Monday, November 14, 2016

7 Benefits of Journal Writing

Journaling is writing down your thoughts, ideas, experiences and observations. It can be done daily or when inspiration hits you. None of it has to be perfect and no one else has to read it. So why would a writer spend the time to journal? Below I’ve put together a list of benefits.

1. General memory recall. Recently I came across my journals while doing a spring clean. I opened them up and read through portions. How much I’d forgotten shocked me to the core. I’d written about events that had a huge impact on my life at the time, and I’d simply forgotten them. Reading through my scrawled entries jogged the memories.

2. Remembering the details. Even for the events I’ll never forget, the little details had still slipped away. The way someone’s smile made me feel, the way a path wove through a forest like an invitation, the way conflicting emotions can turn a moment inside out. As a writer, these details are crucial if we want to create realistic characters and places and lace our stories with an honesty that speaks to our readers.

3. Maintaining your writing skills. For many years I wrote in a journal every day. Eventually the habit petered out as I let the busyness of life take over (or perhaps it was a perceived lack of a life worth writing down). Whatever the reason, returning to my writing career after an extended break, I discovered my skills had rusted over. Capturing the clarity of language needed to write well had become difficult. Stringing those sentences together in a way that could evoke an emotion or crystallize a moment on the page became like knitting spaghetti: messy and not something I’d ever want to share. Like any skill, writing needs to be practiced regularly.

4. Honing your writing skills. While your journals may never be read by anyone but you, which means they can be as sloppy as you’d like, the simple act of writing in them has the wonderful benefit of sharpening your writing skills. The more we write—any kind of writing—the easier it becomes. It’s because the act forces your brain to step out of passive mode and actively break down your thoughts into the written word.

5. Finding your voice. The beauty of journals is that they don’t need to be perfect, which means they don’t carry the same weight that our writing projects seem to lug around with them. For example, the weightiness of doubts and fears: Is this story working? Will it be worthy of getting published? Will anyone like it? Without those fears, we are free to write whatever, and however we like. For this reason, journal writing can help find our elusive voice because we stop trying to write like other writers.

6. Sharpening your observational skills. Journaling helps to add an extra layer of attentiveness when observing the world if you know you are going to write about it later. That power of observation will bring your stories alive. This not only includes enhancing the ability to describe a place in a way that makes it real, but also to be insightful enough when it comes to people’s emotions and motivations to make characters pop from the page.

7. Understanding yourself. The reason I started writing was to understand my place in the world and what I felt about everything. Writing it all down helped me understand the layers of emotion that raged within. It helped me to be honest with myself when it was so easy to lie. Perhaps journaling can do the same for you.

There are many other benefits, of course, so what benefits have you discovered through writing a journal?

Lynda R Young

27 comments:

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lynda - I don't write a journal ... but I'm glad I started blogging and realised I could write - something I had not known. I love people's comments on my writing, and interesting to find when I read something out to a group here ... they commented in a similar way ... fascinating to learn what I can do as I age well into the mature years.

Cheers Hilary

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've kept journals for major trips because it is very easy to forget things. (And it helps later when you're trying to sort through a ton of photos.)

Christine Rains said...

Excellent post! I kept journals for almost twenty years until I started blogging. It does help to write things out to understand yourself better.

Pat Hatt said...

Main thing is to jot things down to help remember later on is what I find.

Fundy Blue said...

thanks for writing xcellent post, Lynda! I have journaled off and on over my life. Unfortunately life got in the way too many times. How I wished I had been able to keep those journals going during those times because I have forgotten a lot! My brother Roy has faithfully kept his journal for at least 50 years. I don't think he has missed a day. I have found journal writing a great emotional release. It has been a spot where I could dump what was bothering me and just get it out. Have a great week!

cleemckenzie said...

I'm a sporadic journal writer. I do find them useful and often cathartic.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I've journaled since I was 8 years old. I can't imagine the last 55 years not journalling. Excellent post, Lynda. Thank you.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Everything about brain research suggests that writing by hand improves brain function. I have a sister with a brain injury and her doctor asks her journal every day. Typing on a keyboard doesn't have the same benefits. We should all do it for that if nothing else.

Sandee said...

We keep a ships log on our boat. It's really helpful with when we did things (maintenance) and when we sailed somewhere and how long it took. That's what we journal about the most.

Have a fabulous day. ☺

Lynda R Young said...

Hilary, blogging is a kind of journal--one you share. That feedback is always good.

Alex, haha yes, it does help sorting through the pics.

Christine, blogging is a good replacement

Pat, agreed

Fundy, Life does tend to do that. It's good to get it out.

Lee, same.

Joylene, I'm impressed!

Susan, It's interesting that typing doesn't offer the same benefits as handwriting.

Sandee, it might also be helpful in ways you don't realise.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I also kept journals during a couple of trips and am so glad I did (as I get older and memory becomes a sometimes thing). I'm often surprised when I go back and look at old notes during brief periods of journaling and see how the words bring back the feelings.

Karen Lange said...

Excellent points, Lynda. I've never been a journal writer, but am thinking about taking it up now! :) I'm always writing in my head anyway, so why not write it down? Thanks for your insight.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I used to journal all the time, mostly jotting down my dreams. (Which is where 99% of my story ideas come from.)

Tyrean Martinson said...

Lynda,
I love journaling, too, although I've been sporadic about it in the years since I joined facebook. It's sad to admit, but I realized I started cataloguing daily events there. I do journal, but my journal has less daily experience and more of my goals, my story ideas, sermon notes, and prayers. But, now that facebook has the "memory" feature going, I've been going through old posts and pasting them into a document . . . that I hope to use when putting together scrapbooks for my kids at their high school graduations. Journaling, however you do it, even if it's in an online forum, is a useful tool for all the reasons you mentioned.
Thanks for reminding me! :)

Juneta Key said...

I'm sporadic but like brainstorming in a journal, mind mapping and jotting things down I like to remember and even keeping up with my day because it helps see what I have accomplished, especially when the day feels like I got nothing done, Great post.
Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

Lynda R Young said...

Patricia, it's wonderful, isn't it, to be able to go back and recall those feelings again.

Karen, I hope you do!

Diane, I used to have a separate dream journal.

Tyrean, the memory feature on FB is pretty good. I love that you are putting it all together into scrapbooks for your kids.

Juneta, Good point! I probably should've added that point in the article about using journals to follow goals.

Robert Bennett said...

Funny enough, I haven't maintained a real journal for a VERY long time. While I still write extensively, I can never really let myself write for ME, it always has to be for the purpose of outward expression with the intent to be read. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I had a journal used against me once in a very f*cked up way.

Nicola said...

Interesting post. I've never kept a journal. I have lots of note books for story planning and list making but I've never really felt the urge to have a journal. Thanks for sharing.

Julie Flanders said...

I have been thinking about giving journaling a try again - haven't had much success with it in the past. I think your post convinced me to give it another go. Thanks for sharing!

Crystal Collier said...

I've been journaling pretty much every day since I was 14. The goal was 1000 days of consecutive writing, and by the time I reached that milestone, it was habit. I think self discovery has been a huge thing. Also, looking back at the day really helps us to appreciate on the small amazing things that we may have otherwise just forgotten or brushed aside. It's definitely been the biggest factor in developing my writing voice. Plus, I can go back to any day of my life and share my experiences with my kids or husband. It's made for a ton of fun when reliving our courtship.

Lynda R Young said...

Robert, everyone has a different approach to writing. Sorry to hear about your bad experience.

Nicola, maybe one day you might try it out.

Julie, i hope it goes well for you this time.

Crystal, you made me smile... again.

LD Masterson said...

Every time I've kept a journal I've loved going back and reading it. But I keep letting myself get out of the habit. Time to start again. Thanks.

Nick Wilford said...

I did keep a journal for four months while travelling. It would be fun to read over it and relive everything. I definitely understand the benefits for keeping your observation and storytelling skills ticking over.

Sandee said...

Have a fabulous weekend. ☺

Michelle Wallace said...

It's strange that, as a child, I was never without paper and pen...but I've never kept a journal.
I think I was too busy writing poetry during that time of my life.
However, I kept a diary when I travelled abroad.

Margaret C. Mack said...

I totally agree with author journal writing is a great idea! Recently I started to write and I enjoy it so much! It's very interesting! I noticed I began to write more good than before. Maybe in some time I will stop to use this service http://paidpaper.net/coursework-reviews/ and begin to write all works in the University by my own ))

Pat Garcia said...

I have been journaling for years and don't know what I would do if I wasn't. It is a part of me.

Shalom aleichem,
Pat G