Writing Tools: The Journal

Author Ron Klug says, a  journal is also a tool for self-discovery, an aid to concentration, a mirror for the soul, a place to generate and capture ideas, a safety valve for the emotions, a training ground for the writer, and a good friend and confidant. (op. cit.)

Everyone can benefit from having a journal, but writers above anyone else, gain much from keeping one. Writing, like any other skill, becomes better with practice, and journals provide writers with an opportunity to develop their skills.

More than writing practice, however, journals have other uses:

1. Journals can help a writer discover and develop his own unique voice.

Each author has a special writing style or voice that has gained them publishing success. Voice and writing style develop over time and practice, and beginning writers can gain discover their own unique way of expressing their thoughts by using a journal.


2. Journals can help generate story ideas.

Ideas come in all forms and at the oddest moments. If you’re lucky, you have a journal handy to write them all down. You may see/smell/taste/feel something that fascinates you and try to describe it in your journal. These descriptions can be the seeds of an idea for a novel or article you may someday write.


3. Journals can provide raw materials for a writer’s work.

Life is what inspires a writer’s work. You write anecdotes, memories, feelings, and even amusing overheard conversations in your journals. All of these can be used as fodder for your screenplays, novels and short stories.


4. Journals can be a great sounding board for a writer’s daily frustrations and concerns.

The path to publication is a long and difficult one, and often writers are overcome with doubt. Journals can provide you with a way to vent our frustrations and fears so you can let go of them, and keep on writing.


journals, image from blog.renaissanceart.com

Types of Journals

Journal Writing is an art on its own, and as such, it comes in different formats. There are different types of journals that you can use to express your creativity, not only as writers, but as individuals.

You can have one journal for all of your creative projects, or for record-keeping, or you could have several journals, each for a specific topic or project.


1. Personal Journal/ Diary

The most popular use for a journal is to write your thoughts and feelings about anything and everything. In this type of journal you simply record your life experiences. You can write about specific events, or life highlights like getting married, or moving to a new place. This is a good way of remembering the milestones of your life, and also a good source of materials for your creative writing.


2. Idea Journal

This is where you would write ideas for stories, novels and articles you might write about in the future. It’s always best to keep your Idea Journals nearby where you can easily access them. After all, how many ideas have been lost because you didn’t have a small notebook while you were in the shower, or while you were out for a jog?


3. Creative Writing Journal

A Creative Writing Journal is where you would collect all of your short stories, flash fiction, and poems.


4. Freewriting Journal

Freewriting or stream of consciousness writing helps you clear your mind of cluttered thoughts and helps you tap into your creative intuition. You can set a time for ourselves, say 5 or 10 minutes, and simply write down whatever comes into your mind. You can also focus on a particular image, word, or topic  and write about that during your timed freewriting session.

You can find clever turns of phrases, profound insights and even discover your writing voice through your Freewriting Journals.


5. Reader’s Journal

Most writers are voracious readers. In your Reader’s Journal, you can write a review of a book you’ve read, jot down a particular line or dialogue that called to you,  and even make notes on a writing technique or trick that you’ve observed the author use in the book.


Painted leather journal from etsy.com/medieval journey

6. Novel Journal

You can designate a journal for every novel you’re working on. There, you can write your thoughts and feelings on the story as it is developing, along with plot ideas, and possible scene resolutions.


7. Inspirational Writing Journal

This is where you collect snippets of inspiration so you can look back on them when you need encouragement. Lines from movies, quotes from books, song lyrics, poems, photos, newspaper clippings, magazine articles –anything and everything that can inspire you when your creative spark is sputtering should be posted in your Inspirational Writing Journal.


8. Dream Journal

Dream Journals give you access to your subconscious mind, where your creative aspect resides. Your dreams can provide you with a good supply of images and plots for your stories—especially if you write them down.


9. Art Journal/ Sketchbook

An Art Journal is where you could keep your sketches, drawings, and doodles. You can sketch your characters, draw the setting for your stories, and even create intricate maps for your fantasy novels here.


10. Travel Journal

Travel Journals are where you would record all the details of your travels—whether memorable or mundane. You can paste your itineraries, plane and bus tickets, receipts and pictures in your travel journals.


Map journal, image from artzoo.com

11. Project Journal

Project Journals are useful for keeping track of your thoughts, feelings and progress on a certain project you might be working on. If you’re working on a novel, art piece or even training for a marathon, you could write about it in your project journal.


12. Goal Journal

Similar to a project journal, a Goal Journal is where you would record your thoughts and feelings about a particular goal you wish to achieve. If you’re trying to lose weight or quit smoking, a Goal Journal is something that might help you track your progress. Once you achieve your goal, re-read all your entries and see just how far you’ve come.


13. Hobby Journal

If you have a hobby like gardening a Hobby Journal would be where you would record your hours in the garden. List down the progress of your plants, write down daily observations about the wildlife, and even descriptions of each flower/plants’ stage of growth. These descriptions might come in handy when writing a scene or poem in the future.


14. Food/Recipe Journal

If you’re a Foodie, you probably like to go out to eat at restaurants, and take pictures of all the food you eat. You can write about your new food discoveries in your Food Journal, and even paste recipes of dishes you’ve tried and loved.


15. Memory Book

This type of journal usually comes in a structured, guided format.  A Memory Book allows you to record thoughts, feelings, and details about a particular stage/ event in your life. Baby books and wedding books are an example of this type of journal.


16. Gratitude Journal

Reflecting on the good things in your life is a good exercise in positivity. In your Gratitude Journal, you can write down all the things you’re grateful for everyday.


17. Friendship Journal

This journal is typically shared with a friend. You can write letters to each other here, or share stories which you think your friend might enjoy. Friendship journals are a great way to keep in touch with long distance friends—or lovers.


18. Family Journal

Your family can use this to share thoughts about family issues, problems, or goals. Besides the usual family dinners or talks, a Family Journal is a wonderful way to keep the bond strong with each other, and to grow closer to one another.  It’s also a great way to discover things which your significant other or child is going through, which he/she might find hard to share in person.


19. Prayer Journal

When you pray, you speak to a Higher Power about problems, dreams and aspirations. You even ask questions which you know might never be answered. You can write all these down in your prayer journal. You can also write your thoughts and feelings about a particular scripture or sermon here.


20. Scrapbook

You can show your creative side and have fun recording life events in a scrapbook. Aside from writing short passages about your experience, you can also add photos, and artwork and drawings  in a scrapbook.


Moleskin journal, image from greenasathistle.com 

Traditionally, journal writing is a pen and paper activity. But you can just as easily keep an electronic journal using your computer.

There are computer programs that allow you to generate scrapbooks or memory books, if you wish—but this isn’t necessary. You can simply open up a word document for whatever type of journal you wish. You can even have a file for each type of journal you wish to have.





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