I know there will be many of you who already journal and don't need to be convinced, but at the end of a long year, it has been lovely to rediscover the power of journaling and what it can provide. My friend, Kristi, journals regularly and uses the method as a way of sorting out her thoughts and ideas. Lots of writers do. Journaling is not about writing a first draft. It can be used for many things, including planning and goal setting, as well as just sorting out what's flying around inside your head.
I often suggest to students that they keep a writer's journal, where they can collect ideas and explore them. They look at me as if I'm crazy! With all the writing and assignments they have to do for the course, why would they want to do more? But it's up to you how you choose to use a journal, and what for.
Here are some ways you can make use of it:
1. Write in your journal every morning to clear your head of "life" and get ready for the writing day ahead.
2. Explore ideas for stories and novels - explore why the idea interests you, where it could go, what it means to you. Expand it without pressure - experiment.
3. Journal about your dreams and goals, and how you are going to achieve them. Explore possibilities, let your imagination roam. Often putting this stuff down on paper helps you to make it more real, and gives you a starting point for planning and action.
4. Use your journal to get rid of negative emotions and experiences that stop you from writing. Pour it out on the page and it won't interfere with your real writing.
5. Journal about aspects of your life other than writing. If you have a problem (like a job you hate but need), journal about ways you might get out of it. The more ideas you have, the more likely you are to find one that will work. Writing it all down is also a call to action.
6. Use your journal as a place to come up with new ideas. You can be more focused with this - look for writing prompts like this one at Writing World.
7. Use your journal as a way to record stories from your life. Include photos and mementoes as prompts for yourself. The pieces you like can form the basis of something to leave your family.
You may like to buy a book to get you started. A Year in the Life: Journaling for Self-Discovery by Sheila Bender is one (I haven't read this but her book on personal essay writing is great).
Do you journal? What do you use your journaling for?