On Writing: Do You Keep a Journal?

Yesterday’s word count: 0

NANTUCKET total word count:  60,874

HARPER total word count: 5,435 words

I didn’t make my writing goal yesterday; I didn’t even attempt it. At 1:30 am I was still working on my deadline, and the choice was there: keep plugging away and be free and clear for the next three days, or put the assignment away and write. I decided it would be better all around for me and my stress levels to have three days to clean the house for the housesitter (now I understand those of you who clean your house in preparation for your cleaning person) and get ready and packed for our road trip.


So I’ve been wondering – whether you like to write or just like to read books, do you keep a journal?

Journaling is something I’ve never been able to do consistently. But with my recent success at writing my novel every day (well, nearly everyday), I’ve been thinking about giving journaling a try again.

Sometimes I think it would be lovely to have notebooks all lined up on a shelf in chronological order, documenting my life through the ages. On the other hand, I know this would never work for me. I have a wonderful life, but let’s face it: it’s kind of boring.

Where the real excitement happens is in my mind. I always have lots going on in there. I think that’s why I had such success writing Morning Pages, the exercise in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I wrote Morning Pages every day for eight years. The reason why this was so successful for me was because you’re not supposed to read your Morning Pages, ever: it’s just a brain dump.

From there I moved on to what I called my “spiritual” journal. This was a couple of years ago, and I only kept it for about two months, but I have gone back and re-read this journal several times and it always gives me a lift.

So I’ve decided to begin a journal that will be all about whatever happens to be going on in my mind. I’m going to commit to writing in it every morning, because that’s what I did with my Morning Pages and getting things off my mind was a huge help to my day. But unlike Morning Pages, I want to go back and re-read this journal, so it will be more like my spiritual journal.

And what perfect timing – I ordered some Moleskin journals over the weekend. They arrived today!

What about you? Do you keep a journal? Do you record the events of your life in it, your thoughts, or a combination of both? How long have you been keeping a journal. Do you have any tips for me, on how to become a dedicated journal writer?

17 thoughts on “On Writing: Do You Keep a Journal?

  1. Memory

    I’ve written in my journal every single day for the past twelve and a half years. I’m kind of all over the place with it. I write about what happened to me that day, some new conclusion I’ve come to, what I’m reading, what I’m writing, something I’ve remembered, something I want to do, a dream I had the night before… anything, really. Some says I write an awful lot; other days I just scribble down a few lines for the sake of writing something.

    I’m afraid I don’t really have any advice re: how to stick with journal writing. It just kind of fell into place for me. I’d tried to keep journals before, but I always skipped days and/or forgot to write. This time, it clicked.
    .-= Memory´s last blog ..A tribute to C.S. Lewis =-.

    1. Belle

      Twelve and a half years is a wonderfully long time. I’m feeling very inspired by this, Memory. And your description of the way you write in your journal is exactly what I’m hoping for – being all over the place: a taste of my life, lots of my thoughts, every which way, which really is how I see my life. It definitely clicked for you – I’m hoping it will do the same for me.

    1. Belle

      As someone who’s read your Tuesday “where am I” posts, I am really amazed that you hate to write. When you write about what you’re reading, you really take me there. Not to mention the magic you seem to have over my ever expanding TBR pile …

  2. Cathryn

    I’ve written in journals most of my life. My sister read my first diary, so that stopped me for a few years! (I’ve forgiven her.)

    I have boxes of spiral notebooks, but the past eight or nine years I’ve kept my journal on my laptop, password protected, and that has really freed me. I like the feel of writing by hand, but my hand cramps up, and I type much faster.

    For a few months last year I did Morning Pages. I really liked them and they were more focused than my journals, but since I write my fiction in the morning, I found it was taking me out of my fictional world and tended to gravitate towards drama in my day job, something I did not want to be focused on during fiction writing, so I stopped.

    My journals range from working out plotting problems, complaining about my job, making plans, and some entries are boring, tedious recounting of how my writing is going. I sometimes use it to keep the writing going when the fiction feels stalled.

    A very long “comment” but you got me thinking about the journaling phases of my life. thanks!
    .-= Cathryn´s last blog ..The Dark Side =-.

    1. Belle

      Cathryn, I love long comments! I like the idea of your boxes of spiral notebooks, filled with words that evoke so many years of my life. I have lots of my Morning Pages lying around, but I have never re-read any of them, and don’t want anyone else to, either, so whenever I find one, I end up shredding it.

      I would love to have regular journals, though. I like the idea of keeping my writing going when things feel stalled.

  3. Bookwormom

    The only regular journaling I’ve ever done has been a) food diaries & b) my book blog. The food journals were the best tool for watching my calorie intake & were very instrumental in helping me be aware of what I ate so that my weight remained reasonable. I’ve since dropped them & my weight has responded to my lack of attention, but restarting has been a big issue. As for the blog, it’s enough for me to keep track of my books and reviews. I’m much more aware of & interested in what I read because of my blog & the necessity of writing down what my thoughts are re: the books. I’m not sure I’ve the time or the inclination for more ‘regular’ journaling so to speak. I see resuming the food diaries in the very near future though.


    1. Belle

      It’s that awareness I’m looking for, Amanda – I’m so glad you mentioned this! I’ve definitely been getting this with my reading, and even my writing, now that I’m blogging about that as well.

  4. Lexie

    I’ve never been able to keep a written journal–at least not unless I had to for class. I prefer a computer journal since I type faster then I write. Plus half of what I write in my entries are for my friends to see and comment on–if it was a written bound journal they’d never see it and I’d be making all these inside jokes to myself!!

    1. Belle

      I do wonder about this, too, Lexie – I have a personal blog, and some days I wonder if I shouldn’t just write in that and make that my journal. There’s something about sharing things with friends that is just so satisfying. And I’m also very comfortable with typing. Something more to mull over.

  5. Margot

    I’ve been sporadic in my journaling. The longest period was a three year spiritual journal. I no longer feel the need. They were very helpful at the time.

    I’ve been away for a few days and just noticed that you are over 60,000 words. You are really rolling. Keep at it. And have a great road trip.
    .-= Margot´s last blog ..It’s Teaser Time =-.

    1. Belle

      That’s exactly what I felt with the Morning Pages, Margot – they were just wonderful when I was doing them, and then one day, I didn’t need them anymore.

      I think I am definitely thinking that my new journal will be more on the spiritual end, though. That one I kept a couple of years ago has been so helpful to me, and was tremendously helpful as I was writing it.

      And thank you about the word count! I can’t believe I’m more than halfway through (it doesn’t seem like it some days).

      I keep thinking of your wonderful posts about your travels. Our road trip won’t be anything like yours, but soon, I hope.

  6. Rebecca

    I keep a journal about my thoughts and feelings about my dad’s death. Journaling has helped me to put into words things I could not express in other ways. I definitely recommend it for anyone going through something challenging to help clarify thoughts.
    .-= Rebecca´s last blog ..Literary Links of Note =-.

  7. Ann-Kat

    I am a collector of journals. No, really. I have over a hundred. The journals that I collect, I don’t write in (but I’m trying to change that now) and if I wanted to write in one of them, I’d get a second one. I know, sick and twisted.

    When I was younger, I did journal nearly every day. It helped me get through some dark times in my life. And it spiraled off into fictional tales–a few that I happened across not too long ago. I also tried the morning pages route for a while, but for some strange reason, I couldn’t stick with it.

    The journaling stopped for a little while, but now I’m doing it full force again…well, a modification at least. My preference was to journal on lined paper. Now that I’ve been drawing more, I’ve found the lined paper to be inhibiting, so ever since I got my plain Moleskine, it’s allowed me to throw sketches into my journals. Sometimes I’ll journal for myself, other times I’ll journal from a character’s perspective, and other times I’ll just jot down quick thoughts, lines, or images that I want to remember later. It’s a mishmash really.

    Frankly, I just leave it up to mood. If I feel like journaling, or need to in order to get through a certain section of my life, then I do it. Otherwise, I just have a look over my journal collection and smile. :)
    .-= Ann-Kat´s last blog ..Waiting on Wednesday: Hey, Where Did Those Deformed Triplets Come From? Oh, Divine Conception You Say. =-.

  8. Marie

    I don’t journal consistently but I do love to do it when I can get myself to sit down and spend the time. I’ve tried lots of various forms of journaling, trying to find just the right fit, and in the end I’ve decided that an electic mix does best for me. A little bit of everything :-)

  9. Pingback: Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Voting Begins! - Ms. Bookish

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