I think every writer should keep a journal of some kind.
Now, I’m not going to be so audacious as to suggest what kind of journal you should keep or how often you should write in it, but I am going to stick to my premise.
I used to keep drama and angst-filled journals, but out of respect to family members who may outlive me and become potentially traumatized by my candid outpourings, I threw most of them away. However, I still keep journals, and while they are still my honest place to vent, I’m much more purposeful and intentional in how and what I write in them. They have become a place to feed and nurture my writing.
Here are five reasons why I think keeping a journal is essential to the writer's journey:
A journal is the perfect place to ditch your editor and let your creativity flow. When I write in my journal, I intentionally tell my inner editor to hush herself. She is not allowed to worry about commas, proper grammar or spelling. She is not allowed to suggest paragraph breaks or reword my thoughts. Writing in my journal is strictly about expression—allowing my creative and inner thoughts to flow sans any correction or criticism.
Writing daily, in a private place you know no one else will ever read or critique, gives you an ideal opportunity to learn to trust your voice. Once you’ve stuffed a sock into the inner critic’s mouth and learned to let your creativity flow, you can begin to just write--without a censor. This free writing allows you to listen to, develop and trust your inner voice a little more. After all, you can play without fear. Do you feel like being flowery? Go ahead, wax poetic. Are you feeling in the mood for deep soul-searching or a need to deliver an opinion or editorial? Let it rip. Play. And learn to trust your voice.
A journal helps you connect with the physical act of writing. Take out the pen and notebook and write long hand. Make a physical connection with your writing. Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down The Bones says, “There is no separation between the mind and body; therefore, you can break through the mind barriers to writing through the physical act of writing…” There really is something about skipping the keyboard, and using the pen. Try different colored pens; make it a sensory experience. You might be surprised how the physical act of writing truly connects your mind, heart, body and words.
Getting the angst out can help you find the muse again. If you find yourself in a writing rut, unable to find a flow, a journal can be the perfect and safe place to explore what might be going on. Maybe you are stressed, fearful, or just drawing blanks. By finding a quiet place to process your thoughts, heart and soul, you can refresh your spirit, and open up the channels again. Sometimes your muse just needs you to get out of the way. Give yourself permission to, what I like to crassly call, “emotionally vomit” on the page and release the blocks.
Journals are a great mine for your writing. Many of my blog posts, articles, She Writes posts, essays and other writing projects have come out of nuggets of ideas from my journal pages. Many times, as I'm allowing my thoughts to flow freely, I'll see a jewel in the rough that I can use for a writing project. Some people write down their dreams and have used those as a springboard for their fiction. Others have developed incredible memoirs based on their journals. No matter your style or purpose of writing, journals are a great resource for ideas.
Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way so strongly believes in the power of journaling—or morning pages as she refers to them—that she recommends writing at least three pages every morning, first thing. She writes:
Morning pages will teach you that your mood doesn’t really matter. Some of the best creative work gets done on the days when you feel that everything you’re doing is just plain junk. The morning pages will teach you to stop judging and just let yourself write. So what if you’re tired, crabby, distracted, stressed? Your artist is a child and it needs to be fed. Morning pages feed your artist child. So write your morning pages.
Do you keep a journal? What benefits have you discovered?
What have you learned from your journaling process? Does it feed your writing?
Keep writing and jounaling (you should!),