Journaling Techniques to Improve Your Writing

This is a guest post By Mari L. McCarthy from

I’m a journal writing therapist and teacher, and I find the benefits of a journaling practice extend to almost every conceivable human endeavor. One of the most obvious uses of journaling is as a support for other types of writing.

Every skill requires practice, and disciplines meant to keep you in shape and ready to perform are common in the arts, sports, and many other areas. Musicians do scales, artists draw sketches, football players work out, professionals take continuing education courses.

For writers, journaling can be the best supporting discipline in your tool kit. Especially if you make it a habit to journal daily, the activity will lead you to improvements in your other writings, and it’s likely to open up a host of other discoveries for you as well.

Here are a few points to keep in mind about journaling as a writing support.

1.  Though it involves putting pen to paper, and words, journaling is not writing! At least, not the kind of writing that’s meant to be read by anyone besides you. In contrast to ‘real’ writing, your journal posts focus on raw, unpolished expression. It does not have to be neat; the spelling can be atrocious; it doesn’t have to make sense. Journaling is the vehicle you ride on the road to your inner self; while your ‘serious’ writing carries you out into the world.

2.  Even though it’s not really writing, journaling can serve as your warm-up exercise before writing for more professional purposes. The more you write spontaneously in your journal, the more easily words and images will come to mind when needed. Just as a pianist runs scales before playing, stretching and becoming more nimble through journaling will make your writing that much more powerful.

3.  Journal writing is a way to access your creativity. You can play with words and do journaling exercises like writing from prompts to jump start your thinking when writer’s block or other mental cobwebs get in the way of your productivity. Here are some prompts to get you started.

4.  Because your journal is private, it is the place you can test all kinds of limits. You can challenge assumptions, try out ideas, go off on tangents. It can also be a place to reflect, and by allowing yourself a time for reflection every day you open up to deeper understanding, making your other communications the more piquant. Or your journal can be your repository of bits and snippets you encounter at miscellaneous times, those collections of inspiration that are indispensable to every writer.

5.  One more important characteristic of journal writing for writers is that your journal can be your own personal therapist, your own Inner Coach. As any artist knows, containing emotions can be challenging. The hyper-sensitivity experienced by creative people is both a blessing and a curse, and while deep passions are essential to their work, it’s also necessary to avoid being incapacitated by them. Your journal gives you a friend and confidant who is always available, and always comforting.

Personal journaling is a writer’s secret weapon, the ninja sword that is mightier even than the pen or keyboard. Become a master journal writer and your ‘serious’ writing will vastly improve.

Guest post By Mari L. McCarthy – Journal / Writing Therapist. Are you looking for more information on journaling and its place in a writer’s life? Please visit My trademarked program, Journaling for the Health of It! ™, helps my clients live healthier and happier lives. I recently published two interactive ebooks: 53 Weekly Writing Retreats: How to Use Your Journal to Get Healthy Now and Mari’s Most Musefull Journaling Tips.

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  1. says

    I love keeping a journal but am off and on about it. One of the offs is often when I am working on a manuscript. Sometimes journal writing feels like it drains the energy for my creative writing. I do keep a dream journal which is helpful for creative work.

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