Why You Should Keep a Writing Journal

I wrote a post a while ago about why I love keeping a journal. I like having a place to record my memories, thoughts, and feelings––both for my mental health and to remember things that I might have forgotten otherwise.

But besides having a personal journal, I also keep a writing journal. I mentioned this in my August WIPMarathon update, but I thought I would take this opportunity to go into more detail about it.

What is a writing journal?

There’s no official set of rules about what a writing journal “has” to be. But for me, my writing journal is just a Word document that I keep on my laptop. When I sit down to write, the first thing I do is open the document. For each day, I write the following:

[Date]
Work in Progress:
Mode: [Writing or editing]
Current word count:
Progress since last entry: [x] words

After that, I write a paragraph or two describing things like:

  • What part I’m at in the story
  • What’s going to happen next
  • What I’m happy about
  • What I’m frustrated with

I also might make a few notes about what my current writing goals are for the day/week/month.

When I’m done with the entry, then I move on to writing!

Why is this helpful?

I’ve found that keeping a writing journal is beneficial for many reasons. To name a few:

It helps me keep track of my progress. There’s something satisfying about seeing my word count going up with each writing session. It’s a way to remind myself that, even on days when writing feels like pulling teeth, I’ve still come a long way and I’m still making progress.

I can make sure I’m meeting my goals. I can mentally tell myself I’ll write [x] amount of words/chapters within a certain timeframe, but I’ve found I’m much more likely to reach those goals if I write them down. When I write a journal entry saying I’m going to try to write 250 words a day for a month, I’ve noticed I’m far more likely to keep that promise after I’ve written it down.

It’s a good way to vent my frustrations. Who else is tormented by that annoying little voice in your head that says you suck at writing? I’m sure I’m not the only one. That discouraging little voice has definitely held me back from writing on numerous occasions. Some days, it prevents me from writing altogether.

But, here’s my advice for facing those inner demons: listen to what they have to say and write it down. What are you afraid of? Do you think your first draft is horrendous? Are you worried that your plot is boring and your characters are flat?

Write all those fears down––then take a deep breath, and let them go. Remind yourself that no one can write a perfect first draft––or a perfect second or third draft, for that matter. But you can’t let that fear prevent you from writing at all. Personally, I’ve found that writing down my anxieties makes them seem a lot smaller. Almost everything I fear is something that can be fixed: plot holes, clunky sentences, dull characters … Make note of them now, but then move on. Finish that draft. You can always go back and fix the mistakes later.

Those are the main reasons why I enjoy keeping a writing journal, and so far it has helped me make a lot of progress. Does anyone else keep a writing journal, and does it help you? If you don’t, do you think you might try it? Comment and let me know! 🙂

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9 thoughts on “Why You Should Keep a Writing Journal

  1. I don’t keep one, and though it’s not a criticism of writing journals, I can’t imagine a more boring, useless way to spend my time. But that’s just me. The only time I set specific goals is during NaNoWriMo. I don’t keep track of progress, and I don’t have any demons to write about. But everyone is different. I can certainly understand why a journal would be very helpful for some people.

    1. Haha, I guess it depends on your writing process. It’s great that you can get things done without setting strict goals! Personally it’s really hard for me to get anything done unless I have a specific goal for myself. And it’s also difficult for me to write if I’m worrying too much the whole time, so it helps to get those worries out first. Glad to hear you aren’t haunted by the same “demons”. 😉

  2. I’ve never kept a writing journal like this before, but I might try it the next time I’m working on a first draft! I particularly like the idea of writing down frustrations in order to let them go. Normally I just do that in my regular journal…

    1. Cool, let me know how it goes if you try it! I definitely vent about my writing woes in my regular/personal journal as well, but I’ve found it helps me to write down those frustrations directly before I start writing––that way I just get them out of the way first, so they don’t bother me as much as I’m trying to finish a first draft. 🙂

  3. I don’t think this would work for me, if only because I find it even harder to write about my own feelings rather than those of my characters. One of my high school teachers made her class keep a journal too, so perhaps I’ve also developed an aversion to it. I was so relieved when she said it was okay to write fiction in it.

    I find it a fascinating idea, though. I can see how it keeps you accountable for your writing goals and could help with writer’s block. I just keep a spreadsheet my sister made for me that works like the NaNo chart.

    1. I actually started keeping a regular journal as a class assignment, and after the class was over I just stuck with it because I found I enjoyed doing it. 😀 But I can see how it could also make someone dislike writing journals, haha.

      I like using spreadsheets, too. They’re very helpful!

    1. I always write in my regular/personal journal by hand. It just feels right for some reason! With my writing journal, I do it on my computer mostly because I write on the computer and I’m keeping track of things like word count, what scene I’m writing, etc. 🙂

      Thanks for the nomination!!

  4. Pingback: My Year In Writing | Brigid Writes Things

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