. Just because you spend most of your writing time weaving together short stories doesn’t mean you can’t try your hand at a poem or two every now and then.

Journaling is a beautiful and somewhat neglected tactic that turns talented writers into successful ones. Having a private place to organize your thoughts and giving yourself the freedom to cross out words, doodle, and tear out pages you never want to look at again might be your next step toward…well, finishing that book you’ve been working on for the past three years (cough, cough).

Keeping a journal isn’t for everyone. But if you’re up to trying new things, journaling more often might do more to improve your writing skills than you think.

 

Defining Your Audience
Learning how to write for an audience is an essential skill if you want to become a well-rounded and successful writer (how you define well-rounded and successful, well, that’s often up to you). You’re always writing to someone; if you’re freelancing, you don’t always get to choose whom that someone is. A journal is much different.

Similar to Anne Frank’s “Kitty,” you have the freedom to give your journal its own identity, an identity to which you can thereafter direct all your thoughts, frustrations, and triumphs to. Doing this often can, over time, help you learn how to balance writing for different audiences, especially if your writing at your day job, and the persona you assign to your journal, are polar opposites.

 

Providing a Safe Storyboard
Sometimes staring at a screen all day can get old. Sometimes sharing ideas with friends makes us feel vulnerable and self-conscious about something we want very desperately to be proud of. When all else fails, a journal might be the next best tool.

Putting your ideas down onto pages no one else can touch can be both refreshing and freeing. Opening to a new blank page and scratching out even a few words by hand can help you see those ideas in a completely new light. Those pages can quickly and easily become the place where all your ideas burst open into thoughts you can better put into words, and if you make a mistake or start going in a direction you don’t like, it’s very easy to simply flip to another blank page and start over.

 

Teaching You to Be Honest With Yourself
There are plenty of ways to hold ourselves accountable for getting our work done (like blogging about that book we still haven’t finished writing). Things like posting on social media and pestering your followers to push you to make consistent progress on your latest project are still public, though, and it’s easy to get caught up in what you really want to accomplish versus what you can feasibly achieve.

Writing in a journal is one way to teach yourself to stay honest. If those private pages are the first place you admit you don’t want to finish what you’ve spent so many years of your life working on, that’s an ideal place to start. A journal does not judge. A journal listens. And though it won’t tell you you’re being dumb, it’s much easier to look back at your own words and decide for yourself what you want to do with them.

Whether it’s the leftover pages of a high school composition notebook or a Moleskine®, pick up paper and pen and let your thoughts roam free. Some of your best ideas may come from those few illegible paragraphs you crank out before bed tonight.

Years later, you might go back, struggle to read those same words, and thank yourself for putting them on paper.

 

 

Guest post courtesy of Novelty Revisions. Novelty Revisions understands how difficult it is for writers to turn their ideas into products. They address common struggles aspiring writers face as they try to make a name for themselves in the publishing industry.

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Image courtesy of Novel Revisions.

 

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17 thoughts on “3 Ways Keeping a Journal Makes You a Better Writer”

  1. Journaling is my favorite writing activity. I love how freeing it is to get my thoughts out in the open, where only I can read them, unless I choose to share them. At first, I carried two separate journals: one for my writing and one for my everyday life. I stick to just one now because it’s easier to keep up with. And because my writing is a part of me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I find keeping a notebook while I’m writing helps keep the timeline and characters straight. I often forget what I named, say, the IRS agent in Chapter 4 and having that info in a journal helps me find it without searching through the whole book (which can be a frustrating experience)!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is so well said! I’ve been keeping a journal for more than 10 years and it’s absolutely the best way to keep myself honest. I know if I’ve gone too long without journaling, it’s usually because there’s something I’m avoiding (like why I don’t want to write that too-close-to-home scene) and it’s time to have words with myself!

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  4. Hmm…! Maybe that’s something I should take up again. (If I haven’t already? I am not 100% sure what counts.) I do keep a list of ideas which I draw from quite often, though. It really helped during 750 Words and Story A Day.

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  5. I definitely need to start keeping a journal again. At the moment my notebook is full of half-baked ideas! Thanks for the post 🙂

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  6. I don’t journal, as such — I really don’t want anyone reading my intimate thoughts — but I do story prompts, starters, etc.,, and keep them in a notebook. Often I throw in lists of ideas, or a story prompt will induce a true story about something in my past. And usually something “real” ends up in my books. Good post.

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  7. Hello again.
    Your posts have my attention. The etymology of the word “journey” aptly describes the purpose of a journal. Thanks for helping me to make the connection. Please continue to share your insight.
    P.S. Your Kitty allusion was magnificent. I got it.

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  8. Reblogged this on tanyascreams and commented:
    Journals can be a source for inspiration, like that weird name you encountered. Something embarrassing can become something funny, as long as you don’t implicate anyone. Strange dreams can become strange stories or the inspiration for a poem.

    Liked by 1 person

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