What’s My Journal Got to Do With YOU?

Ever made a New Year’s Resolution to keep a diary? I have – I don’t know how many times. And I’ve lost count of the number of diaries I’ve bought, started and then discarded in disgust after just a few days or weeks, often embarrassed when I looked back at what I’d written.

Keeping a journal - broken promises

Broken promises Project 365 3 Day 324—Keith Williamson (Flickr.com)

This post’s about how I finally got around to keeping a journal consistently, and why I think it’s so worthwhile.

Now I know you don’t visit this blog to hear about me – you come here hoping to learn something that’s going to be of use to you in your own writing or blogging journey. And I’m the first to say I hate posts that are all about the blogger, in a “me, me, me” kind of way. That’s not my intention here.

The aim of this post is to inspire anyone out there who might be thinking about starting a journal, by explaining how I got started (and, more importantly, carried on) and sharing the benefits I’ve gained from doing so.

How I Finally Got Around to Keeping a Journal

I don’t know about you, but I tend to pour my heart out in a diary – then when I look through it in the cold light of a new day, my reasoning, analytical head is appalled and tells me to “get rid of that self-pitying, nauseating, boring rubbish!” – or words to that effect. That’s why my previous journalling efforts have had such a short shelf-life.

But the diary I now keep I started on 14th September 2012, over 14 months ago. And the first thing I wrote in it was my intention to write something every single day. There’s nothing significant about the date – except maybe the fact that it’s not January 1st. I mean to say, how many of us actually keep New Year’s Resolutions?

I didn’t make the decision just because it happened to be New Year’s Day. I made it purely out of a strong motivation to get writing in a serious way. I’d been struggling to keep on top of this blog, and I was concerned I was starting to drift. Starting the diary was my way of drawing a line in the sand and promising myself that, no matter what happened, I was going to keep writing.

Looking back, the day I started writing my diary was probably the point at which I decided that, come hell or high water, I was going to be a writer.

My diary, Some of my journals

My diary, Some of my journals ~ TheCreativePenn (Flickr.com)

In case you’re interested, I use a hard-back, paper diary, A4, narrow-lined, and I fill a full page with my handwritten scribbles every day (around 500 words, give or take).

And anything goes – I write about things I’ve seen and done, things I’m planning to do, how I’m feeling, my hopes and fears, stuff on the news, TV shows I’ve loved and hated, and things I’ve read.

I use my diary to pat myself on the back when I think I’ve deserved it. But I also give myself a good talking to from time to time – well, a lot of the time, if I’m honest (I’m a bad girl!)

  • How did I ever get over that urge to rip it all up and throw it in the bin?

Well, I’ve taken on board some tips in one of my own blog posts. Whenever the feeling comes over me that my writing sucks, I remind myself it’s work in progress, and the fact that I can see the faults in it is a good thing.

  • How and why do I think it’s changed my life?

Amongst other things, it’s helped me to keep going with my blog when the going’s got tough, and it’s thanks to writing my diary that I’ve pushed myself to have a go at writing fiction.

It’s also helped me to work on my habits, good and bad, including incorporating some meditation into my daily routine. It makes me much more aware of what I’m doing – or not doing – with my life, and motivates me to make positive changes.

To sum up, based on my own experience, here are some of the main benefits I think you can gain from keeping a journal

6 Benefits Of Keeping a Journal

  • IT GETS YOU IN THE WRITING HABIT

Keeping a diary makes writing a natural part of your daily routine. Initially, there were some days when I wouldn’t write much else apart from my diary, but that has now changed. I’ve found more I write, the more I want to write and the easier it gets.

It’s like starting to roll a snowball from the top of a hill – the further you go, the more the momentum grows.

  • IT’S A SAFE PLACE TO PRACTISE AND IMPROVE YOUR WRITING

Your diary can be like a writing sand-pit or play area – a place where you can experiment and try things out, without worrying about what anyone else thinks. Because the only reader is YOU.

One of my big problems as a writer is a tendency to edit as I go along – I don’t find it easy to write spontaneously. Lots of writers talk about the value of bashing out a “crappy first draft,” but I find this quite difficult. My diary is helping me in this respect, because it’s the one bit of writing I do every day that just gets written, off the cuff, with no editing whatsoever. For a compulsive editor like me, that’s a great discipline.

You may have other aspects of your writing you need to work on – whatever it is, a diary can be a good place to start.

  • IT’S A PERSONAL COUNSELLING SERVICE

A diary can act like a personal counselling service. It’s like having your own confidante, someone to whom you can tell your secrets in complete privacy. It can be a great way to get things off your chest, and explore solutions to problems you’re experiencing. Journal therapy is a recognised way of dealing with emotional issues by writing about your internal experiences, thoughts and feelings in order to gain greater self-awareness.

  • IT’S A GREAT MOTIVATIONAL TOOL

A journal can also be an excellent way of monitoring your progress. You can use it to set yourself targets and keep track of how things are going – and to give yourself a good kick up the backside from time to time.

  • IT’S A WAY TO RECORD AND PRESERVE IMPORTANT MEMORIES

I’ve got a hopeless memory and I find it’s great to be able to check back in my diary if I want to remember specific events. It also helps to resolve disputes with my nearest and dearest about when such-and-such a thing occurred – my diary record trumps either of our ageing and unreliable brains.

  • IT’S FUN!

Now I’ve got into the swing, I look forward to writing my diary each day. It’s an enjoyable, non-stressful activity, and I have the added joy of knowing it’s making a real difference to my life, in all sorts of ways.

Of course – if your life’s so interesting that publishing extracts of your diary becomes an option, it might also make you your fortune.

Obviously, the risk of keeping a journal is that you’re committing some very personal stuff to paper, so I do think it’s important to keep it safe and secure from prying eyes.

Over to you:

  • Have you ever tried and failed to keep a diary? If so, what stopped you continuing with it?
  • If you do keep a diary, what do you feel you gain from it? Do you think there are any disadvantages?

As ever, I’d love to hear your views on this, so please leave a comment below if you’d like to respond to anything in the post.

And please don’t forget to “share” on your favourite social media platforms, if you think your friends and followers might enjoy it.

Happy writing!

Sue Neal

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Filed under: Writing Tips

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