Need to find some inspiration to write more? An excellent idea is to start a journal.
There’s still a belief that journal writing is some hippy-dippy type activity that gets you in touch with your emotions. You sit down, let your feelings flow, and BAM! Suddenly you understand the very essence of who you are.
This isn’t how it works – not for the majority of us anyhow. Journaling can be a lengthy process, albeit a powerful one. It is its own therapist that offers a safe place to express just exactly how we feel.
What if I told you that keeping a journal could not only calm your temper, manage your nerves, lift your mood? What if I told you that putting pen to paper each day could improve your writing.
A couple of years ago I was going through a rough patch with my writing. I had no fresh ideas, no sense of direction, and every word on the page felt insufficient. I would type a sentence, and just as quickly hit ‘delete’ ‘delete’ ‘delete.’
Ever been there? Ever been tearing your hair out wondering,
‘Why is nothing I write any darn good?’
Instead of beating myself, I picked up an old notebook and I wrote.
Journal writing isn’t just for those hippie-types; it’s for us all, especially if we want to improve our writing.
Here are 5 benefits of keeping a journal.
1. Journaling Makes You A Better Writer
We all know that writing more makes you a better writer. A writer who doesn’t write cannot expect to be a very good one.
Even if we’re not actively working on a writing project, the activity of writing itself is just as important. Whether we’re scribbling down thoughts, ideas or a shopping list, we’re exercising the right muscle.
Keeping a journal allows us to experiment with our writing without the fear of perfectionism. This journal isn’t going anywhere - nobody is going to read it. It’s for your eyes only. Here, you can write as badly or as well as you wish.
Without the fear of having ‘bad writing’ (though, no writing can really be classed as bad if it’s paving the way for something better!) we learn to write freely, expressively, with emotion. We learn to fight off the dreadful writer’s block by pushing through the worries of judgement or never being successful.
2. It Releases Emotions
We all have emotions building up inside of us: after all, we’re human. Most often we bury our feelings away because we don’t have time, or we think we’re being weak. We don’t think we should feel these things.
Even if we’re not going to indulge in therapy or a six-week positivity course, journaling is still a positive way to express how we feel without a filter. We all need that space.
But how does this aid in writing, you may be asking? How does writing about feeling miserable, or overwhelmed, or angry, help you write the things you’re meant to be writing? Like an article for a blog entitled ‘5 Benefits of Keeping a Journal,’ for example.
Here’s why: we can’t commit fully to anything if we’re running on empty.
We can’t expect our brain to function at its optimal level if we’re ruminating on things that happened years ago; or things that are happening now. Writing out our thoughts makes space for creativity, productivity, and writing that isn’t bogged down by our own mental blockages.
3. It Records Your Life Story
Even if you don’t have the desire to share your life story with the world, journal writing is an amazing way to be able to look back at your life, who you were and what you were feeling and doing.
So often we lose track of the day-to-day details of our lives (and they’re usually the most interesting!)
Aside from a trip down memory lane, recording your life story is a fantastic way to gain ideas for characters, plot lines, articles, and pretty much any genre or form of writing. Looking back at my old journal entries, I have found inspiration for almost everything and anything.
In fact, the first line of this article was extracted and tweaked from one of my first journals!
Need to buy a journal after reading this article? Check out this page on the best journals to buy.
4. It Strengthens Self-Discipline
Making the conscious decision to journal everyday, or several times a week at least, improves your self-discipline, like with any habit.
Octavia E. Butler once wrote, ‘First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not.’
In a fast-paced world, where instant gratification is constantly searched out, it is easy to throw in the towel. It is especially easy to throw in the towel when we don’t have to do something.
Without strict deadlines or incredible self-mastery, we are prone (as humans) to curling up on the sofa and watching mind numbing reality TV.
Commit to writing something everyday. Some days, write a line. Some days, write six pages. Some days, write one or two words (normally ‘help’ or ‘I suck!’) but the fact is, you'rewriting.
Just from sticking to journaling, I find it easier to stick to other things in my life, like exercising, eating better foods, getting better sleep. And these things, in turn, help me to write better. It all comes full circle, kid!
5. We Are Able to Grow As Writers
We all have our own writing style. And it’s easy to fall into a rut.
Journaling gives us a chance to explore. As we put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) we are given the chance to learn more about ourselves, and to learn more about how we can write...and what we can write.
Maybe you’re a columnist type, writing articles on current affairs and world politics. You think ‘Me? Write children’s stories? I think not.’ With journal writing you can never be sure where you’ll be led.
And that’s pretty exciting. It means that we’re always open to new ideas and new styles.
It means we’re not stunted as writers. We’re not stunted as people.
Free write - write whatever comes to mind. Let your words and ideas flow organically.
Use prompts. Write about what you are grateful for, people or situations that have hurt you, goals you hope to achieve, times you felt the most successful. Need some inspiration? Check out this list of prompts.
Don’t write for perfection. This is a space to just write. It doesn’t have to be publishable!
Start and end your day with journaling, even just for a few minutes. Scribble down dreams you had the night before, and things that happened during the day.
Find a place that works best for you: in your bed, at your desk, on your commute to work; in a physical journal or on your computer.
Want to learn more about how to kick-start your freelance writing career? Click the link for 16 EPIC writing tips