Write It Out: Journaling

One of the themes I see repeated in advice for authors involves some iteration of journaling. I’ve journaled off and on for over 15 years; I started long before anyone mentioned to me it was a good idea for writers. For a good while I stopped doing it consistently, but I found recently that in order to maintain my focus and discipline in my devotions and my schedule, I really need to journal. Not surprisingly, that discipline and focus has translated over into writing. I’ve been able to stay on top of my blog posts better and I have been able to sink roots into my work in progress which I hadn’t been able to do for a while.

I want to point out something about journaling that I haven’t seen a lot of in the advice for authors world. That is that journaling is not so much about content as about writing. Many of the columns, articles, and blog posts I’ve read talk about writing down details of your day, interesting things you’ve seen, names you’d like to remember, etc. These absolutely have value for writing; who doesn’t need a backlog of details to read through when they get stuck? And often the details we pick up on as writers make for really good content later on when we need a new project.

To be perfectly honest, though, I’ve almost never journaled about the events of my day. When I have tried, it hasn’t lasted very long and I’ve gotten annoyed with the process. I find myself feeling like I HAVE to write something interesting about my day when really I’ve just had a day. I get caught up in expectations for myself that aren’t feasible.

What I do journal are prayers, thoughts about verses I’ve read, verses I want to memorize and/or spend more time thinking about, my to do list, goals for myself, interesting quotes from whatever book I happen to be reading, answers to questions that have been on my mind or someone has asked me and I couldn’t find a way to verbalize a response. As I become more familiar with how I think and let myself operate in the way I function best instead of the way another writer tells me I should, I find that more and more things go into my journal. The start of a blog post here. A page of sermon notes there. A random bit of inspiration that hit me for my work in progress. Scribbled notes about a meal plan. Reminders about phone calls to make and bills to pay. My journal has become kind of the central hub of my thought process. And because of the disorder inherent in shoving everything into one book, I’ve actually found myself more organized in other areas.

I know exactly where to go to find my thoughts on a wide range of topics, so I don’t need to keep random notes and reminders elsewhere. I don’t need to leave things out so I don’t forget about them. I don’t need to keep a bunch of extraneous paperwork because I can condense what I do need down into the most basic information and put it in one place. This has made writing easier.

You might ask how. Well, because I can discard clutter more readily, I can have my environment set up to allow for my creative process to work. I’m not looking around my house, distracted by the random bit of paperwork I haven’t found a home for because I am afraid of forgetting it. I see better how much time I have throughout the day, so I don’t set unfair expectations for myself but I also don’t waste as much time because I am not overwhelmed to the point of shutting down.

Now, I know, this blog post has been pretty me focused, but it has a relevant point for you. That point is, if your desire is to be a writer, journaling is a great place to start. But don’t do what other writers tell you to do. Find your niche. If you enjoy writing down the details of your day, do that. If you need your journal to act as the hub of your life, do that. If you to journal fun quotes, do that. If drawing and/or painting help inspire you to write, use your journal for those things. Find what works for you; your journal is yours. It’s a space for you to be creative knowing you don’t have to share that creativity with anyone else. Use that to your advantage; when you have a safe place for your creativity that no one else gets to tap into, you boost your own confidence in being creative for others to see. You can run ideas past yourself and use just the ones you want.