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Improve Skills with a Journal

by Ron Kurtus (revised 2 May 2012)

One of the best ways to get started writing—as well as to improve your writing skills—is to write down your thoughts, experiences and observations in a daily journal.

You can also use some of the material in stories or articles you write at a later time. Putting down your thoughts in a journal is a good way to hone your skills before you try to get published. Many people use a blog instead of a journal to record their thoughts.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.



What is a journal?

A journal is a notebook where you record of your activities, thoughts, observations, or feelings. Some people use a journal to work out problems by using "self-discussions" or other methods.

While entries in a journal can describe things you have seen or even stories you heard from other people, a diary mainly concerns personal activities and feelings. Material written in a travel log, could also be put in the journal.

Many people use a blog instead of a journal to record their throughts. A blog is an electronic version of a journal. Some people keep a private blog on their computer as a series of documents. Others post their thoughts on an Internet blog, which may be visible to the public or may be locked as private.

Writing material

Most people purchase an ordinary notebook or special journal notebook to write out their thoughts and experiences in longhand. It is usually done every day.

Use a word processor

I advocate writing—or rewriting—the journal on a word processor.

One advantage of using a word processor is that you can re-use the material you have written. For example, you may have written about some very emotional experience you had or witnessed. That material might later fit in a story you are writing, with a little re-wording.

Also, you can improve what you have written by embellishing on it or rewriting it. In such a case, it might be good to keep the original file and use a copy for your embellishment.

Finally, when you use a word processor, you should always use the spell checker and grammar checker. This will help you see errors you have made and help improve the correctness of your writing.

Keep it to yourself

If you have many personal thoughts and feelings, you should keep your journal to yourself. But, you can use material from the journal in any article and stories you write. Perhaps disguise the personal thoughts and persons involved to make them appear as fictional exercises.

Very private thoughts

If you have some very private thoughts you want to express in a journal or diary, you should consider what you want to do with them. Writing such thoughts is really an effort to clarify your thinking and perhaps to get some things off your chest. It is not material that you really want to save and look at 10 years from now.

The best bet is to write out these very private thoughts on loose-leaf paper. Keep them for a few days at the most. Then read them over and thoroughly destroy the paper so no one else will be able to read those thoughts. Some things are better left as personal.

Benefits of writing a journal

Writing a daily journal is a great way to get started in writing. It is a fact that the more you write, the better you get at expressing yourself on paper.

In a journal, you often express your feelings and emotions. If you want to write fiction, it is important to be able to write about your character's emotions. You can use some of your emotions and feelings in your characters.

By writing every day, you improve your skills to the point that writing becomes second nature to you. It stimulates your mind, such that soon you will have ideas for stories or articles to write.

Summary

Writing a journal—even if you write a few sentences for each day—is a good way to get started in writing, as well as to hone your skills. You should write or rewrite your journal material on a word processor, so that you can reuse what you have expressed in other writing you do. Another method is to use a blog to record your thoughts.


Write, write, write


Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials

Websites

Writing Resources

Books

Top-rated books on Fiction Writing

Top-rated books on Non-fiction Writing


Questions and comments

Do you have any questions, comments, or opinions on this subject? If so, send an email with your feedback. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.


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