7 Ways Journaling Makes You a Better Writer

Writing might not be your favorite pastime, but it’s an important part of school, work, and life. Luckily, writing well is a muscle that you can develop, and one of the easiest ways to do so is to journal. You read that right: Journaling makes you a better writer!

I’ve been journaling pretty much since I could string a sentence together. I give a lot of credit to journaling for helping me become the writer I am today. Here’s how you, too, can use journaling to become a stronger writer.

7 Ways Journaling Makes You a Better Writer
Writing well is a muscle you CAN develop. Luckily, journaling is an easy way to become a better writer!

Journaling makes you a better writer in a number of ways:

  1. Journaling is usually a very personal and private thing—which can take place in a physical notebook or on a document on your computer—where you can write and reflect without fear of judgment. Your professors are not grading it, your classmates won’t see it…it’s just for you! This gives you the freedom to explore writing on your own terms and in your own style without anyone else giving their two cents about it.
  2. If you make journaling a habit of just 10 to 15 minutes a day, you will start to build your writing muscle, just as if you did 10 pushups every day. Over time, you will get stronger and stronger in your writing. And it doesn’t take months or years of work. You will start seeing results almost immediately!
  3. Journaling helps develop greater self-awareness of your writing style. After you have written an entry for the day, I recommend going back and reading it. This might feel awkward at first, but you will quickly start to notice patterns in your personal writing style. Maybe you ask a lot of questions, or maybe you use the word “too” a little too often. The next time you write a journal entry, you’ll be aware of that, and you can practice switching it up. A good exercise would be to jot down a few of these notes at the end of every entry, after you’ve gone back and read it. That way those notes will be there for you the next time you write an entry.
  4. Journaling also helps you develop greater self-awareness of your life as a whole. In addition to reading your daily entry once you’re finished with it, I recommend rereading entries from past weeks or months as well. You will really start to see how you are growing and changing over time. Notice what things you talk about consistently, or feelings that change over the course of weeks or months. You might even see a change in feeling or perspective within a single journal entry! This is a great way to discover things about yourself you may not have realized. For example, you might prefer a certain class over another, or maybe you struggle with procrastination and want to address it. Don’t be afraid to investigate these ideas as they emerge.
  5. Journaling helps you see the bigger picture. This goes hand in hand with self-awareness and seeing patterns over time. Also, sometimes putting things down on paper gets an idea or frustration out of our head and into the open, where we can look at it more objectively. That is, we can look at it as if it is happening to someone else, without our personal feelings of fear or judgment attached to it. For example, perhaps you’re journaling about an essay you’re having trouble writing. As you’re journaling and rereading your entry, it may feel like you’re reading the journal entry of someone else, or as if you’re reading something straight out of a novel. This different perspective allows us to look at the problem and think, “If I was reading this about one of my friends or family members, what advice would I give them?” This event or problem is not an island—it’s part of a bigger picture, a bigger world, a bigger story. Often, the way to move forward becomes clear once you see it on paper. Flexing this muscle will help when writing essays as well, because you will be able to step back and see if your paper makes sense as a whole, not just sentence to sentence.
  6. Journaling helps develop your self-editing skills, too! Your editing muscle is just as important as your writing muscle, and journaling can help strengthen it. As you spend more time writing and learning about your style, you’ll see things you want to go back and change, and that’s okay! Instead of cringing when you accidentally use “their” instead of “there,” use a different colored pen and make notes about things like spelling errors, overuse of certain words, grammar, etc. As you continue to write, you’ll notice fewer and fewer of these mistakes because you have been subtly training yourself to self-edit. Next time, as you’re writing, you will likely catch the place where you used “their” instead of “there” and fix it right away, and that’s a great feeling!
  7. Journaling can be meditative. As we discussed above, it allows you to get your thoughts and feelings out of your head and on paper. This can feel very therapeutic. Instead of these thoughts chasing themselves around your brain, you can take them out and look at them objectively. It’s also wonderful to go to that quiet and calm place to write. Regular meditation is wonderful, but it can be difficult to sit still and be alone with our thoughts. Journaling about them allows for the same mindfulness and introspection while at the same time doing something physical—writing—that helps us feel productive while we’re meditating. That’s why it’s great to journal first thing in the morning as a start to your day or at night before you go to bed, when you need to process and put aside the day’s activities, thoughts, and feelings before you sleep.

More tips and tricks

If you want to strengthen your writing muscle by journaling, you can write about writing specifically (what you like or don’t like about it, how you’re doing with certain writing projects in school, etc.), but it’s also great to write about life. What’s going well in general? What’s not?

And don’t just focus on the things that make you frustrated or angry. It’s important to write about these things, but it’s just as important to write about what makes you feel good, what lifts you up, and what you want more of in your life.

Journaling is also an excellent place to express gratitude, especially during hard times. If you failed an essay, what about that experience are you grateful for? It sounds like an impossible task, to be thankful for an experience that you feel has hurt you in some way, but it’s important to practice looking for the silver lining. Maybe the failed essay prompted you to have a good discussion with your professor about how you can improve. Maybe it led you to this blog, and now you’re inspired to journal! Whatever it is, put it on paper. Bonus: Check out this HuffPost article for more tips on the benefits of a gratitude journal.

*IMPORTANT NOTE: Journaling is a wonderful exercise, but during the writing process, feelings can surface that are difficult to process on our own. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone for help if this is the case. Many schools offer counseling services, or you can call a hotline. You can find more resources here.

You can level up your journaling game to become a better writer by:

  1. Describing what happened/what’s happening. These are the pure, essential facts.
  2. Describing how you feel about it. Beyond what happened, how did it make you feel? Explore using terms that aren’t “happy” and “sad” and get to the root of how you really feel: frustrated, confused, elated, inspired?
  3. Exploring WHY you feel that way. This is probably the most important component. If this event made you feel productive, for example, why is that? If it made you uncomfortable, why is that?

These steps are ones that can be applied to essays as well. If you’re writing about an event, it’s also great to explore what motivated the people involved to take that action and how it came about, and why. This allows for a more robust, well-rounded paper.

Don’t forget:

  1. Journaling first thing in the morning or at night before bed are great times to set intentions for the day ahead or express gratitude/brain dump your worries before you sleep.
  2. If you have a physical journal or notebook, always keep it in the same place, like by your bed, so you remember to write in it.
  3. Set a daily reminder to journal. If you skip a day, don’t sweat it! The next time you get an alert, journal the missed day, too, if you want.
  4. Journaling should not feel like a chore that you “have” to do. If it’s not fun for you, try writing about something else you are interested in. Add doodles or stickers to the pages. Make it fun! If you are artistic, maybe a sketch journal would work best for you. You can still describe an event, how it made you feel, and why through images!
  5. If you discover something you want to do or a change you want to make while journaling, see if you can carry it over into your everyday life. Schedule that thing in your actual calendar, too, and take action on it. Maybe it’s scheduling a workout class or reaching out to a friend for a coffee or talking to a professor about a project. Journaling is a great first step, but you can also turn those insights into actionable changes in your life.

The bottom line is that being a good writer is all about communicating well and in a way that resonates with others. In order to hone this skill, you must first learn how to communicate and be honest with yourself. Journaling is a prime way to do this.

We don’t know what we don’t know, right? Journaling can help us uncover these things, about our writing style and about our life. These discoveries can be the hardest step, but it will set you up to take positive action and move toward your goals.

What are you going to journal about today?

Author: Elise Murrell

After years of slaying all kinds of writing projects and coaching my friends, family members, and coworkers through the writing process, I’m sharing my tried-and-true methods to help you achieve your best essays, ever.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

RSS