Keeping a Journal to Improve Your Writing

Imageby Tina Ann Forkner

Once again I’ve gone back to journaling. It has helped me to move beyond that frustrating point an author sometimes reaches in their story. Do you know the point I’m talking about?

The sticking point for some might be a problem with the plot, lack of inspiration, or any number of things, but for me it’s that place where all the bones are there, but the characters haven’t come to life. In this phase, I think my characters are neat people and have interesting lives and a good story, but it’s as if I’m seeing them from afar.

What I need, when I’m at that sticking point, is to be sucked in to that vortex in which I can inhabit the story. In the case of the current novel I’m writing, journaling has been the key to getting unstuck. The story is moving inside of me now, and I’m lost in the world of my characters. I’m thinking about them even when I’m shopping for groceries or when I’m watching basketball with my husband (especially then. Ha.) This is where I need to be in order to write something good, and journaling on a daily basis, usually first thing in the morning, has helped me get here. Here’s a little background about what got me back into journaling again.

About a month ago, I took an online journaling course from Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association. Author/Instructor Christa Allen reminded me that journaling need not be like keeping a diary in which you record the happenings of every day. For writers, it can be about solving writing problems, coming up with new ideas, or brainstorming something about a character. The very act of journaling also keeps a writer in the routine of writing.

I’ve chosen the method of journaling for ten minutes without stopping. I think Natalie Goldberg first started teaching writers to do this in her book Writing Down the Bones, which a professor gave me when I was only a sophomore in college. I write about anything, not worrying about punctuation or grammar, for ten minutes. Christa gave us prompts related to writing and those really helped get me started.

Now, journaling has not only helped in my writing, but my daughter and I have been doing some more creative journaling together. Looking at her journal entries make me want to rip mine out (She’s an artist and I’m not), but I don’t dare. Everything stays. Everything counts. We find some good ideas on Pinterest and Art Journalist. It’s a fun way to bond with her while also journaling about writing and life. I don’t keep separate journals for writing and creative journaling, either. It’s all in there together. It’s messy, but it’s me.

What about you? Do you journal? Why do you journal and how does it help?

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