I think we all know that writing can be a lonely business. You can be working on something for years and not share it with another soul. For me, when I'm not writing, I'm thinking about writing; how can I improve that chapter, what can I do to show how much a character has been through without being melodramatic, should I take out that part in the middle? On and on it goes. To have so much of your life dedicated to something that leaves you in complete isolation can be very daunting. So a few years ago, I did something about it.
I'm not sure exactly why I started keeping a 'writing journal' - I can't remember if I'd read it as advice somewhere, or I just got totally fed up with keeping it all in… Regardless of why, the important thing is how: how much better I felt about my writing, and sometimes, lack thereof. If I had done no writing on a particular day, my 'entry' would just say: 'didn't do much today, wasn't motivated', but the simple act of writing it down, acknowledging how I felt, definitely changed how I was feeling.
It's really interesting looking back on my scribbles now, as I am in the final edit of my debut novel. It's surreal reading back over the challenges I was facing (mainly those in my head, or trying to get the actual writing done while keeping a full time job). I realised that I've come such a long way, despite the dismay I often feel towards the current state of my manuscript.
Mine was within my existing notebook. Whenever I wanted to jot down how I felt, I simply titled the next page 'Writing Diary' or in the case now, 'Edit Diaries' and free wrote. It was like I was talking to another writer, who already knew everything there was to know, and it was liberating and therapeutic. I really recommend every writer keep something like this.
Why a writer should keep a writing journal:
- It keeps you sane (or saner). Even if you're a part of a writing community (which is also a great approach), sometimes you'll have moments you don't want to share with others - a release without the exhibition, if that makes any sense. This is the perfect solution.
- At some point, you'll want to go back. Whether it's for a trip down memory lane or to learn from mistakes of the past, revisiting your own process can be super beneficial. You get to go over everything you experienced while you were working on something that mattered to you, and relearn.
- It's nice to get off the computer and physically write something. This alone could do you the world of good.
- Sharing. You'll also get to a point with your writing where you might want to share your experience. Having a writing journal is a fantastic reference point to mark the process of your project as well as your self-development. I'm currently sharing snippets of my writing journal on my website, here.
You don't have to go out and buy a fancy leather-bound notebook. Use your existing pad and pen, use the nearest scrap of paper, use anything - just give it a try. It's one of the healthiest things I've done for myself and my writing in a long time.