I used to be a dedicated journaler. I have stacks of my old diaries dating back to high school…or maybe even middle school. Then, in my 30s, I stopped keeping a hand-written journal and switched to the computer. Later, I stopped journaling altogether. I felt I could better use that time.
First, let me explain why I switched to a computer. I know many people feel writing by hand brings something different to your journaling experience. You tap into a deeper, more-personal place. It’s true, but I found that my hand could not keep up with my thoughts, and that frustrated me. I lost half my thoughts as I tried to get them down on paper. And, because I wrote so quickly, I couldn’t read most of what I did write.
That’s when I decided to keep an online journal consisting of Word documents kept in a folder on my computer. For several years, I wrote in this journal daily. I still found myself able to tap into my emotions and experiences, but I could accomplish my journaling in half the time—and write more in that time. I felt this type of journal exercise better used my time.
Why I Stopped Journaling
During a particularly difficult period in my life, I stopped journaling. I was struggling with my role as a stepmother and with how the difficulties I was having and that my stepchildren were having affected my marriage.
I admit it; I couldn’t go deep enough or be honest enough with myself about my experiences at that time. So I just quit the self-exploratory process afforded by the daily time writing in my journal.
When I tried to journal many years later, I found myself feeling antsy, as if I were wasting time. Sitting there with my journal and tea was time taken away from the “real” writing. I tried “morning pages,” but still felt I should be doing some “real” writing. Since then, I have seen many of my clients deal with this procrastination as they do “morning pages” for hours and then tell me they don’t have time to write.
Journal with Purpose
I began to channel my life experiences—those I would previously have shared only in my journal— into personal essays. I saw this as journaling with a purpose. I could write blog posts and articles for magazines while still exploring my feelings and my personal transformation. I used this practice on a regular basis, in particular in my work as a blogger and columnist.
In fact, as a blogger, I could have channeled my energy into an online journal. After all, blogs began as just that, and many early blogs were filled with the free-flowing thoughts of their authors. Many memoirs have grown out of the continuous thoughts and experiences of their authors published online for all to read. Even more books have been published from blogs whose authors focused content on a particular topic about which they felt passionate or knowledgeable.
There are many ways to journal with purpose. I outlined several in this post. I suggest that this can be an effective use of your time, especially if you feel you are not managing to write your book, but you love the time spent exploring your thoughts, feelings and experiences.
Many aspiring nonfiction writers feel they don’t know enough to be an expert; therefore, they can’t write a nonfiction book. Others worry that no one will want to read what they write because they have no “wisdom” worth sharing. Rubbish.
Follow the writing wisdom handed down through the ages: Write what you know.
All your journals contain self-discovery, self-knowledge and insights about your life, relationships, work, and the world. Put that wisdom to good use! Turn that knowledge into blog posts, articles, essays, and books.
You are an expert in something. You are an authority on your life. You may not have the material for a memoir, but you might! You have enough information for an ebook, though, or two or three. And if you can write three ebook, you can combine them into a full-length book.
Stop Priming the Pump
Today, start putting your journaling time to good use. Instead of spending an hour writing in a journal to “prime the pump,” get ready for your “other” writing projects by writing something valuable right from the start—something personal, thoughtful and wise. You don’t need to get ready to write. Just write.
Leave me a comment below to tell me about the inspired results you achieve.
Frances Caballo says
Great post, Nina. I stopped journaling years ago as well. I know for some writers journaling can serve as writing prompts – perhaps especially for memoir writers. But even David Sedaris says that he never uses what he considers truly private content for his books. I believe the journals he keeps are for recording ideas for his books.
Nina Amir says
I have lots of old journals, as I said. Most of what is in there I’d never use for anything. It’s not worth anything–except maybe the poetry! I now keep notes in Evernote, because I rarely remember where I wrote anything down if I do it on a pad or in a notebook! Thanks for your comment, Frances!
I don’t know – the reasons for the morning pages are to get past the inner critic. I’ll give it a try, though, as I can’t find time for a blog, much less a book!!
Nina Amir says
Just journal/blog with a purpose…with a useable piece of work in mind. Then edit out the junk that comes up from your Inner Critic.
And…your Inner Critic can be told to wait outside–until you need an editor to help revise. Call on your Inner Muse or Inner Writer to help you write when you want to write.
See how that works, Jacquie.