Contrary to popular belief, keeping a diary isn’t just for angsty teenagers. Many famous authors including Franz Kafka, Flannery O’Connor, and Virginia Woolf journaled regularly to connect with their inner worlds and hone their creativity and writing abilities.
Journaling is especially beneficial for aspiring nonfiction authors who want to share their story to inspire others. Processing your emotions and experiences in the pages of your diary will produce insights and wisdom you can include in your book. Starting a journal will also give you a safe space to play around with different writing techniques and develop your voice as an author. Here’s a closer look at the benefits of journaling and tips to help you start a diary of your own.
Benefits of Journaling
Clears Your Mind So You Can Focus on Writing
You lead a busy life, which can make it difficult to set aside time to write. When you finally find a spare hour or two to work on your book, you don’t want to be interrupted by distracting thoughts running through your head.
Practicing stream of consciousness journaling before you sit down to write your book can help clear your mind of day-to-day worries, enabling you to concentrate better. All you have to do is set a timer for ten or fifteen minutes and jot down any thoughts or feelings that are bothering you. Getting these stressors off your chest will prevent them from sidetracking you while you’re trying to make progress on your book.
Builds Your Confidence as a Writer
Many aspiring authors are very critical of their work and frequently second guess themselves while writing, which slows down the creative process. Journaling can help you learn how to write freely without your inner critic getting in the way so you can finish your book faster.
No one else will read your journal entries, which means there’s no pressure to make them worthy of publication. Your journal is a safe, low-stakes place to express yourself, experiment with different writing techniques, and find your voice. Honing your writing skills through journaling will give you the confidence you need to tackle your manuscript.
Helps You Gain New Insights
Writing an impactful memoir or self-help book that resonates with readers isn’t easy. In order to truly touch your audience, you’ll have to make yourself vulnerable by sharing your struggles and the hard-won wisdom you’ve gained from them.
Journaling can help you reflect on past hardships, confront difficult emotional truths, and gain new insights about what you’ve been through, so you can inspire others dealing with similar challenges. You may even be able to edit and adapt your journal entries into book chapters, or turn them into promotional content like blog posts and podcasts to spread your message to a wider audience.
Journaling can also be beneficial for authors who want to write informational nonfiction books. Keeping a diary will boost your creativity, enabling you to discover new connections between your ideas and think of unique, engaging ways to present facts and concepts to your readers.
Gets You Into the Habit of Writing
To finish writing your manuscript within a year or two, you’ll have to commit to weekly (or even daily) book drafting sessions. If you’re used to writing occasionally as a hobby, you may find it difficult to keep up with such a rigorous schedule.
Journaling is a good way to dip your toes in the water and get into the habit of writing regularly before you dive into a full-length book project. Since there’s less pressure to produce perfect work, short journal entries usually take less than thirty minutes to complete. Doing a brief journaling exercise a few times per week will strengthen your writing muscles and help prepare you for more challenging endeavors like finishing your first book.
How to Establish a Regular Journaling Practice
Choose a Journaling Medium
Before you can begin your journaling practice, you’ll have to figure out which writing medium works best for you. Many writers enjoy journaling in a physical notebook to take a break from staring at a computer screen. Shaking things up by using pen and paper can also spark new ideas and help you overcome writer’s block.
Another benefit of journaling in a notebook is that it’s harder to go back and correct your mistakes since there’s no ‘delete’ key. This will help you get into the habit of writing continuously without stopping to edit and make you a faster writer.
If putting your thoughts down on paper feels unnatural after years of writing on the computer, you may prefer online journaling tools like Penzu. It’s a free app that allows you to create a secure, encrypted digital journal and customize it with a variety of fonts, backgrounds, and images. You can organize your entries with tags and set writing reminders that will motivate you to stick to your journaling routine. Penzu works on phones, computers, and tablets, so you’ll be able to update your journal from anywhere whenever inspiration strikes.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to stick to one journaling method. Feel free to switch between a physical notebook and a diary app if it helps you maintain your journaling practice!
Pick a Time and Place to Journal
The next step is to decide when, where, and how often you’ll journal. Writing your diary entry at the same time every day can make it easier to stick to your new journaling practice, especially if you habit stack.
If you’ve never heard of habit stacking, it involves combining a new activity you want to add to your routine with an existing, ingrained habit. For example, pairing journaling with drinking your morning coffee can help you incorporate your diary into your routine seamlessly.
Don’t worry if you can’t set aside time to reflect every day due to family or work obligations. You’ll still be able to grow as a writer even if you can only journal once or twice a week. Just make sure you schedule your writing time in your calendar and treat it with the same respect as your other appointments.
Another detail you’ll have to work out is where to write. If you get distracted easily, it’s important to pick a quiet location where you won’t be interrupted, such as the library or your home office. It’s also a good idea to ask your family to give you some privacy so they don’t bother you while you’re trying to write.
However, some authors enjoy journaling in a coffee shop or restaurant because the lively atmosphere gives them energy and writing inspiration. If you’re not sure where you’ll perform best, try a few different writing locations to figure out what works for you.
Follow Your Inspiration
One of the best things about journaling is that you don’t have to write about the same topic in every entry—you’re free to follow your inspiration wherever it takes you! You can journal about a treasured memory, write about something that scares you, list things you’re grateful for, document how you’re currently feeling, or respond to a prompt.
There are lots of writing prompts for nonfiction authors available online for free. Simply search “writing prompts” on Google or Instagram and you’ll find endless journaling ideas and inspiration. Many journaling apps like Reflect and Prompted Journal also provide users with prompts designed to kickstart introspection. Here are a few more ideas to get you started:
- Discuss the reasons why you want to write a book and reflect on the moment when you knew you wanted to become an author.
- Envisioning future successes can help you achieve them, so imagine yourself becoming a published author and write about what that feels like.
- Try to immerse yourself in a memory, positive or negative, and describe what you recall in as much sensory detail as possible.
- Journal about the best and worst pieces of advice you’ve ever received. Did you follow one or more of them? If so, what happened?
- Write a letter to someone who had a significant positive or negative impact on your life. You don’t have to hold back because you’re never going to send it.
- Journal about the hardest life challenge you’ve ever faced. What words of wisdom or comfort would you have wanted to hear during that time? What advice would you give to someone going through the same thing?
- If you could go back and change one thing about your life, what would it be and why?
Whether you’re freewriting or responding to a prompt, journaling can sometimes bring negative emotions and painful memories to the surface. Although writing about these experiences can be therapeutic and healing, it still isn’t easy to reopen old wounds. That’s why it’s important to practice self-care during your journaling sessions.
Before you sit down to write, create a relaxing environment by lighting a candle or turning on some calming music. Make yourself a warm, comforting beverage or your favorite snack to keep your energy up. If you start feeling overwhelmed, take a break and try to revisit the entry later. Remember that journaling doesn’t come with any deadlines, so you don’t have to push yourself too hard when you’re not feeling up to writing.
Journaling is a gradual process of self-discovery. If you’re only able to produce a few lines or paragraphs of writing some days, that’s ok. As long as you stick with your journaling practice and keep trying, you’ll come to new realizations about yourself and your experiences over time that will enhance your book.
Find Ways to Motivate Yourself
Speaking of sticking with your journaling practice, it’s important to find ways to stay motivated when life gets busy. Promising yourself a small reward like a new candle if you journal for several days in a row may give you the incentive you need to write. Investing in high-quality writing supplies like a nice fountain pen and a leather-bound notebook can also make you more excited to journal.
Finding a few writing partners to share your successes and failures with can also help you stay accountable to your journaling goals. Facebook Groups such as Creative Journaling and Journaling Junkies are great places to connect with other diarists.
Get the Guidance You Need to Write Your Book
Journaling can help you reflect on your life without censoring yourself and allow you to discover new insights that you can use in your book. But you may struggle to organize these realizations into a cohesive narrative capable of inspiring others. The Book Professor’s proven book planning process can help you structure your book in a way that makes sense for readers.
Nancy will guide you through creating several detailed outlines called BookMAPs. They contain all the lessons and stories you want to share with readers and serve as a blueprint for your book. With your BookMAPs in hand, you’ll be able to write without ruts and complete your manuscript in about a year. If you’re ready to finally fulfill your dreams of becoming a published author, contact us today to learn more about our book coaching programs.