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Journal Writing: The Foundation of Creative Writing

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June 2011
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Many people say they don’t have time to write. Julia Cameron in “The Right to Write” suggests that to begin writing, you must “make time”, not wait to “find time.” One of the best ways to make time for writing is through journal writing.

Let me repeat: One of the best ways to begin creative writing is to to keep a personal journal. As well, please note: The act of writing makes you a writer.

The easiest way to begin journal writing is through “freewriting.” Just sit down, write or type the date, and a title if you wish, then start to write about what you are thinking about, whatever comes to mind. Don’t try to think about what you want to write, just begin to write. Get it down on paper or on the screen.  Freewriting gets you in the habit of writing. Do it every day for 10 to 20 minutes. By writing, you will improve your writing.

Don’t try to be a perfectionist. Attempting to do this will prevent you from writing. Instead engage in the act of freewriting. Write about your thoughts, feelings, impressions. Write about your memories as a child, what happened to you yesterday. Write about an adventure or misadventure.

Don’t try to write and then edit as you go. Trying to polish your work as you write will prevent you from getting into the “flow” of writing. It will prevent you from using your creative spirit. By editing as you go, you will be striving for perfection, which will stifle your creativity and need to get your thoughts, feelings, impressions down on paper. Strive to write continuously–edit your work after. And with journal writing, you don’t need to edit your work. Your personal journal is for your eyes only. It is a private writing experience.

Journal writing gets you into the habit of writing. It also allows you to capture memories, get in touch with your thoughts and feelings, find your voice, plant seeds for writing poetry, short fiction, personal essays, and much more.

To be a writer, you must write. Keeping a journal is the best way to begin creative writing. You can use your laptop, a notebook, or setup a blog, set it to private.  Each day, set time aside to write. Get into the habit of writing. Remember, the act of writing makes you a writer. Journal writing and freewriting are the foundation of creative writing.

To help you begin journal writing, there are several great books available from a bookstore near you. (Amazon or Chapter’s ,Indigo) .Here are three that I recommend, not only for journal writing, but also to advance your creative writing:

  • Julia Cameron’s “The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life”
  • Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life”
  • Natalie Goldberg’s “Getting Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within”

Each of these books provide advice and exercises to help you write. The author’s wisdom on writing will provide inspiration for journal writing and other types of creative writing.

Another book I recommend is “One Year to the Writer’s Life: Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer’s Art “and Craft by Susan  Tiberghien. She includes an illuminating chapter of journal writing. Reading this book, becoming mindful fo the advice she offers, completing the exercises, and journal writing each day will fast track you to the writer’s life.

Remember, the act of writing makes you a writer. Journal writing is an easy way to get into the habit of becoming a writer.

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1 Comment

  1. Dawn Herring says:

    Dave,
    This post on journal writing so resonated with me! I’ve been keeping a personal journal for over 20 years, and it, no doubt, has been the foundation of my writing life. I have read or have the three books you have listed, and I happen to be a huge fan of Julia Cameron. I see journal writing as such an essential tool to the writing life, I was so glad to see someone write a post on the subject!

    I have chosen your post, Journal Writing: The Foundation of Creative Writing, as the #JournalChat Pick of the Day for all things journaling on Twitter. I will post a link on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, my blog Refresh with Dawn Herring, and it will also be posted in my new Refresh Journal, which you can sign up for here: http://refreshwithdawnherring.blogspot.com/.

    I also host a live chat on Twitter called #JournalChat for all things journaling under my @JournalChat account. It is held on Thursdays at 4 pm CST/2 PST.

    Thanks again for such a great post on journal writing being the foundation for creative writing.

    Be refreshed,
    Dawn Herring
    JournalWriter Freelance
    Host of #JournalChat Live and Links Edition

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