Writers should journal even if they feel like their schedule is too hectic to make the time. I know that if you’re a busy writer you may feel like journaling is a waste of time. After all, shouldn’t any time that you have to write be spent working on your book or blog or an article, essay, or poem? What’s the point in using that precious time to write words that no one else will see? 

If this is your mindset about journaling, my mission is to change it. 

I’m a professional writer and I’m also an avid journaler. I believe journaling makes me a better writer and I think it can do the same for you. That’s why I believe writers should journal.

Journaling helps you clear to create. 

That phrase – “clear to create” – is one I borrowed from a friend of mine who loves to meditate. She says that meditation helps her clear her mind so she can go on with her day, and go on with the business of creating the life she desires. Traditional meditation has always been a challenge for me. But, in a way, journaling is a type of meditation. And journaling helps me clear all the junk from my mind that otherwise would stand in the way of the writing I want to do, the art I want to create. This is my top reason for asserting that writers should journal.

One simple way to “clear to create” is through morning pages. A concept popularized by Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, the practice of morning pages calls for you to do three pages of freewriting first thing in the morning. Cameron is adamant that this must be done first thing in the morning but I say if your life is set up so that you need to do evening pages, afternoon pages, or “I’m hiding in the bathroom from my kids” pages – that’s fine too. 

If you need a prompt to help you clear to create, try this one:

How do I feel right now and why and what will I do about it?

Writers should journal to quiet the inner critic. 

When you’re working on a writing project and going after your big, hairy, audacious goals, inevitably, your inner critic will have something to say. I call my inner critic my inner mean girl because she’s the worst! She’s always telling me I’m not smart enough to do the things I want to do. She tells me my writing is lame and that no one cares what I have to say. 

But I know that the words of my inner critic, my inner mean girl are rooted in fear. Fear of failure. Fear of disappointment. Fear of embarrassment. 

But in my journal, I can counter each thing she says with facts and faith – the secret weapons that allow me to feel the fear and do it anyway, as the saying goes. I challenge each fear with the facts about what I’ve already accomplished and about the community I’ve already built around my work. I move forward with faith – faith in myself, faith in my community, and faith in my Creator who makes all things work together for my good. 

Here’s an exercise to try: 

On a sheet of paper (not in your journal) write down the things your inner critic has to say. Then in your journal, counter each statement with the truth. Then rip up all those lies from your inner mean girl. 

But don’t stop there. You should also write a letter to your inner critic

You see, hurt people hurt people. You’ve heard that before, right? Your inner mean girl is mean because she’s been hurt before. Because you’ve been hurt before. She’s saying the things she’s saying and trying to keep you from going after your dreams because she’s trying to keep you safe. So write her a letter and let her know that you appreciate that she’s trying to help you avoid making mistakes but that you’ve decided to stop playing small and you’re ready to take a chance on yourself. 

Journaling can help you with your work in progress. 

OK, you may be thinking that all this stuff is a bit too woo-woo for you. But journaling can help you in very practical ways too. Writers should journal because the practice can enhance their work.

In your journal, you can keep lists of images, scenes, and words that you can use as writing prompts. 

When you get stuck with your writing project, open your journal and write, “What I really want to say is…” and see what happens. 

Sometimes, to help with personal narratives, I will focus on a setting, and in my journal, I will examine where I am and why and use my senses to detail the scene. 

Fiction writers, you can get unstuck by journaling responses to the following questions about your work in progress: 

  • What do I want to happen?
  • How are we going to get there?
  • Who do I want the character to be?
  • How do I want the character to change?
  • How will this change happen?

And whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, you ALWAYS need some type of transformation in your work. In your journal you can figure out what the transformation is, why it was needed, and what made it happen. 

Stop saying you’re too busy to journal. 

In a recent podcast episode, I shared that on particularly busy days I make sure I journal first thing in the morning. That seems counterintuitive. If I have a lot to do, I should get right to it, right? Wrong.

For me, journaling is an act of self-care. So when I take the time to journal, I fill my cup. I increase my capacity so that I have the energy I need to do all the things on my to-do list – including writing. 

You can check out that podcast episode below. 

I’ve also done a podcast episode about all the ways journaling can help writers. You can check it out below in case this blog post didn’t convince you. 

If you would like to learn more about journaling, I’m offering two FREE workshops to help you out. 

On Tuesday, June 11 at 6:30 p.m. CT I’m hosting an online workshop that will help you start or elevate your journaling practice. You can sign up here

And if you live in Birmingham, I’d love to write together in person. I’m hosting a pop-up journaling workshop on Thursday, June 13 at 10 am CT at CREED63, located at 1601 5th Ave N, Birmingham, AL 35203. You can RSVP here