Journaling for Fiction Writers? Yay or Nay?

Saturday, October 22, 2016
I hope you're all having a great weekend! It's a busy time here in my little corner of the cornfield. We are busy preparing for the months ahead. This means moving animals, bringing in crops, winterizing equipment, and enjoying our coffee hot for a change. This is my favorite time of year. I enjoy pulling on a bulky knit sweater and grabbing a steaming cup of coffee as I head out to feed calves in the morning and I'm feeling a little more joyful about baking and spending time in my kitchen.

Another highlight this fall was reading an advanced reader copy of the now released Fractured by Cathering McKenzie. Part of the deal we made was she would provide me with an ARC and she would Skype in to our book club. I was giddy as she is one of my current favs. Our group had lots of questions for her as well as having some feedback and ideas of our own. At one point, I asked about journaling (in part because I'm an active journaler but in part because I'm having such fun helping promote Mari McCarthy's new book Journaling Power). Catherine said she doesn't feel that journaling is helpful for fiction writers.

We talked about this after we were offline and came to the consensus that journaling may not be helpful for Catherine, but there are plenty of examples of how journaling could benefit a fiction writer as well as a non fiction writer or memoir writer. For example, I myself journal and have used my journal as the basis for many a short story. Personally, when something comes to me in a dream or is ripped out of the headlines and haunts my dreams, the best way for me to find peace is through journaling and then writing. A particular piece comes to mind - the headline was something about a family who found shoe-boxes filled with baby skeletons in a woman's garage or attic. I was incredibly haunted by this new piece. So much so that even my waking hours were filled with questions and possibilities to try and answer the how and how come. I journaled a few of my thoughts and then wrote a flash fiction piece that gave me enough closure to put the story out of my mind.

So often, our dreams don't have endings. Similarly, we don't always see the ending of a story in today's headlines. We read about a child left to die in a hot car, a baby left unattended in the bathtub, etc... and of course there are trials, jurors, sentences, and an aftermath, but those don't make there way back to the news or at least not to the front page. I find myself needing closure. I need to know more than my dreams give me and more than what the headlines provide. So, I use my journal to write an ending. Once the story has an ending I find I'm able to move forward.

Sorry for the long winded explanation of why journaling works for this particular fiction writer.

Now, for the real reason of this post. I want YOU to weigh in. Does journaling work for you? Why or why not? Are you a fiction writer? Do you know of fiction writers who have strong feelings about journaling and their craft?

Leave your comments - I'm super curious where everyone falls on this topic.

Thank you in advance for your readership and your sharing!


Crystal is a church musician, babywearing mama (aka crunchy mama), business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Publicist with Dream of Things Publishing, Press Corp teammate for the DairyGirl Network, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 9, Andre 8, Breccan 3, and Delphine 1), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal riding unicorns, taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff at: and


Judy H said...

For me, journaling and 'writing' are two different things. I do morning pages and I journal. I also write. All different things. The first two are to get junk out of my head and/or to record events in my life. I might take an event and spin it for a story, but to me journaling is necessary.

Margo Dill said...

I think it is so important to get things out of our head, like Judy said above. I think I use my blog for that a little bit and texting/messaging my friends. I look at that as a unique/modern day way of journaling. LOL

Mari said...

Thank you Crystal for your illuminating article. Several members of my Journaling Power Tribe have reported that keeping a Journaling Power practice, helps them get to and stay with their fiction writing projects. Several fiction writers have also reported that journaling helps them reduce and deal with writer's block (page fright).

Beverley Baird said...

For me journaling is therapeutic, a necessary way to cleanse my mind of negative feelings,. I can then write more freely. And yes I really feel journaling helps my writing. It is writing and for a long time, it was my only writing. Wonderful post by the way.

Crystal Otto said...

You're all so insightful. I wish we were all sipping coffee in person having this conversation 😘

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