Many writers struggle at the beginning of their writing journey and never get past the first hurdle: the act of overcoming the blank page in front of them.
Fortunately, there’s an ancient art that can help authors face this writing fear, and it’s called journaling. The Harvard Business Review once said that the key to becoming an outstanding leader is simply to keep a journal. Well, the same truth holds for all writers — and we’ll show you exactly why in this post.
1. Journaling helps you practice writing consistently
To produce a book, you need to get in the habit of writing. This might seem like an oversimplification, but many bestselling authors have said that writing regularly — especially when you don’t feel like you’re writing particularly well — is the most important thing that they’ve done to overcome writer’s block. Maya Angelou is famously on record for saying that she might even jot down, “The cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat,” just to be able to put something down on paper.
In this respect, journaling is one of the best ways to practice regular writing. For authors, it can help build a good habit of writing daily (and personal character). Stuck for several days untangling a plot thread in your story? Write in your journal. You might be surprised at how the simple act of writing will benefit your storytelling.
2. It gets the creative gears in your head cranking
Multiple studies have confirmed that journaling will inspire creativity. And perhaps the most freeing thing about journaling is that you can journal about anything. If you’d rather not write about your day, perhaps you can instead describe a recent encounter that you had — in the third person! Or you can practice character creation by plucking a name from a character name generator and building a fun backstory around it. Or you can recall that conversation that you heard earlier that day in the coffee shop and expand upon it, wherever your imagination leads you.
Writing prompts in particular are a great (and readily available) source of inspiration that can get you started. In short, you’re asking the wrong question if you’re asking, “But what should I journal about?” What you want to be inquiring instead is, “What should I journal about first?”
3. It encourages mindfulness
As the old adage goes, a healthy writer is a productive writer. Stress and self-doubt can weigh you (and your words) down, which is why it’s important to try and keep these two horsemen of the apocalypse at bay as best as you can.
It’s important to note that journaling has been found to have long-term benefits for mental health. As Natalie Goldberg once said, “Whether you’re keeping a journal or writing as a meditation, it’s the same thing. What’s important is you’re having a relationship with your mind.” Taking the time every day to journal will keep you keep in touch with your mind and thoughts. It can help turn a negative mindset into a positive one. More than that, it encourages mindfulness, which will benefit you not just as a writer, but as a person.
4. It makes sure that you don’t forget a story idea again
If you’re an author, aspiring or not, you’re probably familiar with this common writing fear: coming up with a really good story idea, promising yourself that you’ll actually remember it this time, and then forgetting it — all in the span of a day.
So, last but not least, a journal can help you recall important ideas. It’s no coincidence, either, that research has found that journaling actually boosts your ability to remember! So you can start saying goodbye to days where you forget a thousand story ideas, so long as you have your journal nearby and handy.
If you’re excited about journaling now, first things first: grab a journal. Then give yourself 15 minutes a day to write in it, and strive to find a quiet place where you can write in peace. To give you a headstart, here are a few things that you might like to try writing about at first:
- How was your day?
- Describe a coincidence that happened to you recently.
- Describe the last time you experienced déjà vu.
- What was the last dream that you had? Can you describe it?
(For more writing prompts, you can go here.)
Remember: at the end of the day, a writing fear is just a fear, and you don’t need to be fearless to eliminate fear. You just need to know how to navigate it, so that you can do what you actually want to do. In this respect, journaling is an invaluable exercise that can help you climb daily nearer to your end goal: a beautiful book.
Kleia Paluca is a writer based in the Philippines. She reads a lot of books, doodles portraits of famous and unknown people, and would like to make a difference in the world before kicking the bucket.
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