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  • [Making the Leap] Five Reasons Every Writer Should Journal
[Making the Leap] Five Reasons Every Writer Should Journal
Written by
Julie Luek
August 2013
Written by
Julie Luek
August 2013

I’m going to be bold and use a word I rarely dare to use: should. Deep breath. Here goes.

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!),






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  • Julie Luek

    I'm going to check out Ommwriter, Maryellen. Thanks for the information and your comment. Happy journaling. 

  • Thanks for your pot, Julie. I've recently begun a journal, and am already feeling the effects of personal writing. As a novice, there is freedom in getting it on the page, however it comes out.  I am using a program called, 'Ommwriter.' I have very little manual dexterity for pen and paper in what was my dominant my right hand since a stroke 4 years ago. I do all my writing on the laptop with my left hand.  I do miss the pen and paper connection, but this will have to do for now.  I'm thankful for the ability to express my thoughts.  Your reasons are spot on.

  • Julie Luek

    Hi Jenny, I am a journal hound-- love them. But I realize we're all different and have different needs. Hope it's a good journey for you!

  • Julie Luek

    Hi Taneisa-- Thank you for sharing. You offer such great insight into the benefits of journaling. I like how you said it's a great place to "connect to self". That's how I feel about my personal journals too. I envy all the letters you still have with family. That's precious. Oh good for you for taking the leap! Cheering you on. 

  • Taneisa Grier

    Hi Julie, I journal and diary write. I have vol. 1, 2, 3, etc...(Although I’ve been on hiatus for a while) Some complete and others still waiting on me to fill the pages. I think you evolve over time with the content. I started out separating those meant for artistic works and those personal, but sometimes you forget and you just write. This is the main point-just write (especially for writers). A journal allows you that unscripted freedom that’s needed and then later you can give shape or form if need be. It's personable; it's real, and its connective and so many other adjectives. For the non-writer it's a great place to “connect” to self. I've found a journal helps you find who you are. I recommend it to younger siblings and individuals across all ages. You're right; there is something special about it. I have letters and a card from my grandmother when I was in my teens. It's so special because I can still savor that moment and memory. I can take it and frame it and allow others to see the beauty of a special time in my life. That's what writing in general does it’s the written snapshot of your life or thoughts.


    I stepped back and leaped a long time ago (I was eleven when I took my first steps)! I think you are on to something...the leap is worth it.

  • Julie Luek

    Yolanda, you're so sweet-- than you. And yes, everyone should stop by and say hi to Yolanda and check out her books!

  • Yolanda Renee

    Julie is a guest on my blog post today, A Colorado Mountain Hi!  Come on over and say hello!

  • Suzanne Fluhr

    Julie-- As a college history major, I was also lamenting the loss of letters --- but, thanks to the NSA, maybe all those emails will be available ;-)  Just kidding, although I sometimes slip into letter writing mode in emails, my Millennial sons' emails can only be described as "terse".

  • Julie Luek

    Suzanne -- I wrote a short essay on one of my blogs not too long ago, lamenting the loss of letters. I too went to college pre-electronic anything days and, yes, long-distance phone calls were too pricey to do often. Instead, I wrote letters to my folks and my Grandpa. I wish I'd had the foresight to save them, but like you, not sure I would know that girl either. It's kind of sad letter writing is a lost art. Think  of all the biographies possible because people kept their exchanges. 

  • Suzanne Fluhr

    Back in the day, I was a great letter writer. I wrote a letter almost every day. That was what some might consider journaling. I attended college back when a long distance telephone call was a major deal--only done after 11 pm when the rates went down and only if something really bad happened. For the rest of life, we wrote letters. My grandparents and parents kept all the letters I wrote to them. When my parents finally moved out of their house after 30 some years, my mother gave them to me. I also lived in Mexico, England and Colombia before age 21, and each time, I would have to leave my Philadelphia friends behind, but I wrote to them and I asked them to keep and return my letters when I returned. So, now I have a large carton of letters, but I've been reluctant to delve into them. Most of the letters were written before age 30 and I can barely remember the girl/young woman who wrote them. I think I do need to carry around little notebooks to write down ideas for blog posts. My ideas usually occur when I'm walking by myself or with our dog, but if I don't write thoughts down pretty much contemporaneously, they will be gone by the time I need them. Write on, Ladies!

  • Thea Constantine

    Oooh great! Thanks Julie--I'll order it from the library. I love sharing beloved books.

  • Julie Luek

    Hi Thea-- That book is on my to-read list. Thank you for reminding me to get to it. The other book that really inspires my journaling love is May Sarton's Journal of Solitude. It's a beautiful, almost poetic, account of a year she lived alone. It's journaling, but it's observational and beautiful and lyrical. Lovely. 

  • Thea Constantine

    I just finished David Sedaris' Exploring Diabetes with Owls - he had a wonderful piece on journaling that really made me want to get back into it. I was fascinated with the kind of things he did put in his journal. Not so much the personal stuff as the observations on the things he saw and heard everyday. Now I'm reading this-- I think I'm going to go dig up one of the many journals I've started and try again.

  • Julie Luek

    Allyson-- what a great idea. If I ever advance to a smart phone (laughing at myself, now), I will look into it!

  • Julie Luek

    Allyson-- I wish I was better about keeping a dream journal. Every now and again something vivid will stick in my head, usually because it has an emotional ramification for me, but otherwise, I never remember my dreams! I think that's a great idea. 

  • Julie Luek

    Calliope- That's pretty much how it is for me too!

  • Calliope Lappas

    I absolutely love this!  The journal is a must! :)

  • Julie Luek

    Petula-- we love our little rugrats but they sure suck the life out of our creativity sometimes! I think I also flagged in my journaling when my kids were young. But now that they're older and independent, I'm trying to reclaim that time, even if it means getting up at 4:30 am (which it does, sometimes). 

  • Petula Lloyd

    I used to journal every evening. I kept it up regularly until I had my first child in 1991 then it was sporadic and almost non-existent after I had three more children 13 years later. Now, I'm often so tired and the muse wavers so much... an-t-way, I journal when the mood hits and I really know I should journal more frequently to keep that writing flowing. I have ideas that need a little helping flowing. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Julie Luek

    Karen, I go through ebbs and flow in my journaling too, but as I work through some "stuff"-- both personally and in my writing-- I'm finding the free flow of writing, without Editor sticking her nose in, has helped me uncover some heart-discoveries. I think there will, at some point, be use for it in my writing. Go us!

  • Karen A Szklany Writing

    I have gone through periods of writing "morning pages." The practice is so therapeutic, and I usually take time and read a chunk, glean the great ideas (either messages to myself or story ideas to flesh out) and then throw the "riff raff" of dark thoughts away.  I can feel the need coming on to start again. It is so true that a physical release of pent-up energy can be experienced in tandem with the emotional relief of releasing the contents of our brain cells onto paper through our hands. Can't wait to start again.

  • Julie Luek

    LuAnn-- Good points, both about pulling phrases and not being able to blow off steam in a blog-- I'm the same way!

    Lucinda-- that's a great point, and with my current journals, I'm much more aware of not being self-conscious but of making the material truly healing, which means digging beyond the complaining. I think if future generations read these, they'll be more meaningful (after they get over "Grandma did what?!").

  • Julie, Thanks for responding. I know what you mean. There are things in my journals I don't want my relatives to read until after I'm gone. I don't have children, so maybe I feel differently than you do about them. Until I'm gone, my journals will remain private. I do have to remember that it can be healing for those who read our experiences, even though we feel ashamed of our actions. We're all in the same boat. We all make mistakes and do things we're not proud of. For me, if someone learned something from their experiences, that gives me more to think about and it encourages me to make sense of what's happened to me.

  • LuAnn Schindler

    I do like keeping a journal, although I haven't written in mine a lot in the last five years. Prior to that, I started journaling when I graduated from high school - a long time ago - and filled several books.

    I find journaling is a great way to kickstart ideas. I can go back through and pull phrases or ideas and create bigger, stronger pieces.

    Plus, it's a great way to let off steam. I couldn't do that in a blog post. :)

  • Cardyn, an interesting thought... some of my best ideas have come from taking long walks in nature. However, it was a a brutal night sweat and insomnia that drove me to my keyboard one night where I pounded out what could only be called the mad ramblings of a peri-menopausal woman that then led to my novel, Mental Pause. Very cathartic and, writing it as fiction allowed me to really let loose!