Do You Keep a Journal?

by | Apr 27, 2011 | Writing Advice | 107 comments

Promoted from the Forums (Background on Forum Promotion here)

By: CharleeVale

Do you keep a journal?

I don’t mean the normal writer’s journal, full of notes and ideas and bits of dialogue. I mean a ‘dead diary’, I did this, I did that journal. I’ve never been able to. Maybe because spending time writing that doesn’t benefit one of my WIPs seems like a waste of time….

But I’m wondering if there are any of you that do, and how you find the time/motivation?


  1. Allan Douglas

    No, I don't. I agree that spending time doing this is non-productive… but looking back on it would probably be too scary.

  2. James Scott Bell

    dead diary?

    Stacking the deck, eh?

    I use a novel journal, an idea I got from Sue Grafton. A daily "letter" to myself about the book. Sort of a diary in that it talks first to myself, then the story.

    But not a straight diary. That does take away from the fiction.

  3. Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem M.ED.

    I have kept journals for many years and they have formed the backbone of my self help travel memoirs. I don't do it daily but keep notes on the highlights especially when travelling.

  4. Zoe Faulder

    I try – though I fail most of the time…

    It's not really for writing purposes as the contents generally make me cringe but it's a great way of clearing all the muck out of your head.

  5. abc

    I was a serious journal girl in all my growing up years (and unfortunately my dad burned them all when getting rid of stuff–he thought he had my permission. as if), but since I've been a "grown up" I've never felt the need. Of course I blog. That's kind of like journaling. That's enough for me. And it is more fun. I don't want to talk to myself too much, really. I see the benefit, but I'd rather talk to others.

  6. Rob

    I used to obsessively keep a journal in high school and college – the only way I could organize my thoughts honestly – but fell out of it once I started feeling happier and wanting to experience and enjoy life instead of writing about it. I try to push myself to write every few months but I have so many other hobbies, interests, and responsibilities that get in the way. Then there's the indecisiveness. I currently have a 6"x9" unlined spiral notebook and a 3"x4" travel notebook that I'm concurrently updating. It confuses the hell out of me as to which one to use.

  7. Anonymous

    I blog daily, which I consider my online journal. This is what blogging was intended to be when it first started…an online journal…and I try not to deviate and turn it into social networking.

  8. SM Blooding

    I used to. It was really neat the other day to pull it out and read it. I was like, "Hey! I totally FORGOT that! Wow!"


    Now, I have Twitter, and a blog…*shrug*…and I type faster. But it was so much fun to go back and read what I had written.

    I think I might pick it up again. Mostly, it was me chatting and arguing with myself about what I should be concentrating on…though, no always.

    And arguments with yourself should not be posted on your blog. Well, unless they're wickedly entertaining. *snort*


  9. Anonymous

    what is a dead diary?

  10. Jenny Torres Sanchez

    I did…when I was sixteen, so you can only imagine. I just came across that journal and wow…melodramatic, sickening, angsty, in short–terrible!

    I don't now for the same reasons you don't. Plus, I don't wanna be that seventy year old who finds it someday and thinks, what a putz I was!

  11. Kathleen@so much to say

    Blog=journal. I used to do both, but not anymore. What's missing is the not-for-public-consumption stuff…but, like abc, it's enough for me.

    If you blog about writing, this doesn't work, but my (admittedly limited) readership doesn't care to read about writing; they just want to see the "journal" stuff. I figure I'm writing essay material. And building a readerhsip.

    But I do admit that on top of NF projects, it does take up time that cannot, then, be used to work on fiction.

  12. Melody

    I've kept a journal fairly religiously since January 2009. It being a (oft-made) New Years Resolution, of course, and one I actually kept. Part of my motive was to preserve what was left of my teens, in order to have more fodder for YA writing, but it's grown to become a great way for me to get my thoughts out and clear my head. 🙂

  13. Just Another Day in Paradise

    You bet! It's my blog. I'm not sure it's a "dead diary" but there is a lot of "did this, did that, should have done this, wish I hadn't said that to them" and so on. The great part about it is that it let's me vent. Let's me get on that soap box and go for it. When people comment in the negative, I remind them that this is my Journal and I'm writing for myself, so if they feel offended, please tune out for that day.

    A couple of other benefits are 1. I write something every day and 2. many of my vents turn into great story ideas and finally 3.I started this blog when we moved to the islands and it lets me stay in touch with friends and family. I guess more to the poin, they can stay in touch with me and see what the current rant is all about.

  14. Ted Fox

    I got a really cool notebook this past Christmas that was practically begging for me to journal in it. I was writing something in it every few days in January. And then …

    It still looks awesome on my nightstand, though–makes me seem pseudo-intellectual.

  15. Matthew MacNish

    Lord no, my life isn't interesting enough for that sort of thing.

    I do, however, keep a web log.

  16. Sarah

    I do, and have regularly since middle school. I figure any writing is good practice. It's a way of organizing my thoughts as well as remembering things that happened once before. Since I take experiences from life (people I've met, silly moments at the store, etc.) and work them into my fiction, it's good for me to practice putting those to paper.

  17. Barbara Kloss

    I used to. Until it all started turning into ideas for WIPs. There went all self-reflection…

  18. Libby

    I did obsessively when I was younger. Now, I'm just not that concerned. I live life now more than reflect on it, I would say it was reversed when I was younger.

  19. Kemberlee

    Isn't that called Twitter?

  20. Mr. D

    I agree with some of the prior comments. Nowadays, it's all about the daily blog. Journals are going the way of the brick and mortar book stores.

  21. Jenny Maloney

    I just recently finished reading Virginia Woolf's A Writer's Diary. Apparently it's 26 volumes long and I got the abridged version (whew!). But the way she kept it was inspiring to me.

    Basically, she didn't write in it every day. She kept notes on life, sketches for characters and scenes, and whatever else came into her head. If she was working on a book, there's big ol' blank dates in her diary because, well, she's working somewhere else.

    In the past, I've found that I apologized to my 'diary' if I stayed away too long and then felt guilty if I didn't write in it.

    But with Woolf's model in mind, I write about whatever–blog ideas, story ideas, brain dumps. I don't date the pages. I don't apologize for not writing in it. (It's a book, it'll get over it.) I come back to it when I come back to it and it's always there when I need it.

  22. Andrea

    I tried many times growing up to keep a journal, but they never seemed to last. Now, I feel with so little time to write in the craziness that is my life as it is that I simply don't have the time.

  23. mshatch

    yes – sort of. my 'blog' file on my computer is often a journal as some of the content never makes it to my actual blog due to being either too personal, inappropriate, or just too blah.

  24. KrisUnderwood

    I've been keeping a journal for years, since I was 16, probably…in the middle of my 61st now. I use it more for when I need to work things out personally. I used to work out some of my poetry in my journal awhile back, not so much now-prefer working that out on the computer. Journaling also keeps my handwriting legible 🙂

  25. magpiewrites

    I've tried to keep a journal/diary since I turned 13 and got a diary for my birthday. It was so awesome, had a picture of a rollerskate on it and a lock with attached dinky silver key. I wrote in it maybe every three months before giving up. In the fifteen or so years since I've bought blank journals, filled up the first few pages, then abandoned them.

    I'm a wannabe diarist – in love with the idea of it, but can't do it. Funnily enough, I have no problem blogging nearly every day. I guess that's become my 'diary'.

    I don't think I'd have much luck with a novel journal, but would love to hear more about people's experiences with it. How do you use it for your novel later? How is this different from just 'notes', or is it the same thing, but fancy?

  26. Jay

    I bought an old, small notebook off of ebay so I could write down random things. I end up writing in it twice a month whenever I have an interesting bike ride to my bus stop.


  27. Carrie Filetti

    I was very faithful in journal writing when I was a child and while at college. I think it was my first steps in becoming an writer. Sadly, I'm so busy with family and creating stories that journaling has taken the back burner. It's a shame. I wish I would have recorded my first feeling when I got my agent, etc.

    I need to do better. Journals are treasures to posterity.

  28. dianehenders

    Nope. I've never been motivated to keep that kind of record. Looking back just isn't my style.

  29. K. C. Blake

    Who has time to write in a diary? lol Seriously, between working on books, doing my blog, keeping up with Facebook, Twitter, etc. I barely have time to work and sleep.

  30. Loree Huebner

    I did at one time in my life but not anymore. I can't even look at it now.

  31. Sessha Batto

    I USED to . . . it's how I learned the valuable lesson 'never write ANYTHING down that you don't want the world to know' . . . now I channel it all into my books 😉

  32. Stephanie McGee

    I journal. Not as much as I used to, but I do. Generally if there's something I want to remember for whatever reason, an event, an emotion, whatever, I journal. I date the entries. And generally I write in my journal before I go to bed. I don't write in it every day. My journals have evolved and matured as I've grown older. But without journals, our photos and the miscellania that survive us mean nothing to our posterity. OUr journals show our grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and beyond, the sort of person we were. Our journals can give our descendants a role model to emulate (or avoid) when they're navigating the pitfalls of their own lives.

  33. Sierra McConnell

    I keep a LiveJournal because it's just something I've had for years. It's a place to keep the OMGs and Holy Craps when I'm not at a place I can write them down (ie. work). It's also a place to keep in touch with the few friends I have left there, and a place to just let loose with that one side of myself I don't let anyone else see.

    It's not detrimental to be human, as well as a writer. Because at the end of the day, when you close that book, there's someone on the other side of the cover. You.

  34. Nick Lewandowski

    I did this once, for about a week, and only because I was living in extraordinary circumstances – the recent revolution in Egypt.

    I actually recorded entries on a mini-recorder as I went from place to place, so I have about an hour and forty-five minutes or so of incredible entries (at protests, F-16s soaring overhead, et cetera).

    Some day I mean to sit down and transcribe them.

    I imagine I might keep some kind of journal in the future if travelling like Marilyn said – provided I can ever afford it ;).

    The idea of chronicling my daily life just doesn't appeal to me however.

  35. Teralyn Rose Pilgrim

    I do it for family history – I want to leave a part of me behind – and so I don't lose my memories. I love reading over my old journals.

  36. Debbie

    I do write my morning pages every day. At least I try to. And they tend to be more journally than my writing notebooks.

    I've found that I don't write anything else on the days I don't write morning pages. That doesn't mean that I do write other things when morning pages are produced.

    But why chance it?

  37. Mieke Zamora-Mackay

    I do. I don't write in it everyday, but it serves as a receptacle of experiences that I may, or may not, want to remember.

    An experience, whether good or bad, mundane or special, is a resource to me as a writer. I can't think of simply trashing it because it's not "productive" writing.

    I'll never know years from now, what seed I might find in it for a story.

  38. Anonymous

    I did all through high school (fairly strictly) and through college (much less strictly), because I have an awful memory and I wanted my future-self to remember what it was like going through those formative years.

    Now that I'm getting ready to go to grad school/working, though, I write in it less. I use it as a more of a way to organize my thoughts rather than as a "this is what I did today" type thing, and I try to write in it three times a week- just so I have a half hour to myself away from the TV and computer. If I go traveling I definitely keep a strict journal, sometimes with little sketches of things or fragments of tickets or brochures, etc.

  39. Christa

    It's interesting that people started to point out the benefit to our children and grandchildren. I believe that wholeheartedly, and even before the idea came up I was going to mention:

    I keep a journal specifically for my son. When I found out I was pregnant, I wrote about how my husband and I met, our wedding, and finding out we were having our son. Then I kept it up. Pregnancy, labor and delivery, learning the ropes. Nowadays I write in it every few weeks, to let him know what our life is like now that he's in it. I wish I had something like that from my infancy. And it's a win-win because hey, I'm writing, right?

    I also keep an 'introspection' journal where I keep track of prayers and think through life's dilemmas.
    As for a dead diary: Not since I was a hopelessly self-absorbed, boy-crazy and downright boring teenager. 😀

  40. Ishta Mercurio

    I tried that once when I was nine, and then after a few days I looked at it and thought, "This is boring."

    I do keep a dream journal, though. My dreams are almost never boring.

  41. Belinda Kroll, Quirky Historical Fiction

    I have had a LiveJournal for ten years. I don't blog there as often as I did when I was a teenager, and EVERYTHING WAS AGAINST ME HOMG, but whenever I'm troubled I turn to that journal and bleed my thoughts and emotions and confusion onto the keyboard. It's very therapeutic, and if it's a long enough post, I count it toward my weekly writing word count. Making sense of one's emotions in a prose format is a good exercise for making the emotions of one's characters tangible and logical.

  42. WriterGirl

    I've never heard the phrase "dead diary". I used to keep a journal until I was about 21. Then when I'd grown out of youthful angst I just didn't need it any more. Though reading the journals of Sylvia Plath always give me the urge to write deep and meaningful journal entries, I'm afraid mine were always more of the "I love that boy- does he notice me" variety.

  43. Julia

    I have journal to keep me from thinking that I need to write an autobiography. Whenever something "cool" happens to me, I no longer think "Oh, time to write and publish an autobiography." Now I think "Ugh, now I have to dig out that journal."

    It works.

  44. Iliadfan

    I've kept a diary since my early teens (except when I was in college – also the only time in my life I all but stopped reading and writing fiction). It's where I can think through troubling experiences, express fears about political turmoil or as-yet unfulfilled dreams or daily angst or even gush about brilliant books I've read, without involving other people who might be bored or offended by my opinions. 🙂

    It has no impact on my other writing – we make time for the things that are important to us.

  45. Taryn Tyler

    I keep my writing notes "dear diary" stuff in the same journal. It is not in any way organized and allows me to scribble down whatever I'm thinking about in any way I like whenever I want. –though the "dear diary" stuff is a bit outnumbered and not frequently updated (see disorganized statement above).

  46. Erik

    Like others, I blog. Keeping a diary is much more personal and although I've never had one, I may regret that decision when I'm famous and I need material for my memoir. Or I could just make it up. That seems to be the cool thing to do.

  47. Brandy Heineman

    I've kept diaries and journals, off and on, for most of my life. I started my first online journal in college as a handy procrastination tool. It tallies up to an embarrassing 243,000 words about me. So yes, I have to say that most of that was probably a waste of time.

  48. D.G. Hudson

    Some of the great writers kept journals which were so detailed that they were published after their death.

    Journals do take time, but it pays to determine what you want it for in the first place. Is it to document an important time in your life — such as a turning point? Or is it a sounding board to get things off your chest? Only highlight what's important and learn to step back & observe.

    Nothing written is non-productive if it improves your writing (i.e., your selection of the right word, your expressions of emotion, refining of your thoughts, etc.)

    Don't think in Dear Diary terms, think of it as documenting parts of your life.

    I posted about that on one of my blogs:

    It's a good way to sort your thoughts, if nothing else.

    Motivation is determined by why you're keeping the journal (for sanity, to note details about an important event, to glean from for a memoir).

    I've heard that trying something for 20 days can make it into a habit, so why not try keeping one for 20 days to decide if it will work for you?

  49. Jayme Stryker

    I used to keep a journal, but I stopped. I always hated going back and reading a detailed account of menial events and tasks.

    On the other side of the coin, I find writer's journals to be very interesting when they're not mine. I've read almost all the volumes of L.M. Montgomery's journals, but she readily admits that she used them because she felt she could talk to no one else. Apparently, it's unfortunate for my life as a diarist that I have people to talk to…

  50. Stephanie

    I keep several diaries/journals and all have a specific purpose.

    I have kept a diary since I was about 8 and found, many times, spilling my guts to a blank page when there was no one else to talk to helped…a lot! Especially during those teen years. As I got older, the purpose changed and I didn't keep it updated as often as I did when I was 15. Now it's more of an autobiography of my life with my thoughts and feelings about my life and chronicling the things we do as a family. Maybe someday my kids and grand kids will be interested in reading about my life. I think it would be really cool to read a journal kept by my grandma in the 30's and 40's.

    I keep journals about my kids too..recording all the little day to day things…firsts, cute things, things I love about them. Someday I'll give it to them to read.

    I think venting to a journal is completely therapeutic. As mature responsible adults, it's not okay to just blow up at someone when we're angry, even if they deserve it. I find it far more productive to vent those frustrations out to a blank page…no judgment, no filter…word vomit that makes me feel better.

  51. Deb

    Baby books, blogs, facebook status updates. Done right, those are all chronicles of the hilarity and poignancy found in the mundane.

  52. The Pen and Ink Blog

    Morning pages for 16 years. I did The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron and the morning pages that are a part of the course increased my productivity by 50%

  53. Kathleen @ Kath Ink

    Yes, I keep a journal. I have since the 5th grade. I have never kept it daily. I have found it easiest to put all kinds of thoughts in the same place — cute anecdotes of my children; things I need to process; random attempts at poetry or descriptive writing; boring we did this & that; reflections from a trip. I need to put it all in one place. I tend to write less if I have to categorize before I write.

    The journals become reference points for me to find out history for my children's sake or what I was thinking during a pariticular season or capturing the emotions of an event that I can use in my writing.

    If it is something I know I don't want anyone else to read — I write it on an unattached piece of paper and destroy it immediately. This helps me to sort it out privately.

    I do find that I write less in my journal now that I am blogging. But, I think, I will always keep a pen & ink journal. Not because I have to or because I think I should but simply because I like to.

  54. K. Tuccelli

    I think it's important to keep a journal, not only to chronicle events that are important to you, but also to draw inspiration from when you're stuck. I can't tell you how many times I've gone back in my journal and read something that inspired a story, a bit of dialogue, or a scene.

    Having a journal helps me remember things when my memory becomes foggy. I tend to remember almost everything I write or type, word-for-word. It's also fun to see how much you've grown, not just in life, but also in your writing style.

    I used to write very faithfully, but find that I don't make as much time for journal-writing anymore. I don't beat myself up over it. If I need my journal, it's there.

  55. Laura Maylene

    I have since I was 8 years old. (Humiliating evidence here.) I have always, always felt this compulsive need to chronicle my life. I'm already glad (if embarrassed) that I have such comprehensive records of my childhood and adolescence.

    I still keep a journal today, but I write it in much less frequently. Months might pass before I pick it up. Other times, I feel driven to write in it regularly. As nerdy as it is, journaling is very much a part of who I am.


    I've been keeping a journal for almost 16 years. It ebbs and flows, some years comes in at brick-sized book length and other years is barely short story length. I love going back and reading what I was struggling with a year ago, two years ago, ten years ago. It helps to recognize patterns and work through obstacles.

    As for the time, it's never been an issue. I can jot down a journal entry in 10 minutes. It's just pure stream of conscious, get it out. It also helps clear the pipes, get the right muscles moving before I move over to working on my WIP.

  57. Elisabeth

    In my early teens my journal was a hit-or-miss affair, an entry every few weeks or months, usually when I needed to vent about something. I cringe when re-reading a lot of those entries. 🙂 Last fall I started keeping a journal regularly for the first time and I've actually kept it up. It tends to be mostly about what I'm writing and reading at the moment, but I do muse about everyday things too. I find journaling to be helpful for spells of writer's block – when you feel you have to write something but are stuck so far as plot.

  58. Rebecca Stroud

    I kept mini-journals for over twenty years. Then, after my mom died from Lou Gehrig's disease, I flipped back through them and found more depressing/distressing stuff than good…tore them up, tossed them in the garbage, and that was the end of that.

  59. Britany Clarke

    I always thought keeping a personal journal would get in the way of my writing and was a waste of time. But then I got a journal and realized that it actually helped my writing. I'm not a dedicated journal writer and sometimes I don't write in it for weeks. I mostly use it when my thoughts are screaming so loud that I can't hear my characters speak.

    It's like once in a while I need to write about myself and my life instead of my characters.

  60. Devena

    I kept one faithfully for many years growing up… and then kind of felt like I outgrew it… moved houses recently, and came across my diary and… wow, it was an eye-opener… I was neither as brilliant nor as dumb as I remember being:) What I do feel is that writing from an early age about everyday life and inner thoughts helped to stimulate my writing abilities… I don't know if I'd have ended up wanting to write so much if I hadn't had that kind of every day 'touching base' with the written word. Though I no longer keep a diary, as many have said, blogging kind of makes up for it, and well, as you said, Nathan, I try to keep as much time available for writing my stories as I can…

    But I still miss putting down my everyday thoughts and little events… and I wonder if I'll regret NOT keeping a diary when I want to remember my world as it is now, in the future:)

  61. Devena

    p.s. oops, not Nathan, it seems, but CharleeVale. sorry:)

  62. Raejean

    I do keep a journal, and I encourage my children to keep one. I record at least five things daily for which I am grateful. It helps me to focus on the good in the world, and it's a therapeutic way to work out problems and feelings. It's interesting that how I feel about past experiences can change so much from then to now.

  63. Bob Norwicke

    I keep one, inspired by Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. I have done it on and off for about 15 years; right now it is 'on.' It only takes about 20 minutes a day, and instead of stealing time from a work in process, I find that my journal is a great place to solve problems. It is like having a life coach/analyst that I can visit whenever I wish. I also have a problem with discipline, so the journal helps there as well. And the neat thing is, even if I don't feel like making an entry, I put my pen to the page and 20 minutes later I am always always always glad I did.

  64. Ellen Keim

    I'm obsessive about keeping a journal. I write on the average about a page a day. When my parents died, I was haunted by the fact that there was so much about them I didn't know–and never would. My children will have "me" on paper. (I realize they may not care, but I feel compelled to chronicle my life anyway, just in case.)

  65. jesse

    I kept one when I was younger. The entries were not regular, but I always tried to start them with Dear Mr. Crenshaw.
    That always made me laugh.

  66. Serenity Bohon

    Yep. I journaled after eating lunch today, right before I read this post. I basically write about what I want, how hard it is to wait, and WHY I want what I want – the good, noble reasons and the selfish, horrid ones. The motivation partly comes from hoping if I write it out in a journal it won't get vomited on others. Plus, writing it down helps me examine whether my daily time and energy is being spent on the things I'm most passionate about – the things I care enough about to need to journal them. That's the motivation. The time is easy. It doesn't take as long as watching a sitcom and not much longer than reading an article. Plus, I don't feel any pressure to do it every day.

  67. Neurotic Workaholic

    I do keep a journal, because it's the one place where I can vent as much as I want. In a way it helps me to release some of my daily frustrations by writing about them. The thing is that even though I'm usually just recording my dailies (or ranting about them) in my journal, occasionally I've found that I can go back later and find ideas for blog posts and stories.

  68. Sara Murphy

    I keep both kinds of journals. In both cases they are simply ways of remembering things that I want to remember. Life experiences or story ideas, either way I can review the entries later. Sometimes life experiences give me new ideas for my novels. Neither journal is appropriate for using as a blog.

  69. February Grace

    I did- for years. I stopped when I knew it wasn't safe to risk anyone finding my feelings on paper and using them against me (bad marriage #1…)

    Now I find that letters written to friends, faithfully logged in Gmail, serve the same purpose. I can look back years and see what was going on and how I felt about it by what I told a few trusted people.

    Maybe some day I'll keep one again. But for now, I just have too much to write and too little eyesight- I'd rather share what's going on in my head in those precious letters. Besides, to those, I get replies. I rarely if ever got helpful feedback from myself on my diary entries :~) though I definitely understand the reasons people keep them.

    A word of advice though- if you keep them, keep them locked up.


  70. Elizabeth Lim

    I've kept a journal obsessively since first-grade. No joke–I have several boxes full of them in my closet.

    Personally, keeping a diary is a good way for me to wind down the the day and relieve some stress. And I love looking back at the past and having some record of the day.

  71. Rachel

    I write in my journal nearly every night just before bed. It's been part of my bedtime routine for over a decade now, and I find that it adds to my other writing rather than detracting from it.

    I use it for many different purposes: recording my daily life, processing when I need to process, recording interesting dreams, and also recording and developing new story ideas (not fully developing them. The journal is just where the first seeds get planted. If the same idea keeps popping up, it's time to harvest what's there and move it to another notebook.)

    I find that all of these bleed into each other, so that a mundane experience or a snatch of a half-remembered dream might lead to a story idea.

    I've also found that having a record of my daily life has been useful to me in many different ways. I can see how I've grown and changed. (It was almost painful to read how stressed out I was my first year teaching.) I can double-check when I met someone, or where, or other details that get forgotten.

    It's also been great to have a detailed record of my personal experiences and responses when writing my novels. I can see how I felt, for example, at the beginning, middle and end of a relationship, rather than looking at the entire thing through the lens of, "this is now over and thank goodness." It makes it easier to write more realistic responses and reactions for my characters.

    So no, I don't find it to be a waste of writing time to keep a daily journal. For me, it seems to be the opposite.

  72. Anonymous

    yes i kip a journal cuz i hv a hard tym expressn mixlf verbally 2 otha pple tht i find it easy 2 expres mixlf clearly n mi journal nd otha paperz.

  73. Hannah Jenny

    Yes . . . but not very consistently. I guess I usually write in it a few times a month. I like writing in it and I find it helpful in sorting through my own thoughts/feelings. I have been keeping them since I was about nine and have filled I'm not sure how many notebooks, but most times I am not writing *every* day

  74. Ray Anderson

    Yes. It's short, and I do it the very first thing in the morning. It anchors my day.

  75. J.C. Martin

    I don't keep a journal now, but I did growing up. I think the (near) daily practice did help hone my writing skills a little. I remember stumbling on my old diary from high school and thinking the YA voice was great! Now if only I can recreate it as a near-30-year-old…

  76. Suzanne

    You bet I do and it's where I found my rawest, realest voice. The journals I've kept are so productive they are being turned into a half dozen books titled *Bare Naked at The Reality Dance*. Journal One will be out this summer.

  77. Margaret Reyes Dempsey

    Oops, looks like my link was truncated. Just click on my name to get to the post.

  78. Kristin Laughtin

    Not since I was 10 and somebody found it and read the dang thing. I decided my thoughts were safer in my head after that, although I do have a few diary-like files buried in my computer from times when I needed the space to vent or explore a thought.

  79. Julie Achterhoff

    I've kept one on and off for many years. The main kind I like is dream journals. You see, I have some pretty unusual dreams and nightmares that are sometimes provocative enough to make me want to write a whole book about. In fact, most of my work comes from those unknown worlds when we're all asleep!

    Julie Achterhoff

  80. KSCollier

    Yes, I keep a journal. I don't write daily, but the most important events are in my journals over the years. Journal keeping is an important part of what I would like to pass to my children to know my true feelings in certain doctrine, beliefs, likes and dislikes. Our children (really) knowing who we are is a great legacy to leave behind. I usually use Sunday afternoons to drop a line or two or three or four, or even a few pages. Like writing, how important is it to you?

  81. Mira

    I wish I did!

    I always start and then stop. It puts me in touch with my feelings at a deep level, and also clarifies my thinking, and I get scared, so I stop.

    The one time I consistently journaled was when I was working on the Artist's Way, and I did the three morning pages religiously for a few months. It was amazing how much of a positive effect that had on me. I was more centered, more balanced, thought about things more clearly, it was wonderful. So, naturally, I stopped doing it. :p

    But I hope someday I'll go back to it. For one thing, I think that getting in touch with my feelings at a deep level and thinking more clearly would have a really great impact on my writing. But it would also be good for me and my life!

    I hope I do it someday!

    Great question, Charlee. Great choice of questions, Nathan thanks.

  82. christinaggaudet

    I too have kept a diary on and off since I was a teen.

    My mother has written in one almost every day for as long as I can remember. She always talks about wanting to write a novel, but I think that between writing a diary and her poetry, she doesn't have enough energy left for more writing.

  83. S.D.

    My 'dead diary' is in between the pages of my writing journal. I write half a page to a page, wide-ruled.

    My motivation is remembering when things happened (my retrospective sense of time is kaput). It takes about five minutes a night.

  84. The English Teacher

    I wrote a couple of thousand journal pages over 30 years until blogging was invented — and that's so much more fun!

  85. Jil

    I kept a diary for every day of a trip we made across the US many years ago. I didn't know then that I would use it as the background for a novel I am just finishing now. It has been invaluable!

  86. Woodge

    I used to keep a journal that I'd write in several times a week for about a 14-year span. Still have it. It's all saved in my computer since I typed it. And no one reads it but me. It's interesting picking out patterns of behavior… never mind for remembering details of long ago. The span was from age 21 to 33.

  87. vonildawrites

    I will journal about goings-on in my family, or thoughts on a book I've read, but I put them in blog form, or turn them into fiction. If I keep a journal it usually ends up being a bunch of ideas for writing, anyway. I'm not much for the "Ate bacon for breakfast, then went to the park where I saw a pretty cocker spaniel" kind of journals.

  88. Melanie Hooyenga

    I started keeping a journal when I moved to Mexico in 2007. I did my best to write at least once a week so I'd have a chronicle of my time there. I eased off towards the end, but I kept at it.

    Now I try to write at least every couple weeks to get the crazies out.

  89. Tahlia

    I started keeping a diary as a short term class assignment in 9th grade when we were reading "Anne Frank". I liked it so much, I tried to keep going, but writing everyday was a bit much, so I ended up writing sporadically. Then I went to a Christian college and we have chapel 3 times a week and I sort of use journaling as a way of staying awake. So for 4 years, that's how I've kept a journal regularly.

  90. Rebecca

    If I had to evacuate with little notice, I'd grab three things: my cat, my laptop, and thirty years worth of journals in two bankers boxes. I journal to work something out (think of it as cheap therapy) and to document events that were really rich. These are different than a blog — too personal for public consumption, and there is something more sensuous about a fountain pen and fine paper in a leather-bound book.

  91. Jasmine Cruz

    I started keeping a diary ever since I was eleven. It felt kind of normal to write in a diary. I'm on my 22nd diary now. It's really interesting to read old diary entries. You can see how foolish you were or something, so old entries can make you laugh. Sometimes past entries can be inspiring. Rereading entries about how you loved this boy so much, and how much it hurts, but now you don't remember him anymore, makes you think that no matter what pain you're going through right now, you'll get over it. I really love writing in my diary. It's like an obsession. I even wrote about it in my blog:

  92. darbyscloset

    Thus far, there are periods where I have gone "journal-less" and then there have been periods where I have done the opposite. Do I ever reference these journals…well uh no, yet once while moving I did find my "diary" from 3rd grade, noteing that "we" had purchased a "colored TV". I have saved that "diary" for this entry of mine just cracks me up ….. and I often try to remember life "before" our colored TV. So I guess my answer to your question is "no" yet I think it is a good idea in order to have as a reference/idea jogger for writing material.

  93. Callie Kingston

    As I wrote my first novel, I kept a journal to serve as the repository of my daily purge. My fears about writing, the challenges and struggles I experienced throughout the project, and my hopes for the character filled the pages. It was a great way to keep all that from seeping into the novel itself. But my daily life is rather dull to warrant faithful recording of its details in a journal.

  94. renate

    I don´t, but I use my blog as one- kinda- sort of- at least it´s a way of sorting my thoughs and staying on track! Actually, thinking about it, I really feel like blogging is keeping it real for me, making me think about life a little more – and how I spend it! Thanks for sharing by the way- you´ve now gotten yourself a brand new follower all the way from Norway ( see you have like a ton, but still- here you go- another fan!) And oh(!)do say hi too good old cali from me- will you! salute! renate

  95. Sara

    I keep a diary, erratically. I usually write in it when I feel mixed up or overwhelmed, in other words, I partly use it as a therapist. I also always think of what Virginia Woolf said about hers, that it was a good kind of practice, pulling arrows and firing them without hesitation. I do that kind of writing in it too, sometimes, when I'm having a hard time getting started.

  96. Emily Wenstrom

    I keep a journal, but it’s not something I’m really committed to. I use it to get lists out of my head, goals, strong emotions, and personal reflection. But I really only write in it every few weeks. It sits in a drawer near my bed, but I often find that when something has to come out on paper, it has to come out NOW, which means I end up typing it in whatever Word doc I’m in at the moment and deleting it later, scribbling it on the back of a receipt … or occasionally, a list will end up on my hand.

    I disagree with the idea that it is “nonproductive” writing, though. I feel more focused and at peace with my mind when I get things out on paper. That alone has a great deal of value. But the more I write (marketing, blogs, journalism, novels, short stories, or even yes, journaling), the more I feel the skills from one area positively impacting my writing in another area. Journalism helps me stay accurate, get to the point. Short stories help me write more persuasive ad copy. And yes, journalism helps me channel and hone my inner eye so I can listen to it better. I’m a strong believer in holistic professional development.

  97. A Ramble in Aphasia

    I maintained a journal on and off over the years but I never stuck to a religious schedule of writing it daily. Last year I discovered Oh! Life, a wonderful online resource that sends you a reminder mail every evening to update your journal. I found it so useful that I’ve even written a full post on it: OhLife, Where art thou?

  98. Nicole

    Is "dead diary" the term for it now?

    Learn something new every day!

    I don't. I did when I was in junior high and even occasionally in high school (no, by the way, it wasn't all angst….in fact, I don't think there was any angst until college). But college I started an early blog – it was just ramblings on a webpage without any blog formats or anything (Geocities anyone?). Then I discovered blogger.

    However, that eventually faded and I've actually been trying to figure out what to do with my non-writing, non-reading blog…mostly because I like the layout. 😀

  99. Monica

    I've kept a journal ever since I remember. I try and do it daily or four times a week. It's really cool.I can't wait till I'm sixty and I come back and see what I wrote.

  100. Roslyn Rice

    I love to journal. I think that is one of the best ways to grow in your writing. We move at such a fast pace, keeping a journal helps us remember all the rejection but also all the victories.

  101. Robin McCormack

    I do 'morning pages' as suggested by Julia Cameron of The Artist's Way. First thing in the morning, 3 stream of consciousness handwritten pages. Someday's I just talk about what did the day before, other times work out on the page a problem or something related to my current WIP. Find it actually wakes my brain up and prepares for novel writing.

  102. Anonymous

    With the ePublishing boom going on in Kindle, do you plan on releasing any novelettes or short stories on Kindle to promote your book? Jeff VanderMeer, J M McDermott, Catherynne Valente all seem to be doing it. Do you think kids read Kindles?

  103. Barb

    I do. Actually, it is the very concept of a journal that led me to writing a novel. I began to notice stories and characters within my journal so I took those and made them into a fictional story. Whallah! It progressed to a novel. I have found that when I journal mindless random thoughts, I can always go back to them to pull out the 'raw real life' emotions and feelings within them and use them for a story. I also created an Author page (which you suggested. High fives, knuckle bumps and a Big thank you.) I also have a facebook page too. Simple Southern Life. Fowler Robertson, author. I pull ideas from my journal and create stories for my blog post too. I am just starting out with the Author page but it is growing and I'm getting good responses. I suppose that a journal helps me because I have so much info swirling around in my head, that if I don't get it out, I will have a mental meltdown. I don't journal everyday, but I DO jot things down where ever the idea comes up and it ends up in my journal. Nathan, check out my page and let me know what you think? thanks for your awesome information! You rule! OH…and here's a question I've been meaning to ask you. Maybe you can write and post about it one day. I have received an endorsement from a well known author….will that help me get my foot in the door of an agent? Is it a waste of time to have an endorsement? What is the 'low down' on Endorsements and new authors, writers.

  104. Samantha G

    I randomly write a diary when I'm annoyed or angry or, as one of the commenters here helpfully put it, going through teenage angst. It lasts for a couple of days and I don't have anywhere concrete where I put in all my thoughts. It is quite nice stumbling across a rant I wrote and kind of thinking how silly it all seems now.

    I personally think writing a diary is useful. I write YA. I am a YA. When I write in my diary, I get serious teen emotions back. So, for me, it is incredibly useful.

    But Nathan. What on earth is a "dead diary?" My diary certainly isn't dead and I don't simply put where I went and what I did in. I write to express emotions, which in a way is what I do for my WIPs. It is productive and I honestly recommend you try writing one for a week and look back on it in a year and think what an asshole you were and how much you've improved. Then do the same thing every year. It should make us all feel better about getting older because we have record of how our younger selves were stupider selves. =) =P

  105. Sonia

    My blog is the closest I've gotten to keeping a journal. 😉


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Hi, I’m Nathan. I’m the author of How to Write a Novel and the Jacob Wonderbar series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and I’m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams. Let me help you with your book!

My blog has everything you need to know to write, edit, and publish a book. Can’t find what you need or want personalized help? Reach out.


I’m available for consultations, edits, query critiques, brainstorming, and more.



Need help with your query? Want to talk books? Check out the Nathan Bransford Forums!