Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Advantages of Journaling

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?


Alison Reynolds said...

Interesting post, Sherryl. I've kept a journal in the past a few times, and I've kept them. But at the moment tend to write things in a notebook higgledy piggledy that I also write drafts in and on scraps of paper.
After reading this I've decided that could be a project for tomorrow. - Find a notebook and start writing.
I'll be interested to hear how you go.
Happy 2011

Unknown said...

Sherryl, I really enjoyed reading your post about keeping a journal. Before I seriously considered writing, I used to be a huge fan of Scrap booking. Scrap booking is like keeping a personal journal of your precious photos with each page telling it's own story. That's probably why it's so huge around the world because everyone has their own story to tell.

I attended a writing course this year conducted by Angelika Heurich. She taught us about the benefits of handwriting in a journal and connecting to our work through automatic writing. I found this not only inspiring but also stopped my self editing habit. I'm going to start journal writing again.

Thanks for the Reminder!


Sherryl said...

Alison, I don't journal regularly but when I do, I find it really useful. At the moment I'm journaling about what I will be working on in 2011, and how to organise my time better.

Sherryl said...

Renee - free writing is a great way to connect with the stuff at the back of your brain, of all kinds. But as you say, it also helps to push that little editor with the too-loud voice off your shoulder!

Dawn Herring said...

I always love to read information on the benefits of journaling, because I never know what new thing I will come across. I love the variety of ideas you present here, both for writers and those who simply need to vent their emotions or work on setting goals for themselves.

I have chosen your post, The Advantages of Journaling, as the #JournalChat Pick of the Day for 12/29/10 for all things journaling on Twitter. I will post a link on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and my blog, Refresh with Dawn Herring.

You're welcome to follow my @JournalChat account on Twitter for all things journaling. :)

Thanks again for such an encouraging and informative post on the advantages of keeping a journal. :)

Be refreshed,
Dawn Herring
JournalWriter Freelance
@JournalChat on Twitter

Sherryl said...

Thanks, Dawn. It's great to know writers and readers out there are interested.
I'll visit your blog and website today! I'm always keen to find ways to encourage my students to have a go and see the benefits.

Kristi Holl said...

Thanks for the mention, Sherryl!

Yes, Sheila Bender's book on journaling is very good. You'd like it!

Another use of journaling I discovered last year was writing when I got stuck in my novel. I opened a "work in progress" journal and just journaled about being stuck and why and what I wanted to say...even interviewed a character about what SHE thought was wrong with the chapter. Sounds dumb, but it worked!

MaDonna Maurer said...

I just discovered your blog from Kristi Holl's site. Thanks so much for the idea. I journal everyday, but not about writing and ideas...I'm going out to buy a new notebook for that today. =)

Sherryl said...

Kristi - I forgot to mention using your journal as part of your novel writing - thanks! It's a great way to brainstorm or explore all kinds of things.

Sherryl said...

MaDonna, I love having separate notebooks for journaling and writing. And I keep them all. It's amazing to read old ones and see how some ideas just persist and eventually come out as stories or poems, long after you've forgotten the original journal entry.

carolinaheartstrings said...

I am an avid journaler as is my 15 year old daughter. I have several journals going at once for many different things. A travel journal, book journal, memory journal just to name a few. It has become my passion. Thanks for the great post. Come over to my site and check out my blogs about my journaling experiences. Look under Heart Speak.