A Guest Post This week: How Journaling Can Be Used to Boost Your Creative Writing

by Desiree Villena 
desiree.j.villena@gmail.com

Ways to “manifest your dream life” can be found all over the internet, but there’s definitely some truth to the idea that clearly defining your goals will help you get out and achieve them. For writers, journaling can also be a great way to keep track of ideas or deadlines, which can prove crucial in the journey to self-publishing or getting a book deal!

Perhaps even more crucially, we writers all face the dreaded prospect of writer’s block every now and then. Luckily, there are a whole host of ways journaling can be used to boost creativity and help you finish that manuscript you may or may not have been avoiding for a little too long. Without further ado, here are five reasons to take up journaling as a creative writer!

1. To stay organized

First and foremost, you can use your journal to make to-do lists. This way you won’t have to store them in your head, which can help preserve brainpower for creative writing projects. It might sound silly, but you’ll be amazed how much more productive you can be when you’re not worrying about logistical issues and can focus on “deeper” work!

Journaling, and bullet journaling specifically, can be used to keep track of your deadlines, ideas, and upcoming tasks. Once this becomes second nature, you’ll find yourself worrying much less about what’s coming up next or what you might have missed — leaving more energy to stay focused on the present and actually writing your book.

2. To put yourself in the best headspace

Journaling can be viewed as a form of meditation and has been proven to provide great mental health benefits, ranging from a better mood to an improved memory. It’s just one of many ways to take care of yourself when you’re under any kind of stress or pressure, which is often the case when writing a book. Doing what you can to take care of your mind and body will put you in a good mental space for writing, helping you unlock your creativity.

Testing other habits around your journaling can also help you find the best conditions for you to write in. You might explore whether you prefer writing in the morning or the evening, or if you like cozying up on your own couch vs. using a coffee shop as a designated workspace. Trying these first with your journaling practice will make it smooth sailing when you want to get into the right headspace for any of your other creative writing projects.

3. To make writing a consistent practice

Journaling daily will automatically make writing a consistent practice, which in turn will help you write faster and to a higher standard. In the short term, setting the intention of writing every day should provide a motivation boost and get those creative juices flowing. In the longer term, a consistent writing practice will help you refine your voice and create a style that is unique to you. Once you’ve established this, you’ll find it much easier to get into your writing zone.

It’ll also help you get used to writing with complete freedom and without censoring yourself, allowing you to explore any thoughts or feelings that may arise. This is vital to escaping writer’s block, as you’ll feel more comfortable writing about any ideas you have rather than filtering out the ones that don’t feel “good enough” at first glance.

4. To define your goals and make decisions

If you’ve reached a stage where you’re looking to publish your book, journaling can allow you to work through all of the decisions you’ll be making. Defining your big-picture goals in your journal, as mentioned, can help you actualize them.

Or, to back up a little bit, you can use your journal to gather your thoughts on your story itself. This may be especially useful if you’re neck-deep in your plot but aren’t sure what should happen next, or what the ending should be! You can use your journal to explore various paths and figure out what would work best for the story you’re trying to tell. And if you get a little lost while writing, you’ll have this handy roadmap to help get yourself back on track.

5. To have a little fun!

Though journaling is great for staying organized and building good habits, don’t forget to also use it as a space for inspiration and experimentation! For example, if you’re writing a children’s book, you might read some of the best children’s books that are already out there and track your opinions. What did you like? What didn’t work so well? What would you like to implement in your own work?

Remember, journaling doesn’t have to take the stereotypical style of long-form daily diary entries, like those of Anne Frank or Samuel Pepys. You could use writing prompts or write gratitude lists, or even draw doodles to illustrate your day. You could even try out new styles of writing with no external pressure — give poetry a go, or try and write some of your dialogue like a screenplay! If it helps, you can think of your journal as a book of rough drafts. Write in the ways you’ve been scared to try out before; no one else will see it if you don’t want to share it!

How to Make Your Journaling More Effective

Article 5 in a series

Any type of journal that you keep can be beneficial. It doesn’t matter if it’s just to document your life or to work through problems – you can use a journal to do it all. From tracking your projects to documenting vacation to overcoming anxiety, a journal will work for you if you pick the right type and make journaling a ritual.

* Find the Right Medium for You – For some people, that’s pen and paper. Many experts claim that’s the best way because of its simplicity. However, you have to do what works for you, and what works for you is what you will do daily. If you make it too hard, you won’t do it.

* Turn Journaling Daily into a Habit – To be most effective, journaling must go on for a long time. It’s a long-term strategy to improve your life and not something that is going to have any effect overnight. For this reason, ritualize your journaling so that it becomes a daily habit.

* Set Up a Comfy Journaling Spot – Find a good space you can journal in each day, one which is relaxing and without stress. Some people like to keep their journal by their bedside so that each night when they get into bed, they can quickly write in their journals.

* Choose the Right Style of Journal for Your Needs – The type of journal you want to keep depends on how you plan to use it. You may want to track a project, in which case you’ll need a project journal. If you want to simply document your life, you’d want a classic journal.

* Use Your Journal to Work Through Life and Reach Goals – Don’t just write in the journal; actively seek to improve something in your life – whether it’s the thoughts which drive your feelings or improving your actions so that you experience more success.

* Consider Using More Than Writing to Document Your Life – You don’t need to just use text. You can use images, pictures, tickets, and other memories inside your journal too. Sometimes a few pictures and mementos mean more than anything you can write to help you remember.

* Read and Reflect Occasionally – Take at least a few minutes to re-read parts of your journal. Once you’ve kept it for a year, it’s fun to go back and read the same day from last year to find out what’s different now and what’s the same and why.

* Keep Your Journal Secure – You don’t want to worry about anyone getting into your private business when you’re not around, so keep it hidden. If it’s on your computer, keep it password protected.

If you know why you want to journal, it’ll be easier to figure out which type of journal you need to keep to make your journaling more effective. Sometimes you just want to document your life, while other times you want to work through something difficult. It really depends on your goals and the point of the journal.

Featured Author of the Month June Jotham Austin, II

Jotham Austin’s, II Interview

  • What is the first book that made you cry? I don’t remember crying while reading a book. But I have been emotional after reading a book. The book that comes to mind is Mira Grant’s (Seanan McGuire) “Feed”. No spoilers but I was so upset at what happened to a character  (darlings were killed) that I refused to read the rest of the trilogy right away. I did eventually finish the trilogy and Seanan is a wonderful writer.
  • What is your writing Kryptonite? I don’t think I have a writing Kryptonite. Maybe that’s my Kryptonite. LOL
  • Who is one author are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? I’d say a group of friends, The Highland Writers Group. We meet every Saturday to read and critique each other’s work. Also, support and motivation to keep writing.
  • If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? If I could go back to when I moved to Boulder, CO in 2001, I’d have told myself to make time to keep writing. Focusing on my career and family I stopped writing for almost 9 years. I didn’t get started writing again until my life was slowed down after tearing my Achilles Tendon in 2010.
  • How did publishing your first book change your process of writing? I think the process of going through multiple rounds of editing and working with the editors to keep chiseling the rough edges into fine polished details, have made me a better writer. Also, as I write I think more about the marketing side. Writing the Synopsis, Pitches, Audience, Newsletter, Mailing lists, Etc.
  • What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? If you have not made any money, dream about it? The best money I spent was a developmental edit and line edit from a professional editor before signing with my publisher. It was like taking a refresher English class and being reminded of how the Oxford Comma, EM dashes, etc works. LOL. I probably will not do this for every book, but it was helpful as I shook the rust off. Second best money is going to a writer’s conference and networking—I look forward to post COVID and going to more.
  • As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? I have always loved turtles and elephants. Both are thoughtful and patient in their actions.
  • How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? I have 3 unpublished books—the first novel I ever wrote and is locked away, “Pretty Small Things”. I have a WIP,” Wake me Slowly From This”, I was working on edits when the pandemic hit, and since this is a post-pandemic sci-fi novel, I couldn’t work on it mentally. And the third novel is The Cost of Us, a cyberpunk techno-thriller, and it’s almost at the stage of querying. Unfinished novels would be a dozen or so, and they range between a synopsis/outline and 30k words.
  • Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction? I think discovering Octavia Butler showed me that there was a place for a black science fiction writer in the genre.
  • How do you select the names of your characters? I select names by googling baby names a lot. I try to avoid using names of friends, but it happens (in my romance novella and debut novel I realized minor characters were unintentionally named after good friends). Also, I love names that can be used for a male or female character or have unique spellings.
  • What is your favorite childhood book? Shel Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends”

Bio:

Jotham Austin, II lives in Chicagoland with his wife and two sons. He has his PhD in Botany, and can be found taking electron micrographs of cells at The University of Chicago. When Jotham is not in the lab or writing, he splits his free time between gardening, woodworking, and home-brewing.

Book Blurb/Description

What if you had the memories of 110 people stuffed into your brain? How would you know who you really are?

The passengers of flight 2164 all lose their memories except Brian; he not only maintains his own memories, but gains everyone else’s that was on the plane.

As Brian begins remembering the other passenger’s lives, and soon finds himself unable to separate his memories from theirs. Intense flashbacks, disjointed personalities and often violent outbursts puts a strain on Brian’s relationship with his fiancée, Brenda.

They will have to trust the neuroscientist, Marci, whose experimental technology could restore Brian’s memories, and the life Brenda and Brian once had. As Brenda and Marci race against time to untangle Brian’s memories from those of the other passengers, they discover secrets Brian hid about his past. 

Brenda will have to decide if some memories are best forgotten, and can she still love who Brian really is?

https://books2read.com/Jotham

Katherine E. Soto’s Review of this Book

Will You Still Love Me if I Become Someone Else?

Book Review written by Katherine E Soto

A man comes home from a trip and begins acting different. Turns out he does not have amnesia like the other people who were on his airplane. Instead, he has all his memories plus theirs stuffed into his brain. How does this happen? Science is involved, of course.

Alex is a scientist for a nano-technology company who studies the brain and memory. There is a lab accident that no one is aware of. Instead of gaining a superpower, he acquires a wicked set of memories that set him off into his own adventures.  His wife is pulled into the mix up in his mind as he turns into other people while he lives with her. To top it off she’s newly pregnant when this all starts.

This book is an interesting romp into how people think and how memory affects humans. The author takes time to explain there are two parts to memory- one part is full of how to do things, the other is full of memories of who you did them with. In this book the second type of memory is affecting the people on the airliner. They become similar to zombies; they can live but have no memory of their lives. The author brings the story through the confusion Alex and his wife, Leslie, have by telling their stories of the Event and after the Event.  He also tells the story of Alex’s partner Marci, who is Alex’s ex-wife. No love is lost between the wife and ex-wife, but they must work together to help Marci solve the memory puzzle.

The author weaves the confusing pieces of the puzzle of Alex’s life into the pieces of the nanotechnology mistake with the relationships the characters are dealing with. This book is an excellent read and leaves you thinking about the world you live in. Do you truly know your loved ones? Is love a memory that can be faded or erased in someone’s memories? Follow Alex, Leslie and Marci as they try to solve the entanglements in which they find themselves. This book is a page turner to the end.

Just for Fun!

How to Get Started Writing a Journal Part 1 in a series

Getting started journaling isn’t something that you need to think about too hard. Yes, there are numerous types and styles of journals and ways to do this that may or may not be more effective depending on your goals, but you can simply get some paper (or your computer) and get started today.

Dust Off Your Pen and Paper – You don’t need anything special to keep a journal; in fact, purists believe that using pen and paper is the best way to journal because you can carry it with you anywhere and you don’t need technology. So, there will be no excuses.

Do It First Thing in the Morning – Don’t procrastinate about keeping your journal. It’s best to do it in the morning before you begin your day so that you have the right frame of mind for the day. Plus, you only need five to ten minutes, so it’s not that big of a deal.

Do It Last Thing at Night – Another time to do it is before bed. This works especially well for gratitude journals. That way you can go to sleep thinking about all the things you are grateful for instead of things you’re worried about.

Write Every Single Day – Whenever you choose to do it, try to set it up so that it becomes a ritual and a habit. Journaling every single day is going to be more effective than just doing it when you feel like it.

Start Simply – Don’t start being worried about style and substance right now; just work on the daily habit with pen and paper (or if it’s easier for you, a computer or smartphone). Don’t make it hard – just get going.

Begin with Today – Start right now and write about your day today. That’s the easiest thing to do. What of significance happened today? How did you feel about it? What would you do differently? What would you do the same?

Try Different Types of Journals – Once you develop the habit, you can start trying different types of journaling like a bullet journal, or a vision journal, or maybe even a project journal for your next project.

Keep It Private – The main thing to remember about your journal is that it should be kept private. The only exception is if you want to share thoughts with a therapist, counselor, or coach. Or if you want to turn it into a book or course, to help someone else overcome whatever you overcame.

Keeping a journal will help you deal with the things that happen to you as well as the things that have not happened to you. The main reason is that writing it down helps you remember what you did right and what you did wrong. It helps you improve your decision-making capacity for similar situations. The main thing is just to get started journaling in any way that works for you.

Me and Chapter Breaks

In my first and second books I wrote in the chapter breaks as I went along giving each chapter a title. In my third book I did not make chapter breaks, so after I wrote it I had to go back in reread it and decide where chapter breaks should go. I also learned that I needed to remove the last few chapters and move them over to book four. I have four books written in the Grey Dawn of Dharaven Series.

I also read about chapter breaks. Here is some of what I learned.

Putting Chapter Breaks into a Book.

Chapter breaks keep your reader interested in reading from one chapter to another. Use a wide variety of chapter breaks to keep your readers guessing. Cliffhangers at the end of chapters can keep readers reading. Chapter breaks set your story’s pacing. They carry the reader along into the next chapter and keep them turning pages. Chapters are good stopping points for your reader. It allows them to take a breath if your book is full of excitement. A lot of writers write their entire piece without chapter breaks, then go back and put the breaks into their piece. Any way that chapter breaks are done they are an important part of the formatting of your book.

A Blast from My Past

This is from a post I did on March 5, 2019. I am doing a review of these priorities. Look for Notes beside each one dated 2021.

2019 Why would I share my priority list as a new writer? I said I would share my journey in this writer’s world and making certain things priorities is important. Some I will do every day and others every other day.

2021 Why update this list? To see my growth as a writer and author, as well as growth as a social media kingdom ruler.

I put it into categories of a writer’s life: learning and studying, writing, reading, and community. This is an ever changing list so it will be updated often.

Learning and Studying

I am learning how to improve my skills as a writer and author. 2021 I doubt this learning will ever stop.

I am also taking online blogging and writing courses.

              Blogging Bootcamp Taken 2019

             Online Genius Academy Taken 2019 Basically an ad for their large course

              Udemy Creative Writing Tips Completed February 2021 Came away with a lot of story ideas

              Udemy Editing Class Completed 20219

2021 Taking an editing your book class online.

Books:

Deep Work Read 2019

The Elements of Style and its Workbook 2021 I have them.

Research archaeology. 2021 finding article, videos and memes about archaeology to share.

Read book on a real archaeology expedition. 2021 Douglas Preston’s Book The Monkey’s Head

Read Alfred Hitchcock stories for your story. Read in 2020

Read Like a Writer 2021 Have not read yet.

Writing

My two blogs require something to be written on them every day or every other day. 2021 Blogs are written on once a week 52 articles a year. I use PLR on my lifenotonthelist site.

2021 Social media sites 2021 Facebook, twitter and Instagram are written on daily.

I am currently 10,000 words into a novel I am writing. 2021: I have completed novels 1-4, working on novel 5 for Grey of Dharaven series. I have a short story for an anthology written and edited. First novel in series is due out in late summer of 2021. Grey Dawn of Dharaven: Katz Island

Murderous Gloves written in Alfred Hitchcock style. 2021 Not written yet.

I also have two more book ideas sitting waiting for me to get to them. 2021: These two stories still wait for me to work on them.

Poetry typed and rewritten. 2021: Poetry has been typed by a PA. I am working on categories to put them in for a chap book.

Contest entries through Submittable and other places. 2021 I have been rejected 27 times on Submittable. I was accepted twice. One piece is a short, short piece of 42 words. The other published work appeared in Carcosa Magazine February 2021 Issue 1. I keep trying with other pieces. I will find my tribe eventually.

Community

word nerd-2021 not there so much anymore. Went an expensive hub.

 writers helping writers.-2021- I am still on this site.

I am an administrator on a forum and Facebook website. Forum must be checked daily. 2021- Forum and website are doing well.

Emails checked for all 3 sites daily. 2021 Email for my own is checked. Have to remember to check them more often.

CONTINUING PRIORITIES 2021

I am learning how to improve my skills as a writer and author.

Research archaeology.

Read book on a real archaeology expedition. 2021 Douglas Preston’s Book The Monkey’s Head

Read Like a Writer

Write blog articles once a week.

Facebook, twitter and Instagram are written on daily.

Murderous Gloves written in Alfred Hitchcock style.

These two stories still wait for me to work on them.

Poetry Chapter Book

Contest entries through Submittable and other places. 2 to 27

Continue admin duties of forums and sites.

Check emails on all three sites at least once a week. Personal each day.

Keep talking to other writers on sites.

6 More Interview Questions Asked of Me

What’s your next writing projects?

I am working on collection of short stories about a team of Do Gooders who fight evil in the American southwest. I am also working on getting my poetry together, finding the best ones, and making a chap book, or poetry pamphlet or both.

Name 5 favorite movies.

Independence Day

Armageddon

Terminator 2

Star Wars- all the movies

Star Trek- all the movies and the series. Currently watching Discovery on DVD.

What’s your favorite love story?

Richard and Kahlan in The Sword of Truth Series by Terry Goodkind. They fall in love in the first book in spite of going through hell, and stay together through hell and back several times.

Sword of Truth Series


What’s your favorite line from any movie?

“You tell them I’m coming and Hell’s coming with me.” Tombstone


If we Googled your name what would we see?

https://katherineesoto-author.com/ after all the genealogy ads and people search.


You were just given a yacht. What would you name it?

My yacht would be named Who Gives a Rat’s Ass.

The flag would have a skull with a rat on top of it with its tail running through the skull’s eye.

Who Gives a Rat’s Ass

Editing Takes Time

Editing is the hardest part of writing. Writers groan over editing their longer pieces. Just when you think you have found everything wrong in the manuscript, you find the silliest punctuation mistake or the mistake gets published in the book or newsletter. (If you find an error in this article, email me for a prize. First one that finds one gets it.) How do you edit so you get all of the errors out of a piece of writing? Here is what I have learned.

First: Write the entire piece. I fix the spelling and typos as I go along otherwise my pieces would become unreadable. Get those ideas down. Then leave it alone for awhile.

Second: Do a first edit. This is here you look at the content of your piece. Does it have the content you want it to have? Does your plot make sense? Are there any writing holes you need to fix. I found a timeline problem in one of my pieces and had to change the days around for it to make sense.

Third: Edit your Point of View and Characters. Do you have several points of view, or one point of view? Do your points of view agree with one another? Does your POV character carry each scene? Are you characters making sense? I had to rewrite an entire scene due to my POV not being my main character’s.

Fourth: Edit by chapters, then pages, then paragraphs, then lines, then words. Take your piece through an stringent editing process from chapters to words.

Final edit: Use a speech app to read it to you. There is one in Word. Pay attention and you will catch a lot of little line edits that need to be done. Take your time and your piece will be polished and ready for that publisher.

You can also use an aide such a ProWritingaide or Fictionary to help edit your pieces.

When you write take time to go back and edit each piece with the care it deserves.

February 2021 Featured Author- Greg Marchand

Author Inteview

  • What is the first book that made you cry?

I remember Where the Red Fern Grows being pretty sad when I was young.

  • What is your writing Kryptonite?

Simply not having enough free time has to be the biggest hinderance, I think, for any writer who also works full time. It is for me.

  • Who is one author are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I’m not “friends” with my publisher’s head (who is also an author) in the traditional sense, but she provides constant, invaluable pro tips on all things writing, and publishing/marketing as well. I’m a better writer because of her, no question.

  • If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Plot first, use ProWritingAid to stomp out your passive voice, and be proud—you’ll actually be published one day.

  • How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I would say it’s shown me the importance of time management and deadlines, because marketing and promotion are now just as important as the writing itself and require a LOT of time, not just in execution, but learning how to do it.

  • What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? If you have not made any money, dream about it?

Paying an editor for my first novel. If it’s your first novel, I don’t know how you don’t hire an editor. They provide typo and grammar help, etc., yes, but there are bigger elements to story-telling that an editor will teach you, like character arc and pacing. You’re paying for more than just the correction of your story—you get to learn a hell of a lot.

  • As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

I’ll go with a bighorn ram. I do have one tattooed on my chest after all. They’re small, mostly docile, but can hold their own. And for some bizarre reason, they seem to find themselves trying to climb higher and higher, as if bored by the lowlands. Sure, they’ve evolved to climb to avoid predators, but don’t they look like they’re just sort of enjoying themselves up there? That’s me, just trying to avoid disaster in this strange existence, and just trying to get a kick out of it while I’m here.

  • How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

A handful of short, novelette, and novella-sized works await my editing. My third novel is in its very early stages. All of my stories have a strong nature element, usually a creature or two, and supernatural occurrences.

  • Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?

Jack London’s Call of the Wild. It’s third-person, yet feels like the dog is telling the story. It made me think about the lines we draw between point of view, and appreciate those who can manipulate a story’s narration that way.

  • How do you select the names of your characters?

They are approximately 85% randomly chosen, 15% hidden meaning for myself. I’m not fantastical (is that a word?), so I need ordinary names, but not so ordinary they incite yawning.

  • What is your favorite childhood book?

Where the Redfern Grows. You got me. It’s pretty much the only book I read the first half of my life. I can’t “booknerd-out” with readers and other authors, which is kind of sad. In timed reading sections of elementary school tests, even through high school, I scored really well—on the questions I had time to answer. I was a slow reader, needed to absorb every detail, and I could never finish reading it all in the allotted time. So, at a young age, I assumed I wasn’t a “good reader.” How could I be a good reader if I couldn’t even finish the reading test on time, right? Thus, reading never became a part of my identity. And so, hyperactivity became me, and I went the bicycle, crawdad hunting, football, wrestling, cross-country route.

Author Biography

Greg Marchand

Greg Marchand is a Medical Laboratory Technician, Western Kentucky University Alum, U.S. Army veteran, and former Yellowstone sous chef currently living in the “Crossroads of America” state of Indiana. From writing articles for his high school yearbook, to penning radio scripts on foreign soil for the U.S. military, Greg has always found a passion for writing. The colorful, admirable, and contradictory people he’s met in his lifetime inspire his stories, as do his moments spent among the trees, in the mountains, and under the stars.

When he’s not cursing medical laboratory instruments for a living, Greg is often downstairs hashing out his tilted stories, P90x-ing, and struggling to learn banjo. Occasionally, he emerges from his man cave to cook for his wife and stepson, and to take the dogs down to the river.

Book Blurb

BLURB:

The paths of five strangers cross and their fates intertwine when Yellowstone Lake employee, Kyle Fenn, finds his way into an ancient, sacred cave and gets too close to a buried secret.

Moderators remove an archaeological scholar from a conference stage at Montana State University as he frantically declares that evil always finds a way… After burying her mother, and suffering the apparent loss of her boyfriend, a young Virginian returns to work at Yellowstone, to start again… A Native man leaves his ranch and his father’s crooked patriarchy to work as a Yellowstone ranger where he discovers a darkness now compromises his family’s safety… And, in Gardiner, Montana, outside Yellowstone’s north gate, a hot-headed divorcee gains a special ability after playing pool with a stranger.

Yellowstone Shifters follows Fenn as he finds himself at the epicenter of a paranormal re-awakening, deciphering friend from foe and seeking the origin of this unfathomable evil.

<releases March 2, 2021> https://gregmarchandwrites.com/yellowstone-shifters

LINKS TO BOOK: https://books2read.com/u/mKyVNZ