#WritersLife: How Keeping a journal helps me keep my sanity as a writer

When people think of journaling, the first thought that comes to mind is seeing a bratty teenage girl sitting on her bed and writing “dear diary” before going on to write about how terrible her life is because her crush acts like he doesn’t know she exists. Though this too is a form of journaling, the journaling I’m talking about is a bit different.

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In April of last year, I started reading Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way. It’s a book written by a writer for writers and artists of all kind who are looking to breathe life into their creativity. Though the book is geared toward writers, it’s actually for anyone who wants to be more creative in life from the homemaker to the plumber. One of the advices Julia gives in her book, is to keep a journal.

Why Journal?

Journaling for everyone is going to mean something different. Some writers keep journals to keep track of their novel or non-fiction projects. Others keep it as a form of expression. I keep a journal for a mixture of both. My journal is something of a mind dump in the morning. I live in my head and my thoughts race through my mind faster than Usain Bolt.

If left alone, those thoughts would drive me mad. In fact, it’s been a source of my anxiety and reclusion in the past. I’m not one to share what I’m thinking easily. It takes quite a bit for me to share anything about myself with people I don’t trust. So my journal is the most personal thing to me. It’s my therapist. A place to share my thoughts, ideas, and feelings openly without fear of judgement. Because no one “should” read my journal, I say “should” because though this is the goal sometimes the wrong eyes get on it (speaking from experience), I’m free to write whatever I’m feeling.

My journal is also a marker in time for me. I hardly reread the pages I write, but when I do, it’s like a blast from the past. Being able to see what I was thinking at a certain time in the past is like looking at childhood photos and reminiscing. My journals also help with my writing and being able to get my thoughts out in the way it appears in my mind, which helps with writer’s block.

You’re probably wondering what most people wonder when they read articles suggesting they keep a journal…

What Do You Journal About?

The short answer: anything you want. As I mentioned before, some writers keep journals as a form of daily expression while others have journals that are more specific and focused, and are used to keep record of their progress with their projects. I use my journal for both, but mostly as a form of expression to keep me sane.

I’m a mother, a wife, and a freelance writer. So you can imagine my day is full of stuff to do, people to make happy, and sometimes rejection. Often being the wearer of many hats can be overwhelming and instead of complaining to someone and later wishing I hadn’t, I just put it in my journal. Creatively, I use my journal to map out story and character ideas. My last blog post about my experience rereading The Coldest Winter Ever actually came from an idea that surfaced while writing in my journal the week before.

If journaling has you stumped and writing about your life or projects isn’t appealing, then use prompts. There are tons of options out there in the form of books, websites, or even journal stickers which you can find on Etsy. Most prompts give you a theme to build on so that you have something to write about and this usually flourishes into other ideas. Before you know it, you’re journaling and it feels less like a choir and more like a necessity to keep sane.

If you’re still unsure about what to journal, just write about what you’re grateful for. I close each journal entry with a list of things I’m grateful for and it makes for an amazing day.

3 Tips for Journaling as A Writer

Just do it. Sit your butt in a seat and just write whatever comes to mind. Don’t know what to write? Start by writing the date, what the weather is like today, how you’re feeling, what’s happening outside of your window at that moment, whatever really. Something as simple and elementary as those things can jumpstart your thoughts which will translate into words then pages in your journal. I have no idea what I’m going to write about when I sit down to journal. I just go with the flow. Sometimes I’ll wake up still pissed off about something that happened the day before. Or I’ll have a dream that shook me to my core. Lately, my journals have been about my writing projects and ideas I have. I say all of that just to say this…just write and everything will come to you. It doesn’t have to make sense and it doesn’t have to be grammatically perfect. Just do it boo!

Read a book on creative journaling. It sounds silly to read a book on keeping a journal especially if you have the picture of the teenage girl giving her journal the woe-is-me about her crush. If this is you, I suggest thinking of your journal more as a creative outlet. And if you have trouble figuring that out on your own, a book on creative journaling is a must. A book I’d suggest is Stephanie Dowrick’s Creative Journal Writing. I’d also recommend Julia’s The Artist’s Way since this a book that has helped and still is helping me be more and think more creatively.

Be disciplined about it. I don’t play with my mornings. I make sure I’m in bed at a certain time so that I’m up and have enough time for my morning routines which includes writing in my journal. My journaling gets done when everyone is still asleep. I need to be clear headed and uninterrupted so that my thoughts and ideas flow. Everything else can be random in my day but I need to know I’m writing at least three pages in the morning no matter what. Even when I’m not feeling it and I have the imaginary little troll on my shoulder telling me to just go back to sleep. I pull myself out of bed and still get it done. Motivation is great but discipline is the hallmark to being better at everything.

Whatever way you decide to go about journaling, do it because you enjoy it like everything else in life. When you stick with it, journaling can be rewarding. It forces you to be present in the moment and consistent creatively, two things you’ll need to keep sane as a writer.

#MustRead: Reading ‘The Power of Habit’ will change your life

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*This is Day 7 of the 30-Day Blogging Challenge.*

I’m a bookworm. I like gaining information and being taken into an author’s world by just turning the page in a book. There have been many books that have changed my perception on everything from mental health and storytelling. Some of which of read more than once (The Power of Now). But this one book sits at the top of the list and it’s called The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.

I read this book 3 years ago when it was first released. The word habits resonates with me because I believe it to be the core of who we are as human beings. Everything we do is based on habits from getting up in the morning and brushing our teeth to having to crack our fingers before we type on the computer. Some of our habits are good and some are awful. The Power of Habit breaks down the role of habits in our lives and in business, even showing how major brands have used habits to make a lot of money.

Two examples of how habits can change your life, as mentioned in the book, is the process of losing weight or quitting smoking. The author Charles Duhigg gives an example of a 9-5’er who wants to lose weight and cutout eating junk from the vending machine. After close evaluation of self, they realized that they only went to get something from the vending machine whenever they needed a break from looking at their computer or when they got bored.

After realizing this, the subject sets a time everyday to stop and speak to a co-worker. What they realized was less trips to the vending machine, weight loss, and a better relationship with co-workers. Another example was of a woman who wanted to quit smoking. She didn’t realize how smoking was ruining her health and her livelihood. Once she got out of the habit of smoking, she ate right, then that habit lead to her working out religiously. These two individuals traded bad habits for better ones.

My favorite part of the book was when the author broke down how major businesses like Proctor & Gamble and Target made habits grow loyalty in their brand and keep customers coming back for more. In P&G’s case, they were stumped on figuring out how they could create interest in their new product Febreze. Marketing it as a product that just dissolved odors wasn’t enough. So when they asked their testing groups how they were using Febreze and discovered that some of them were using it to a finishing scent when they were done cleaning up a room or making a bed, they marketed this and saw great success. Target did something similar, except they watched what their shoppers were routinely buying then sending them circulars with related products.

One example that stuck out was one of a young girl who shopped at Target and gave them some form of contact. On her first visit she purchased baby lotion and other essentials related to baby. When they sent her the circular, it was filled with baby items like clothes, bathtubs and the like. The girl was a teenager and her father was less than pleased that the company was sending his daughter circulars filled with baby stuff, fearing that they would force the idea on her of having a baby. A few months later when reps for the company reached out to apologize to the father he apologized to them and revealed she was pregnant and preparing to have her baby.

The Power of Habit is a powerful book I recommend. It applies to all areas of life and shows how our lives are shaped by our habits. And if we want better lives we’d be happy with, we have to take a close look at our habits and decide if they are aligned with our goals.

Image Credit: Amazon