The writer’s brain loves to analyze. Writers are complex people. In our waking hours, and often when we should be sleeping, our minds are swirling with ‘what ifs’ and hundreds of thoughts. If you’re struggling in your writing, you’re probably asking yourself the same questions many other writers habitually ask themselves. How do I come up with an idea? Is this idea any good? How do I find my voice? What if I’m no good? What if I’m wasting time writing something that will never get published? Will anybody want to read this?
If you’re feel like your writing muscles are becoming weak because you spend more time thinking than getting words down on the page, journaling could be the tool you need in your toolkit. You may be telling yourself you don’t have enough time to write. You may be reading about other writers spending hours writing the book of their heart. You may only have a half hour here or there. It’s my opinion that you can write that book using that half hour here and there, but that’s for another post. That half hour here and there is perfect for journaling. You don’t need uninterrupted hours to keep a journal. You can write snatches of your thoughts here and there. You can pick it up in the morning while sipping your coffee or late at night right before you climb into bed. Spend ten minutes, spend an hour. There are no rules. It’s up to you.
Writing in a journal can be a a very effective tool for loosening up your creativity. Those snatches of time that you spend in your journal add up. Not only in words and minutes, but in discipline. Knowing you can write whatever you want in your journal is a freeing notion. And that’s one common problem among both new and established writers – feeling unrestrained to write what’s really on your mind.
Many struggling writers hesitate to call themselves a writer. They haven’t yet published. Maybe they’re not writing everyday. Maybe they’re not knocking out thousands of words a week. Isn’t that what a writer does? Keeping a journal soothes the battle within ourselves. Writers write. If you’re keeping a daily (or almost daily) journal, you are writing.
Perfectionism kills more potential books than procrastination. Procrastinators eventually start. Perfectionists often never get started because it has to be perfect. Every. Single. Word. If you can’t be guaranteed of the perfect beginning, you just don’t begin at all. If you’re a perfectionist, journaling is the antidote for you. Since it is for your eyes only, your journal need not be perfect. You can write down whatever is on your mind. It doesn’t matter whether it will make sense to anyone else. No one else will be reading it. The grammar police won’t be breaking down your door. Break the rules and put a comma wherever it feels good. Capitalize all your words. Cuss. Yell. Cry. Again, it’s for your eyes only. Just start writing.
You might think of all this as just scribbling. Writing gibberish. Maybe you feel spending any time at all journaling is time wasted that could be better spent working on your book. On the contrary, any time spent writing is time spent honing your craft. Writing in a journal gives the left side of your brain a jiggle. You’re loosening up your creativity which results in inspiration and ideas.
Several times when I have read through my old journals, I’ve found a gem shimmering underneath my rambling angst. You might find an idea for a blog you’ve been wanting to start writing. Maybe it’s an idea for an article you know just the right magazine for. Your angry rant about something deeply concerning to you might make a perfect op-ed piece for your local paper. On a personal level, you might find the solution to a problem that’s been a thorn in your side for months. There’s something magical that happens when your brain connects your hand to that blank page. It’s like giving your brain the all clear.
If you’re ready to get started, there is no special preparation to begin. Grab a pad of paper and pen. Steal one of your child’s unused school notebooks. If you’ve had your eye on a pretty journal or notebook, this is the perfect excuse to go buy it. When you have your notebook or journal and pen, you are ready to start writing. Open your notebook to a blank page and simple write ‘Today I am going to start writing in this journal’. Just write.
Keeping a daily journal gets your daily creative juices flowing, sparks ideas, builds your writing skills, makes you feel confident, and helps you become disciplined. There are no deadlines, no pressure, and no peering eyes. It’s a permission slip to write from the heart and love your writer self. And loving who you are as a writer is one of the best ways to stop the swirling doubts and get busy doing what you want to do – write.
Do you keep a journal? Is there a special place you like to journal? Has journaling helped your writing?