To Journal, or Not to Journal—Now, THAT is the Writer’s Dilemma

Every English class I have ever taken (Elementary through Master’s) has either encouraged or required that each student keep a journal. And for years, I have kept one, because I’m a good student that way. However, not once in all of those years of using a journal, have I enjoyed it.

How teachers see journaling
How teachers see journaling

Still, I kept writing a journal every year because ‘they’ kept insisting that it was the best way to clear away the cobwebs in my brain, so that when I actually DID sit down to write, I would be free to do so without my subconscious mucking things up.

So, it has always been with great reluctance, that every year, I would begin one of these horrid things thinking this time I would find the ‘journaling zen’ that I had so often read about. Alas, each journal fell by the wayside after a few short months. The time had come to ask myself why?

The answer, was more logical than I could have hoped. As a writer, I just couldn’t see the point of journaling. Perhaps it was because I knew I was writing something that no one would ever read (and why would I bother writing if no one was ever going to read it???) Perhaps I found it boring to rehash the monotonous diatribes of the day gone by. Journaling, to me, felt like a colossal waste of time. Gasp! I said that out loud! (Goes and hides in a corner afraid someone will come and remove her coveted ‘writer’ cup for such a risqué thing to say)

hidingWait! Before you steal my cup…I have something else to say!!!!

My opinion of journaling changed on, January 1, 2013, when I cracked open THIS baby.

write in meThat’s REAL imitation leather there!

Can’t you just feel how the pages ache to be written in?

journal blank pages

Not so fast, you say! You’ve been lured into the new journal trap before. Writing in a brand new journal is wonderful bliss until you get so bored you want to stab your own eyes out with the pen.

Self, you raise a good point. However, this time, not only did I change the type of journal I normally buy (usually it’s just a cheapo one ’cause I know I’ll never finish it), but I also changed WHAT I write in it. And that, as they say, has made all the difference.

Instead of simply regurgitating my day (that I don’t really want to recall)  I’m putting my journaling time to good use. I’m writing a novel in it! (shut the front door!) Yes, you heard me correctly. I am HAND WRITING a new adult novel inside those 300 lined pages. When I finish with the journal, I will have finish my first draft of a new novel. THAT is a writing exercise I can get behind!

So far in the few months I’ve had the journal, I’ve already gotten 9 chapters down! Now instead of journaling being a chore, it’s something that gets my creative juices flowing.

The lesson, dear readers, if journaling isn’t working for you and your writing, either ditch it, WITHOUT GUILT, or, change the way you use your journal. Maybe it isn’t a novel. Maybe it’s a place to jot down story ideas. Maybe you write one short story a day, just for writing practice, maybe you draw the scenes of locations in your book. Whatever. It’s yours to use however YOU need it to work (or not work). Don’t listen to others (even me) about what will be the best for you as a writer. No one can answer that but you.

That said, I’ll leave you the best advise I’ve ever gotten as an author: “Write on!”

Danielle Bannister
Author of Pulled, Pulled Back and Short Shorts.


3 thoughts on “To Journal, or Not to Journal—Now, THAT is the Writer’s Dilemma”

  1. Well said! I’ve been able to eliminate guilt from most areas of my life, and now you have given me the encouragement to remove journaling from the list! Thank you! Shall we tell Ken and Rich???

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