Want to become a better writer? Try journaling. By the way, you don’t have to call writing for yourself “journaling.” You can call your journal your idea bank, or your writer’s diary, or your daily log, as I do.
Here’s why journaling every day helps your writing.
1. It’s Low-Pressure. You Can Sneak Up on Scary Projects.
Your journal lets you try out ideas. All writers get many more ideas than for projects than we could ever write, even if we lived two lifetimes. We also get ideas which scare us.
Maybe you got an idea for a huge fantasy novel after you read A Game of Thrones. Ooooh… scary. Write a fantasy novel? If you dismiss the idea, you’re doing your subconscious mind a disservice. Dismiss your creativity regularly, and you’ll stop getting ideas.
On the other hand, if you write a few paragraphs in your journal about a fantasy novel you could write one day (maybe) you’ve just honored your creative impulse, and you’ll get more ideas.
2. You Can Easily Answer the Question: “What Are You Working On?”
People who hire you to write ask questions like “what are you working on now?”to get an idea of the kind of writer you are. If you journal regularly, and write down your ideas, you can answer this question without blinking.
You never know when you’ll meet someone like an editor, or a literary agent, who can help your writing career. Being able to answer the “what are you working on now?” question gives them confidence in you. They’ll remember you. They may even hire you for an upcoming project.
3. You Get More and Better Ideas.
Have you noticed that you get ideas when you’re writing? It never fails. You’re happily writing your romance novel, or the content for a client’s website, and you get a brilliant idea.
You could dismiss the idea, but this turns off your creativity – not an option, as we’ve said. Or you could work on the idea immediately… but this leads to procrastination. Also not an option. Or, you could write a few sentences or paragraphs in your journal. So, you do that, and you can get back to what you were working on.
4. You’ll Never Suffer From Writer’s Block.
Over time, your journal becomes an idea bank. If you’re feeling brain dead, you can browse the entries for the past couple of months, and come up with an idea you’d love to write.
Over the period of my own long career, I’ve experienced writer’s block several times. I don’t want to experience it again. Thankfully, I haven’t experienced a block since I started journaling regularly.
When you journal, you’re writing for yourself. You write whatever your mood. It’s therapeutic, and therapeutic writing:
has helped groups as diverse as Vietnam veterans, psychiatric prisoners and sex offenders to deal with personal trauma. It has helped ease the symptoms in specific illnesses, such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. It has been shown to boost the immune system and in one study even helped unemployed Texans find new jobs.
5. Your Journal Helps You to Achieve Your Goals.
Your journal helps you to plan your life, and your writing.
Let’s say you’ve set a goal to have a magazine article published in a major magazine later this year, in time to promote your new book. You set the goal. However, if you have no magazine contacts, you’re likely to send out a few desultory queries. When you get no response, you think: “silly idea,” and leave it at that.
On the other hand, when you journal about this, you’re making it much more real to yourself. You write about the prestige of magazine publication, and that it may help book sales. The article becomes real to you, and you become enthusiastic. You chat about it with a couple of friends. One day an editor calls you, telling you that another editor gave her your name. You’ve been journaling ideas for magazine articles, so off the top of your head, you pitch three ideas. She picks one… and you’re contracted to write the article – before your book is published.
The above scenario may seem far-fetched to you. Nevertheless, if you start to journal, these kinds of instances – you journal about something, and something happens coincidentally – will become common for you, as they have for me, and for other writers.
I know that journaling can seem a waste of time, when you’re writing for money. However, the minutes you spend journaling will soon prove their worth. You’re making an investment in yourself.
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