Don’t be surprised if during your next office visit, your doctor hands you a prescription for a journal with instructions to write a minimum of 30 minutes a day!
That’s right. Medical science has discovered what we writers have known for a long time…the benefits of journaling. According to research documented in the Journal of the American Medical Association, April 14, 1999, persons suffering from asthma and rheumatoid arthritis significantly reduce symptoms by “expressive writing.” Writing about (stressful) life events helps to put things into perspective.
In the same way, journaling helps a writer to organize their feelings and thoughts and improves their perspective. Keeping a journal is also an excellent way for wanna-be writers to get into the habit of writing regularly.
This not only improves writing and boosts confidence, but increases awareness and sparks creativity as well.
First Step – The Journal
Whether opting for a special hard cover journal or an inexpensive spiral notebook, seasoned writers utilize the benefits of documenting thoughts, feelings, solutions, and events – while fresh in the mind and creative juices are flowing at their very best. And as best selling author and syndicated columnist, Marjorie Holmes points, out in her book, Writing Articles from the Heart, “…ideas aren’t much use unless you write them down.”
Some writers keep several journals; perhaps one for documenting events past and present, another for research notation, and yet another set aside as their “idea journal.”
The Idea Journal
In the idea journal, free flowing thoughts and ideas for creative articles, essays, devotionals, and other works are logged while still fresh in the mind. Besides documenting ideas that could birth their best piece yet, jotting down random thoughts and ideas helps to keep the writer’s mind uncluttered so they can better focus on the task at hand; writing.
Perhaps something you read in the newspaper or saw on television sparked an idea worth exploring; maybe someone did or said something that caused you to remember a long forgotten humorous experience, or watching a mother robin feed her young from the kitchen window might have been your inspiration. Idea books are brainstorm books; catchall books later referred to when ready to begin a new piece or when the creative well runs dry and mental stimulation is needed. It can also be perused to jump-start new ideas from a single idea already written down in the journal.
A wise writer will always keep a journal handy, whether at home, while battling the morning rush hour, or traveling abroad. Therefore, the type of journal selected is important. A small spiral notebook that can be conveniently tucked inside a purse or carried inconspicuously would be a good investment for times away from the house. A larger notebook or two kept in handy locations at home, say one in the bedroom and another in the living room, would also be helpful.
Some writers prefer writing their ideas down on index cards kept in a file box. Others find that ideas jotted down on scraps of paper, then tucked inside folders and filed alphabetically or according to topic, best meet their needs. Find the method that works for you in keeping those gems of ideas handy and ready for use. Don’t rely on memory.
Besides documenting personal thoughts, insights, and ideas useful for future pieces, maintaining a journal can help dispel confusion and keep you more focused.
Successful Journaling Tips
Whether a seasoned writer, just dabbling in writing as a hobby, or desiring to record daily thoughts and events in a private diary, the following are helpful tips for successful journaling:
Forget about punctuation, spelling, and editing; just let thoughts and feelings flow free and unhindered as your write. Date each entry; note the time, place, and any details regarding your mood and emotions while writing.
If temporarily stumped about what to write about, record parts of conversation, quotes, or random thoughts, even if they don’t seem important at the time.
Make time to write in your journal daily. Experiment to find what time of the day works best for you. Some people write when they first get up in the morning; others just before going to bed, especially if they do reflective journaling about events that have happened throughout the day.
If you are a stay at home mom with small children, nap time might provide the perfect opportunity; lunch break at the office may be ideal for others. Regardless of what time of the day you chose, it should be free from distractions in as relaxed a setting as possible.
One method used to jump-start a writer’s creative juices when stumped for something to write is the use of “prompts.” Word prompts trigger associated words. The prompt “anniversary,” for instance, might trigger the words “romantic dinners,” “special dates,” “mood music,” and “annual celebrations.” From these words, other associated words might come to mind.
Another good way to keep fresh ideas for writing topics flowing from your brain to the tip of your pen is to read, read, and read. Other people’s ideas can help to create the spark needed for new ideas of your own.
The main thing to remember when it comes to journaling is to keep it simple and to write daily, even if it is just a couple of lines. Jot down everything…thoughts, feelings, memories, fears, hopes, dreams, questions, ambitions, and experiences.
Let the creative juices flow free and watch your journal become one of your most valuable writing resource tools.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Published writer and dog lover, Lori Anton, has been writing for nearly 30 years. She is founder and editor for Writers Write Now, offering original professionally written content, and SEO content for web sites; visit Writers Write Now. Lori lives in rural Wyoming with her husband, Jeff, and their diabetic canine companion, Muffy.