ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Keeping a Journal as a Writer

Updated on June 28, 2011

Aside from helping cope with emotional issues and examining yourself, a journal can be extremely beneficial to a writer in both fiction and nonfiction for several different reasons. Writing down thoughts and self-examinations can be helpful in not only understanding yourself, but also in relating your own personal experiences into fiction if you're primarily a fiction writer.

I haven't kept a journal since I was ten years old until this year, when it was required for my first Fiction class. We didn't necessarily have to write down the most personal information to read aloud in class, but we were advised to write in it constantly. Because of this, I began to write in a separate, private journal throughout the year as regularly as possible. I found that it not only helped monitor my emotional shifts throughout the year, but also to help me keep track of my prose. In writing about my own real experiences, it helped me to recall more difficult experiences to remember otherwise. Through this, my fiction began to benefit in its realism when I found that some experiences I'd had throughout the year were sometimes even more bizarre than fiction, or sounded like it.

In fiction, if you are more of a realist writer, a journal can help you to develop themes that relate to you in your fiction, something I've experienced. Jotting all your experiences down can also help you to realize and understand more about who you are and because of this to understand your literary voice. Any drug or alcohol experience written down can help you to keep track of your mental state before and after those experiences as well, and it's often interesting to see how the seasons seem to have affected me most throughout the year.

You can almost consider a journal to be a confidential psychologist, one who doesn't talk but listens. It gives you an outlet for your aggressions and in turn can help you control your emotions more effectively. A journal can even help you realize faults in your perception or personal perfections.

Themes throughout your life can even be pulled from a journal, certain clusters of experiences categorized and made sense of through similarities and contrasts. I've found this to be the case when writing my life's experiences for my summer course so far. In keeping a journal I find that the past can and does in fact shape who we are in so many ways, and then these learned facts about ourselves can be attributes to our fictional experiences and even help us to realize ourselves. So many negative instances have built up in my life, but by finding these out and reexamining them I am able to look back on them and even keep a humorous outlook on certain aspects of my past as I get older. This humor is increasingly visible in my fiction.

Dreams are often great things to write about, though I'll admit I've been lacking in keeping track of them outside of mental notes. Franz Kafka, among many other writers, kept track of his dreams to the point where they helped shape much of the content of his fiction, including his short story “The Metamorphosis”.

Not only do journals help with catharsis and fiction, but they also can assist in the technical aspects of writing, especially when handwritten. For me, when I write longhand, even if I find it more tedious and unpleasant than typing like I normally do, it's a good exercise to see how I write naturally when I can't edit so easily. My voice on the written page tends to be a bit less elegant because it's so rough and uneasy to edit, but it can benefit from practice. And a journal should be more about getting yourself out rather than the way you write it.

Mixing fictional instances and taking notes are excellent uses for journals. My fictional characters are as real of elements in the notes I take on them as my own entries from my life. For instance, the new novel I'm working on has been more stable because I've been keeping track of the dates and times of day each chapter takes place as I write it, making sure the sequence of events is realistic and this assists in its continuity as well.

In a way, a journal can serve as a fiction writer's second thoughts on many of his or her projects, as it can with mine. It helps differentiate between my fictional and personal voice as well, when I write in first person, so I don't mix them up as easily. I can keep these identities separate. I'd say a journal is nearly a must for every writer, and while some of them may not be cheap (I bought one of mine at Barnes & Noble for twenty bucks) they certainly enhance the writing experience.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Ben Graves profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Graves 

      7 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Thanks for the comment, princesswithapen. Keeping up with a journal (albeit inconsistently) definitely helps practice writing when you can't think of much to write outside your life or feelings.

      Majadez, thanks for commenting and I agree that it keeps you going. I just wish I could've been writing in one as long as you have. It would be interesting seeing gradual life transitions as you grow.

    • Majadez profile image

      Maja Dezulovic 

      7 years ago from Johannesburg, South Africa


      I love journal writing... In a way it keeps me going and I guess I've gotten used to it. I was given my first journal as a gift when I was 9 years old and I've been keeping at it since. There have been times when I deviate from it of course but it's hard to let go completely.

      This is a nice reminder that I am on track. Keep writing in those journals. The most amazing part is going back after years to discover thoughts and ideas that you'd completely forgotten about. You also re-discover yourself.

      The journal is definately your own "confidential psychologist" - free of charge (besides the price of the book itself, of course). ;)

    • princesswithapen profile image


      7 years ago

      This has been a nice read, Ben. I've always wished to keep a journal, but never did. Maybe this hub is motivation enough for me to finally start doing it!

      Voted up and useful.



    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)