Better Your Writing: Step 1 Journal Writing

In my last post, I left off with challenging my readers to purposefully work on building their writing skills.  But then it dawned on me that perhaps I should clue you in on the steps you can take to become a better writer.  The first tip I would like to share, in all honesty, has been repeated by English teachers and writing coaches a like for many years.  And even though I would classify this as a cliche, if it were possible to classify actions as cliches the way one would an over-used phrase, I still think this activity is the number one way to get your writing juices flowing and therefore build on your writing skills. This number one activity is: keeping a journal.

This is not the “Dear Diary” of your younger years where you reveal your crush or some other deep secret that would be horrifying to make known to anyone else but your diary -though it could be used for that purpose if you wish.  You want to use this journal to explore all things that inspire you to think.  Did you just read something in the local newspaper that irritates you? Write about it.  Did you just watch your child play with other children and it reminded you of a time when you were younger?  Explore the memory in your journal.  Did you just read something in a novel that reminded you of something that happens in your life?  Investigate the connection in your journal.  Don’t have any thoughts fighting their way out of your mind? Simply take some time to free write and let your stream of consciousness take over.  What does that mean?  It means to simply write down what is coming to your mind, whether it makes sense or not.  For example:

The road we took to get here was so bumpy.  It kind of reminded me of the way you bump through El Torro at Great Adventure.  I wonder what kind of safety measures they take to make it safe.  They have a lot of rides, that is a lot of safety measures!  How many people would they need to inspect all the rides?  Is there some sort of national council on ride safety measures?  Do all ride safety measure workers have to be certified?  Do they pay for the certification or does their company pay for it?   How would you even break into a field like this. Some fields aren’t easy to break into.  My uncle waited for 3 years to get called into the electrical union, IBEW.  Electrician is a high demand.  I wonder what other jobs are in high demand?

As you can see, my main concern when I was writing the preceding paragraph was that I was getting out the ideas in my head.  I have punctuation, pronoun and subject-verb agreement errors through out the paragraph.  But, in stream of consciousness and journal writing, the adherence to grammar rules in not the main concern.  Just focus on letting your thoughts out.

Rules of Journal Writing:

  1. Spend at least 10 minutes a day 2-3 times a week.  Obviously the more practice you have the better you will get, but you don’t want writing to become a chore for you at the same time.  Do what is comfortable for you, but this basic amount of writing will get you on the right track.
  2. Just like when you are writing with your stream of consciousness, don’t worry about grammar.
  3. The purpose of journal writing is to explore your thoughts, but if you are having trouble coming up with something to write, start off using writing prompts. (Some examples are listed below.)  Eventually, if you keep at it, you won’t need prompts.
  4. Don’t give up.  Once you start, stick with your writing schedule!
  5. Analyze.  After some time you will want to review everything you have written and take notice of your improvement.  Are your sentences getting longer? Are you entries getting longer?  Are you  producing more thoughts? Are your thoughts going deeper than scratching surface topics? Do you find yourself writing for a longer period of time than you schedule?  Have you come up with solutions to problems?  Take the time to notice where you have improved.
  6. Congratulate yourself on a job well done.  Through your own sheer drive and determination, you took the steps necessary to better your writing skills, by yourself.

Writing Prompts:

  • “The three best things that happened to me today?”
  • “The three things I encountered today that I didn’t like and my solutions to change them”
  • “Today I am happy because…”
  • “Today I am angry because….”
  • “Where is a ____ when you need it?”
  • “I really wanted to _____ but I changed my mind.”

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