Journaling: A Writer's Best Friend

Whenever someone asks me how to get unstuck - and believe me, I get this question a lot - my immediate response is journaling.

Whenever someone asks me how to improve their writing, I tell them to start journaling.

Whenever someone asks me how to develop a new idea, I say - you guessed it - journaling.

The concept of journaling typically conjures memories of a tiny book, which harbors your deepest thoughts and secrets, and is locked up with a small key. However, whether you call it journaling, brainstorming, or free-writing, the process of getting words out of your head and onto the page can be cathartic, practice, or solve any number of problems. 

Here's how to use journaling to improve your writing, as well as your quality of life.

1. Problem-Solving. It is nearly impossible to solve a problem - writing or other - solely inside your head. Yet, when you write things out and look at them objectively, it helps with clarity and direction.

For example, let's say you don't know what you want your character to do next. Put yourself in your character's shoes and start journaling from their point of view. This will help you take a deeper dive into their background ... and enable them (your characters) to give you a suitable direction. 

Let's say you are having trouble with your outline. Journal several scenarios, set them aside, and look at them fresh the next day.

Stream-of-consciousness writing, whether it's as the author of the character, can help you solve a multitude of problems.

2. Practicing. The best way to improve you writing is by writing. The more you do it (practice), the better you become. It's like any sport of form of exercise.

What's a better way to practice writing than journaling. You are writing for yourself, and so you can pretty much put anything you want down on paper ... no audience, no judgement. It also helps you to develop your style and tone. When you write about the things you observe and experience, you don't need to think about it. You can just write, explore, and improve.

Note: Beginning writers, especially, may want to read their journal entries out loud (in private, of course), since that's the best way to catch any mistakes.

3. Pondering. Whether you are deciding the next step in a writing project, or trying to determine what to work on next, take it to your journal. Schedule a little bit of time each day to brainstorm on paper, as a way to explore your options. When you hit on something exciting, you'll know, because that will be all you will be able to journal about. It can also serve as a repository for ideas for future projects. Next time you are ready to start something new, turn to any page in your journal, and see if what you have written ignites a spark.

However you choose to use the practice of journaling is fine. And, remember, you don't only need to use it when you are stuck, need to practice, or explore what's next. It can be used on an ongoing basis to track ideas, observations, and adventures.

How do you use journaling? Please share in the comments.

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Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. Like the Write On Online Facebook Page and join the Facebook Group.  She is author of Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages, and host of the Guided Goals Podcast and the #GoalChat Twitter Chat. Debra is an editor at Social Media Examiner and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.


Karen Cioffi said...

Debra, this is timely for me. I have a ghosting gig and not quite sure in which direction to go with it. Using your tip #1 might be helpful! Thanks for sharing.

Debra Eckerling said...

Happy to hear that, Karen. Let me know how it works for you. Good luck, Deb

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