Writing journals are all over social media at the moment as a go-to for the new and professional writer alike. You might be thinking, “What’s so special about keeping a notebook?”

The writing journal is much more than just a place to store thoughts though. When used as a tool it can help you massively increase your productivity, powers of observation and your technical abilities.

In this new series we’ll have a look at just how the writing journal can be a tool to your writing career growth and discuss how keeping a journal can help you to grow your writing. I’ll also look at what materials can be useful, and how you might like to organise your journals. So let’s get started.

Why Should I Start a Writing Journal?

There are many reasons why you might start, but here are just a few :

  1. A writing journal gives you somewhere to store your ideas. More than that though, it gives you somewhere to compare and contrast your ideas to show areas where you might be repeating yourself or when something comes up that is a fresh direction for your writing.
  2. A writing journal can be a source of inspiration on days when writing is hard. We all have those days. If we’re lucky they are few and far between, but whether you are just twiddling your thumbs on the odd dry day or trying to slog your way through the desert of writer’s block, a writing journal can be your go-to for prompts to get the juices flowing and give you the kickstart you need to find your writing again.
  3. A writing journal can help you cultivate a habit of writing daily/frequently. Who here does morning pages? I’m going to be honest with you, despite it being something a lot of writers recommend, it is something I struggle with. But when I do manage it, I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to sit down first thing on a morning and write 500 words of anything. Most of the time what I produce isn’t gold, but what I do find is this puts me in the right frame of mind to write and sometimes getting to that place is half the battle. Of course you don’t have to write in the morning–to be honest, as long as you’re trying to write daily (giving yourself grace for the odd missed day here and there) you’re probably making solid progress.
  4. A writing journal can allow you to see your progress by giving you a data log. If you are doing a lot of writing in your writing journal it can mean you are quickly creating a lot of notes and stories. While you obviously would polish these before showing other people, what you have produced in its rawest form is a data log. Going back through it and evaluating your pieces (keeping in mind of course that they’re not finished works) allows you to see some of your strengths and weaknesses and can tell you where you might need to focus your learning in order to improve.
  5. A writing journal can help provide you references you might need while constructing your stories. Depending on the kind of writing journal you want to cultivate, you can create for yourself a handy reference for general things like describing someone’s appearance, all the way through to specifics like describing particular fabrics, materials or, even, certain phenomena. These all can help when constructing more abstract things or supporting fantastical ideas, for example you could use research into animal physiology to support your construction of magical beasts for a fantasy story.
  6. A writing journal can be a source of comfort and a safe space to write in. There’s nothing nicer than making the time to sit down with a pot of tea and take the time to allow everything else to fade and the ritual of the pen gliding over paper to take over. This might not sound too important, but having a healthy and nurturing relationship with your writing can ensure that writing daily is a joy and not a punishing slog.

Does that mean we should bust out a quill and ink, or be going to the artistic extremes that some of the Bullet Journalers go to? No, not at all. Of course, you can if you want to do that. The point is that your journal should be personal to you and how you work. I’m very visual so my journal is going to have quite a few pictures and things, but I know for some people it’s all about getting text down quickly and in a sensible order.

Finally, while it is true that your journal can be entirely personal, there are some basic guidelines that might help you construct a journal or set of journals that works for your writing style.

COMING UP: The next post in this series will talk about the two major kinds of writing journals and what their uses are.

If you have any suggestions or questions about writing journals, let me know in the comments below!


  1. William Thirsk-Gaskill February 13, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    I agree with all that. I have three notebooks on the go, at once: two small ones, and an A4. The A4 is for working on pieces themselves. One of the small ones is for non-writing-related stuff, like shopping lists. The other one is for jotting down ideas, and other stuff about writing.

    1. Steve - Site Author February 14, 2017 at 9:49 am

      Three seems to be the magic number as a lot of people I’ve spoken to say they need one big notebook and then two “supporting” notebooks. Do you have any brands of notebook you favour? Also, thanks so much for the comment!