Everyone writes, often because they have to. If you’ve fallen in love with writing for pleasure, it’s easy to forget you don’t have to stick to one medium to do it. Just because you spend most of your writing time weaving together short stories doesn’t mean you can’t try your hand at a poem or two every now and then.
Journaling is a beautiful and somewhat neglected tactic that turns talented writers into successful ones. Having a private place to organize your thoughts and giving yourself the freedom to cross out words, doodle and tear out pages you never want to look at again might be your next step toward … well, finishing that book you’ve been working on for the past three years (cough, cough).
Keeping a journal isn’t for everyone. But if you’re up to trying new things, journaling more often might do more to improve your writing skills than you think.
Defining Your Audience
Learning how to write for an audience is an essential skill if you want to become a well-rounded and successful writer (how you define well-rounded and successful, well, that’s often up to you). You’re always writing to someone; if you’re freelancing, you don’t always get to choose whom that someone is. A journal is much different.
Similar to Anne Frank’s “Kitty,” you have the freedom to give your journal its own identity, an identity to which you can thereafter direct all your thoughts, frustrations and triumphs to. Doing this often can, over time, help you learn how to balance writing for different audiences, especially if who you’re writing for at your day job and the persona you assign to your journal are polar opposites.
Providing A Safe Storyboard
Sometimes staring at a screen all day can get old. Sometimes sharing ideas with friends makes us feel vulnerable and self-conscious about something we want very desperately to be proud of. When all else fails, a journal might be the next best tool.
Putting your ideas down onto pages no one else can touch can be both refreshing and freeing. Opening to a new blank page and scratching out even a few words by hand can help you see those ideas in a completely new light. Those pages can quickly and easily become the place where all your ideas burst open into thoughts you can better put into words, and if you make a mistake or start going in a direction you don’t like, it’s very easy to simply flip to another blank page and start over.
Teaching You to Be Honest with Yourself
There are plenty of ways to hold ourselves accountable for getting our work done (like blogging about that book we still haven’t finished writing). Things like posting on social media and pestering your followers to push you to make consistent progress on your latest project are still public, though, and it’s easy to get caught up in what you really want to accomplish versus what you can feasibly achieve.
Writing in a journal is one way to teach yourself to stay honest. If those private pages are the first place you admit you don’t want to finish what you’ve spent so many years of your life working on, that’s an ideal place to start. A journal does not judge. A journal listens. And though it won’t tell you you’re being dumb, it’s much easier to look back at your own words and decide for yourself what you want to do with them.
Whether it’s the leftover pages of a high school composition notebook or a Moleskine®, pick up paper and pen and let your thoughts roam free. Some of your best ideas may come from those few illegible paragraphs you crank out before bed tonight.
Years later, you might go back, struggle to read those same words, and thank yourself for putting them on paper.
Image courtesy of Novel Revisions.