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Journal Wars

Previously I have written about the notion pushed at nearly every writers' conference and by many, many writers that if you don't keep a daily journal you are making some monumental mistake that will doom your career.

Well, maybe that is a little strong, but the advice is consistent that keeping a daily journal is a very important thing to do. I've tended to argue against this advice not because I believe a daily journal is a bad thing, but because it seems to be one more instance where aspiring writers feel pressured to do something that while healthy may not be essential.

It feels like the equivalent of saying that you aren't doing yoga or a practitioner of yoga unless you spend at least an hour every day doing yoga. Sure it is great if yu can do it every day, but you will still be healthy, more flexible, calmer and all the rest if you simply try to be consistent, but can't do it each and every day. Same with journaling. It is a healthy exercise, but a daily journal may not make or break you.

So anyway, where I come down on it is yes keep a journal and record your life and thoughts and what you are reading and impressions of characters you meet and all the rest, but remember it is exercise. Be committed to consistency, but it's small potatoes if you aren't a daily adherent.

I bring this up because I just read today's Writer's Almanac--a great thing to get in your email and contribute to--and one of the stories discussed a writer who places a lot of importance on journaling. I agree with what the writer says. A journal is a good practice and should be about thoughts and insights and ideas and so on about people, life, writing, and so on rather than simply a diary of events.

But I also think we shouldn't beat ourselves up if we are consistently inconsistent with the daily practice.