Your journal can be your most important tool as a writer.
The impulse to write is natural to many people, yet the demands of many public forms of writing can be inhibiting or even crushing. Writing a journal, on the other hand, opens up possibilities.
Your journal is one place you can write anything, in any form and shape and it doesn’t matter. You can draw, make lists, copy quotes, write down what you heard of the nasty things someone said to you and you can’t get them out of your head. In your journal, you can sack your internal judge and explore your mood, emotions, views, feelings even anger and anxieties.
Journal writing is a supreme way to records your life’s journey; where you are at a point in life, where you want to be, what are your aspirations, how life derails you.
Many times, we feel we have not made any progress and our life has been a standstill, but when I read my journals from three years back or five years back, I realize how far I have come.
Writing in my journal in the time of confusion and indecision is my way I discover what matters to me and what would be the right choice. It is a place to explore and what and how I am thinking.
A journal is not only a great source of inner development but also a tool to become a fluent writer. Before I started a journal, my writing was clunky. I would struggle to put my thoughts and ideas into words. Journal writing helped me understand and crystalize my ideas and write them with clarity. My journal became a tool to capture gems that I could use in other writing.
Before long my journal became my most trusted companion that supported me through life’s trials. I could write anything without the fear of being judged. It became a place of discovery, of learning, of emotional relief and insights.
It also became a playground, where the everyday rules of writing, reflecting, problem-solving, goal-setting, production and planning no longer applied. It was a training ground to appreciate beauty, to describe scene and setting, to record dialogues, and to write in the moment.
Journal writing trained and honed my eye for beauty. It invited me to live in the present moment as well as allowing me to roam in my past.
It will let you re-experience awe and wonder. It will let you intensify your pleasure in events and situations that have gone well. It will support your recovery (and the gaining of wisdom) from the times you wish had never happened.
My journal is the place where I record the conversation between my many selves – my intuitive self, my everyday self, my dreamy self, my practical self, my uncertain self and my all-knowing self who know what needs to be done. This is the place where I can talk to my soul and can hear it talking to me. I can even talk to my parents who are no longer in this world. I sometimes say things to people that are too painful and difficult to say in person and hear their responses even without talking to them.
I discovered my voice in my journal. I would I explored the writing prompts, exercises from writing books and topics suggested in writing groups in my journal which helped develop the tone and rhythm of my writing.
When I started writing, I sounded self-conscious and stiff, or sometimes chatty and superficial. So I started experimenting. I tried writing in the third person, or in the second person. Rather than writing in past tense all the time, I beginner writers do all the time, I would try writing in the present tense. I wrote shabby poems and copied quotes and changed them to something different. I wrote letters to myself and to others which I never meant to post. I could take those risks because my journals are for my eyes only.
In A Writer’s Diary, Virginia Woolf asks herself what kind of a diary she’d like to write and answers:
“I should like it to resemble some deep old desk or capacious hold-all in which one flings a mass of odds and ends without looking them through.”
“Without looking them through,” is important. Your journal is the place where you shouldn’t try to censor yourself. Fill it in with your incomplete thoughts, your inner life, your first feelings. Include any pictures or clippings that spark your imagination, poems, and songs lyrics that move you. Write letters in it that you never mail.
Journal writing is a simple practice, yet it can make you the writer you want to become.