woman writing in diary

Why Writers Should Keep a Journal – And Why I Don’t


One of the things on my daily to-do list, along with yoga, meditation and becoming independently wealthy, is writing in my journal. Daily journalling is extolled by many famous writers, as in this post on PolicyMic – 6 Brilliant Writers on the Importance of Keeping a Journal.

Creative writing teachers also recommend it, as a way of :

  • Getting negative feelings off your chest which may be getting in the way of your writing
  • Warming up your writing muscles, similar to warming up before physical exercise
  • Forestalling or overcoming writers block – the act of writing, no matter what it is, will get you in the flow
  • Helping you to come up with inspiration or ideas for stories or novels, which will often occur to you as you’re writing.

So I know the theory, and I’ve even got a journal – an online Penzu journal. But time is the big drawback – I just don’t seem to be able to squeeze an extra twenty minutes into my day to write in it. And every now and then it pops into my inbox with a little message – ‘your  journal awaits you’ – patient and unaccusing, which makes me feel even guiltier for neglecting it.

But if  I thought my journal had any chance of being published and lauded as a literary masterpiece, like Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary, or as a lifelong serial, such as The Diary of Anais Nin Volumes 1 to 7, it would certainly be an incentive to not only increase my input, but improve the quality.

When I do find the time to put in an entry, here’s a sample: ‘I don’t really feel like writing today but I have to so I’m sitting here waiting for inspiration to strike. The ending of my novel is not working and it’s frustrating me – maybe I should take a day off to get some perspective. No, that’s a cop-out. Get on with it.  Is that the postman? Gotta go.’

Hardly the stuff of literary posterity, and in a journal written for my eyes only, I’d find it difficult to come up with erudite observations such as: ‘I shall have to accept the fact, I’m afraid, that her mind is a very thin soil, laid an inch or two deep upon very barren rock.’

Virginia Woolf in her diary, describing fellow author Katherine Mansfield, after reading her novel Bliss. If she read  my scribblings she’d make much of the barren rock, with no mention of thin soil.

Or this from Anais Nin’s dairy 1931 – 34: ‘If what Proust says is true, that happiness is the absence of fever, then I will never know happiness.  For I am possessed by a fever for knowledge, experience and creation.’

To be fair, I could conceivably have written something similar before my first coffee of the day.

If, like me, you like the idea of keeping a journal but are having a hard time committing to it, here are a couple more posts to motivate you: Why Keeping a Journal is so Important by Bryan Hutchinson and The 7 Benefits of Keeping a Daily Journal by Michael Hyatt.

Okay, Penzu, I’m coming.

Do you keep a journal and does it benefit your writing?  Or do you think it’s a pointless exercise?

About the Author Robin Storey

Robin Storey is an Australian author from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. She is a certified book nerd and has no weird hobbies or unusual pets.

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