I’m celebrating an anniversary of sorts. It was at this time 36 years ago that I started journaling. I’ve made entries most days ever since. There were previous attempts at journaling, but I always gave up after a few weeks. So how is it that I’ve stuck with journaling for 36 years after so many failed starts?
The difference is that the journaling I do now is something that is useful to me. I do some writing about what’s happening in my life, but the main purpose of my journal is to keep my writing career on track. How does that work?
First, my journal serves as a storehouse for future writing projects. Whenever ideas come to me, I write them down in my journal. A look at only a few of the many notebooks I’ve filled over the years assures me that I’ll never run out of ideas.
My journals are also filled with ideas for improving my writing. Entries include tips from other authors that I’ve come across in my reading or picked up at writers’ conferences. There are also notes about biographies I’m reading – what I like about them and what I feel doesn’t work.
I write about the critiques I’ve gotten from my writers’ group and the changes editors want me to make. Accepting criticism is hard. I admit that sometimes those entries are a way to let off a little steam before I come around to accepting that their suggestions will make the writing better.
Journaling also helps me solve problems with my writing. As a beginning writer, I thought all I needed was a great idea. With the right topic, when I sat down to write the words would flow easily. I quickly learned it doesn’t work that way. There are days when everything is going well, but there are other times when the writing just isn’t coming together. So I journal about the problems I’m having. Putting those thoughts on paper helps. I’m amazed at how many times a solution to a problem comes to me before I’ve reached the end of the journal entry. Putting my thoughts on paper is a way of letting go and trusting that a solution will come.
I also journal about my writing goals. Reminding myself of what is important to me helps me make good decisions about what assignments I accept. If I take an assignment will I still have time to work on my own ideas?
Finally, journaling helps me plan my writing time. Like most writers, I’m often juggling more than one project and I worry about getting it all done without missing deadlines. So I journal. I put down on paper what needs to be done first and figure out a schedule for any other projects. Once I’ve scheduled everything, I can relax and focus on the work at hand. Of course, carefully laid plans sometimes fall apart. A project may take longer than I expected or something comes up. When that happens, I work out a new schedule during my next journaling session.
My journals are not fancy. I just use spiral notebooks. During back to school sales, I buy a supply to last a year. Each time I fill a notebook, I put a label on the front showing the date I started writing in that one and the day I finished. Then I file it away to read again when I’m looking for new ideas or writing encouragement. Because the best part of journaling is that it helps me see progress with my writing, and for me, there’s no better encouragement.