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How To Write a Journal and Why You Should Start Today

How To Write a Journal and Why You Should Start Today

Do you want to know how to write a journal? Are you struggling to write regular entries? Would you like to use journal writing to become more creative and productive?

I’ve kept journals in various forms on and off for ten years, and I’ve faced these types of problems.

Journal writing is a skill that asks for commitment, practice and honesty.

It’s also a perfect practice for creative people and for writers on Medium who want to improve their craft.

Why you should keep a journal

If you want to become more creative and productive, you should keep a journal (you could even use Medium!). Your journal will help you:

  • Identify negative thought patterns
  • Express negative emotions
  • Set goals and track your progress towards these goals
  • Articulate your arguments and ideas privately
  • Reflect on recent lessons from your personal or professional life
  • Chart your progress towards your goals
  • Review your setbacks and move past them
  • Document day-to-day life
  • Mark accomplishments and failures

It’s also entertaining and revealing to read back on personal and professional journal entries from several years ago.

The Art of Journal Writing

Today, I keep two journals.

The first journal is a personal journal, and it contains the types of entries you would expect to find in someone’s journal or diary i.e. it’s about my day-to-day life.

I keep this journal in a password-protected file on my computer, and I write 200–300 word entries at night, every 3–4 days.

The second journal is a professional journal. In this journal, I write about how this blog and my writings are progressing. I also describe challenges I’m having and what I’m working on.

I keep this journal in a Scrivener file alongside the various blog posts I’m working on. I post entries in this journal at the end of the week, during my weekly review.

Committing to Journal Writing

I’m not going to lie; keeping one journal (never mind) two is a commitment. I spend at least an hour each week on journal writing.

Some people who want to keep a journal say they find the process time-consuming, that they forget to write regular entries and that it can become a chore.

These are valid concerns. If you’re experiencing these problems, accept that there will be times when you don’t or can’t write.

Instead, remember the benefits of journal writing and that no one needs to read or see this work (i.e. it doesn’t have to be perfect or even polished).

You don’t need to keep more than one journal either. I’ve just shared how I practice journal writing in case this helps you.

How I Speed Up the Process of Writing a Journal

I use Textexpander for OS X and Phase Express for Windows to write journal entries faster.

These are text-expansion apps that turn keyboard shortcuts into snippets of text that I use for my entries.

For example, when I type “;journal”, Textexpander pastes the following questions into my personal journal:

How am I feeling right now?
What are my plans for today?
What did I read/listen to?
How did I help my family?

When I type “;blog”, Textexpander pastes the following questions into my professional journal or Scrivener file:

What did I do yesterday?
What lesson did I learn?
What could I have done better?
What one thing must I focus on this week?

I use a semi-colon to prevent Textexpander from inadvertently creating this text while I’m working on something else.

These questions serve as writing prompts. When I see them appear on the page, I spend less time thinking about “what I want to write” and more time answering these questions.

Why I Rely On Journal Writing

Journal writing informs my other writing projects, and it helps me write faster and more often. I recently wrote two guest posts that wouldn’t have been possible without my journal entries.

The first guest post was for Lifehack: 12 Things Successful People Do Differently.

The second guest post was for the Change Blog: What 3 Dead Authors Taught Me About Living.

In both cases, I wrote these post relatively quickly using entries and lessons from my personal journal and my professional journal.

My professional journal contains several entries and career lessons about how I use David Allen’s Getting Things Done (alongside other productive methods) to write more often.

So, I reread my entries about what David and other productivity gurus do to become more productive. Then, I drew on these lessons for my post.

My personal journal contains dozens of entries about why I admire authors like John Cheever and Virginia Woolf and what I can learn from them. I used these entries to come up with ideas for the Change Blog post.

After the websites published my posts, I also wrote a short entry in my professional journal noting how people reacted to these posts and what I learnt from the process of writing these guest posts.

My Lifehack post taught me that this site relies on a commenting system geared towards users of Facebook. I don’t use Facebook heavily to promote this blog, and I should address this if I want to write another guest post for Lifehack.

My Change Blog post taught me that personal posts or bonding posts resonate with readers of this blog and that I should focus a future submission on even more personal challenges and experiences.

I also made a brief note of how I pitched my ideas, how many readers clicked through to my website and how many people shared my content or connected with me online. This only takes a minute to record, but it can save time when deciding on which activities to do next.

Do you write a journal? Is the practice of journal writing helping you become more creative or productive?

Please let me know in the comments section below. If you liked this post, please recommend it to a friend.