Last month we were wandering through Freshly Pressed posts and came across 10 Ways Journaling Makes You a Better Writer. It prompted a lot of discussion around the office. The post opened with the remark:
Journaling is a self-indulgent, narcissistic waste of time. It’s nothing more than self-administered therapy – the writer simultaneously on the couch and in the psychiatrist’s chair, endlessly picking apart the minutiae of her life to no good end. Time would be better spent alphabetizing the spice cupboard.
We agree. (The blogger took the opposing viewpoint).
Journaling does allow you to vent, reflect, explore, etc . . . but most of the time doing that doesn’t improve your voice, your writing, or your health. In fact, it usually bogs you down, makes you more discontent with your relationships, job, life, and reinforces all your bad writing habits. Journaling is just the voyage of the damned.
When you write a journal, by and large, you don’t show it to people to ask advice about your writing style. So any bad habit you have, simply becomes ingrained. It moves you away from perfection, even from decent usage! Journals aren’t writing practice, unless that’s what’s in your journal, in which case, that’s not a journal.
Journaling will make you a good writer in the same way learning to cross-stitch will make you a good neurosurgeon.
Most good writing comes from a combination of ability to turn a phrase, an interesting life, and a vivid imagination. Few people venture into writing because they’re happy. Most weren’t raised in a stable home. Nor are they content pursuing a job as an account.
Great adult writing typically comes from people who are desperately trying to escape (fic), or desperately interested in their subject matter (non-fic). It’s also the type of writing that usually rings true and touches the widest audience of readers most successfully.
If you want to be a better writer, write. Have experiences, even bad ones, and write passionately, from the heart, about them. But never waste your time with a journal, except as a spiritual exercise.