A Writer's Perspective: The Importance Of Journaling In Finishing My First Novel
It was the first time I began to take writing seriously: June 2014.
Before that, I would call myself a casual writer, if I would call myself a writer at all.
I wrote when inspiration struck, churning out a poem here and god-awful short story there, and moving on, waiting until the next time inspiration would overtake my fingers and push something out.
"I only write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning."
But, even with this lacklustre method, even without sitting down and doing the work I knew it took, I still thought that I would somehow, someway, become a writer.
Then, in June of 2014, I made the decision to stop drinking for a single month.
What to do with this new month, I wondered, hangover free and full of motivation?
Easy. I committed myself to write something, anything, every day for 30 days straight. More often than not, that something was simply a journal entry about what I did that day, my thoughts on my 30 day challenge, my thoughts on writing in general, or what I wanted out of life.
And from that day forward, I haven't looked back. I've been journaling (almost) every day since.
And if I had to think of one thing to pull out and point to and say "Ah ha! That's what made me a writer!" It would be journaling.
Historically, there are countless examples of famous men and women who kept a journal:
Mark Twain, Sylvia Plath, George S. Patton,Thomas Jefferson, Charles Darwin, Ludwig van Beethoven, Ernest Hemingway, Benjamin Franklin, Charlotte Bronte, David Foster Wallace, Herman Melville, Jack Kerouac, Marilyn Monroe, Da Vinci, Virginia Woolf, and the list goes on.
Jack Kerouac: "[Allen] Ginsberg wants to run his hands up the backs of people, for this he gives seldom takes. He is also a mental screwball *(Tape recorder anxious to be tape recorded tape recording)"
The odds are, if you were to pick out a random author, artist, or historical person of any substantial merit and ask “did they journal?” you’d likely get a resounding yes in return.
But why journaling?
What has made this one daily activity such a prevailing habit of the productive, ambitious, and successful?
Honest, everyday, directed self-reflection is one of the hardest—and most important—things you should do as a human.
To shift the spotlight towards yourself and ask: What is it I want out of life? Why am I failing at attaining it? What is it I’m doing that is either hurting or helping me achieve that goal?
In my daily journaling practice, I set a goal for myself back in 2014: I want[ed] to be a dedicated writer, someone who sits down everyday and writes. That was it. It was a simple, attainable goal.
From there, as I examined my daily habits and thoughts, who and what I surrounded myself with, and how they positively or negatively impacted my writing, other things materialized.
Here are a few of the things I would attribute to my journal practice:
I began to schedule my days, realizing the importance of decision making, and trying to limit making decisions I shouldn’t have to make.
How important physical exercise is to my personal happiness, and how that happiness directly affects my ability to be productive.
Fell in love with waking up and going to bed at exactly the same time of the day, every day.
Began a daily habit tracker (a calendar) and why tracking progress is invaluable to pushing yourself forward.
Using it as a place to write down thoughts that trigger my desire to quit being productive, then working through those triggers, and going back to being productive.
Understanding the full benefit of a daily meditation practice.
Being able to work through my general anxiety, by recognizing and limiting the things that I should avoid to keep it at bay.
Getting out of debt.
Getting over my once-crippling fear of failure.
Becoming a highly motivated, healthier, happier, more productive individual.
But if you open up a word document to begin journaling and find a blank page staring back at you, wondering how or where to start, my advice would be to create a goal, any goal, and write out each day, at the same time every day, how the things that happened to you throughout the day either impacted you positively or negatively. These can include the things you ate, the people you talked to, how you talked to yourself, the activities you took part in, your friends, your work, anything and everything.
From there, try to pinpoint the systems and habits you need to set up to continue to further yourself towards your one goal.
It’s really as simple as that.