Benefits Of Journaling

Hey, SE Readers. Joan with you today for my first post of 2022. Hope your year is off to a great start.

closeup of lined notebook with pen on top

Years ago, when I was still in the “want to be a writer” stage, I began a writing journal. While many of those first entries sounded like a pity party, there were several highs as well. Things like my first writer’s conference, when I joined an online fiction writers group, staring the draft of my first novel, and my first published book.

As I wrote more fiction, the journal entries decreased. But last summer, when I went through a writing slump, I began to journal again. It didn’t take long for me to realize how beneficial journaling can be.

Here are five things that I found useful.

  1. Brainstorming ideas. Have a story idea but aren’t sure what you want to do with it? Work through it. Ask “what if” questions. Record the pros and the cons of each scenario. You’ll likely scrap some of the ideas and go with others.
  2. Keeping a record of highs and lows. I referred to this earlier, but when you’re in a writing slump, it’s often helpful to look back at past successes and yes, failures. Sometimes seeing how far you’ve come in your writing career is enough to get back in the swing of things.
  3. Free write. One of the assignments for a writing class I took was to open a blank document, put my fingers on the keyboard, close my eyes, and write whatever came to mind. If you use the hunt and peck method for typing, closing the eyes won’t work. However, you might be surprised at what ideas might come to mind when you shut out the rest of the world.
  4. Keep track of your progress. In my last post, I wrote about setting goals and keeping a daily word count. That doesn’t work for some writers but jotting down the progress you’ve made on a project can give you a sense of satisfaction. I find it encouraging to record when I’ve had a particularly successful writing session or when I’ve worked through an issue with my WIP.
  5. Use the journal to rant and rave. Life happens and it’s not always a bed of roses. Working through my emotions by journaling helps to clear my head and give me a new perspective. Keeping negative emotions inside where they fester and grow can be detrimental to our creativity.

You can use a computer program such as Word or Pages to journal or you can purchase an inexpensive notebook. I keep a Word document because I can type faster than I can write, but use whatever method works best for you. (In a future post, I’ll talk about the benefits of jotting down ideas by hand.)

Do you keep a writing journal or have done so in the past? Did you find it useful? Please share in the comments.

105 thoughts on “Benefits Of Journaling

  1. Pingback: Benefits Of Journaling – MI way (Meristem Intelligence® way)

  2. What a great post. I took up journaling 3 years ago. Started when I was going on vacation and decided to journal about. You have to admit, six months after the vacay other than knowing you had a good time, who really remembers what happened, what you ate, etc. I use an app on the iPad called Chronicle, for my journals.

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  3. Hey… Interesting and engaging post. I connected with this content instantly ..as I have tried multiple ways of journeling…as a kid, I made a collage out of interesting news paper write-ups… My love for writing and good write-ups was there since childhood. Writing is liberating in more than one way. Thanks for the beautifully done post

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    • We have so many resources at our disposal these days. I’ve used my phone’s notepad as well. Especially when I’m in a situation where I can’t write down an idea. The dictation feature works well for short notes.

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  4. Pingback: Benefits Of Journaling – How's your day, Cha?

  5. Great post, I agree with all your points 100%. Particularly with helping unleash negative emotions, I find writing down how I feel and my view of the situation super therapeutic at times.
    I also highly recommend Notion for journaling, it’s a highly customisable app that offers several templates for a journal. You can add tags, dates, and comments to each entry for if you want to sort them in the future. Plus, it’s pretty fun to label and categorise the type of day you’ve had😃

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  6. I keep a journal in my truck so that if I get stuck somewhere, I’ve always got a place to write. It happened a few months back when the highway closed due to an accident. Other times, something will pop into my head, and I’ll write it down. (I pull over first.🤣)

    I like the idea of recording highs and lows. That was a new idea for me. Thanks for sharing, Joan.

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  7. This is a great post, Joan! I would be lost without my writing journals. I’ve had so many throughout the years. I’m currently using a bullet journal style with a section specifically for writing. I love all the methods you have named, but free writing is probably what I do the most. It may even be my favorite. You just get to let all those creative inklings out.

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  8. I tried to journal a few times, but I find myself so boring, I ended up making things up to jot down, which sort of defeated the purpose. When I first start thinking about a book, I write ideas on paper, but once I start plotting, I use the keyboard–it’s faster. I can see how writing down frustrations and disappointments would help release them, though.

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  9. You’ve written a wonderful post, Joan. In my younger days, I kept a daily journal. I had an English teacher who encouraged it. Later, it was my journalism teacher urging his students to keep a daily record of thoughts and such. I don’t know what happened to all of those long-lost notebooks. It might be fun to re-visit the 1970s and 1980s again. I don’t keep a daily journal these days. However, I do keep a notebook handy, in which I record story ideas and lines of dialogue or narration that come to me during the oddest of times. Thanks for sharing.

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  10. Wonderful post Joan, you have me thinking back to my physical journaling days, which I left behind with my youth. I found my journals were like bait for friends and boyfriends who couldn’t resist snooping into my private thoughts. When I was in my twenties I burned them all prior to marriage. I prefer an online journal, one I can protect, I call it my blog! Lots of drafts that never get published! I can’t imagine not writing about life, it’s how I figure myself out! All my best, C

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  11. I have an envelope where I keep little scraps of paper with thoughts and ideas jotted down, but I’ve never been consistent with journaling. When I was exploring dreams and their meanings, I did write down what I dreamed each night, but that’s now been years ago. I like the idea and will try to incorporate it into my life. Just looking back at the end of the year, would be an eye-opener and a good way to catch habits that don’t serve me well. Thanks for the idea and suggestion, Joan!

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  12. I keep several ongoing Notes on my phone: Character Names, Traits, First Lines, Funny Situations, Sarcastic Lines, Research Notes, and Story Ideas. Guess you could call it a type of journaling, but I never thought to jot down my progress or wins & losses. Great idea! The reason I use my phone is because these things always seem to pop into my head at night.

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  13. I have a confession to make. I am a failed journal writer multiple times over. You’d think being a writer, I would be good at journaling, but I have tried multiple, multiple times starting when I was tween. I do jot story ideas down in a notebook when they strike me, but that’s the extent of it. I love the concept of journaling but for some reason the habit eludes me!

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    • I haven’t always done it, Mae. Matter of fact, most of my life I haven’t. I just knew I needed to do something last summer, so I thought why not? It worked to rekindle my creative ideas, so that’s a plus. I plan to continue this year, but I may fall by the wayside. 🙂

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  14. Excellent post, Joan. I sort of journal. I keep notes on things I want to remember. However, I haven’t used a journal for thoughts and reactions to daily life. I received a journal for Christmas, so maybe it is time to start. You have inspired me. Thanks.

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  15. Journaling to release negative feelings can be very helpful. I use Penzu when I want to jot down long thoughts; it’s a free online journal that I can access from anywhere. (I use my Notes app for shorter thoughts.) And I always brainstorm with paper and pen before turning to the computer. Excellent suggestions, Joan.

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  16. I used to journal regularly, and my memoir is the result of those journals. The process itself became a way for me to try to make sense of the world. These days, I take notes and collect ideas on my desktop. As much as there is undeniable ease in doing that, there is something magical about picking up a pen and writing what’s in your heart. Thank you, Joan, you’ve got me thinking. 😊

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  17. I have to type these days, as my handwriting has deteriorated massively, lols. So has my eyesight! My iPad is great for this. I used to journal regularly but haven’t in a while. I find free writing incredibly useful, though. Thanks for sharing 💕🙂

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  18. I used to keep 5-year diaries and, whilst more restrictive than journals, they did help to keep things in perspective and to see how the good and bad in life tend to balance out. I started another one last year for that same reason! Thanks for this, Joan. x

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  19. As a journal lover and hoarder, I love to journal. I am in embarrassed to say that I probably own over seventy-five journals. I often use them to journal from the characters POV. When I go into a store like T.J. Maxx or Marshall’s, I head straight to the department. Great post, Joan!❤️

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    • LOL, Jill! I used to be fascinated with the office supply section of a store. Back when date planners were all the rage, I always wanted to keep a comprehensive one, but never did. But journals are a great way to jot down thoughts and so much more. As far as your journals, look at them as a treasure chest for future generations.

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      • Jill, my mother used to jot down daily things on a wall calendar. I have probably 15-20 years of her calendars packed away. One of these days, I’m going to transcribe those notes. Some of the entries are very short. We lived in the country and had chickens. She’d sometimes record how many eggs she gathered each day.

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  20. Such an insightful and helpful post, Joan. I used to keep a writing journal two years ago, and indeed it used to prove wealthy and helpful to me for the plays i wrote, but whatever happened to me that lifted my hands off writing them remains just a big worry now. Now with this indepth explanation, i can only think of nothing less than reviving journaling. Thanks for the stimulus.

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  21. For me, I don’t use pen and paper much now. As the technology evolves, I have virtual notes on the go. I can whatever and wherever I’m.
    But seriously, Im missing those days when I used to write my ideas on a dairy that was lost couple years back.

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  22. Great post, Joan 🙂 I used to journal regularly but I haven’t in a while. It did get me to a point where ideas would flow after I wrote down my worries. I do the same thing through my poetry now, but have missed journaling. I prefer handwriting it but I couldn’t go back and reread some of it. My handwriting had gotten bad. Great reasons why to do it, and ones I have used.

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    • My handwriting has also gotten worse. If I take my time, it’s legible, but who has time? I do half-print and half-write sometimes. The word document served me well, and it accomplished its purpose – to get me out of a writing slump. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Denise.

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