Valuable Tools: Old-fashioned Journaling

Journal? I grumbled. Me?

I was stuck. My subplots were knots where I needed lines. But how could I get going again? An answer haunted my mind: Journal! That familiar tool? How about a magic wand instead?

Of course, I knew journaling’s benefits. Writing theorist Peter Elbow has long promoted prewriting exercises like brainstorming or listing. These approaches do for us what we, from northern climates, do to our car on a winter’s day: we run the engine while in park. And though our car only sits in one place in those few moments, something important happens.

Another expert, Dr. James Pennebaker, cites research that connects physical health with expressive writing, i.e. journaling. And creativity guru Julia Cameron compares morning pages—again journaling—to a spiritual alignment.

Me journal? For figuring subplots? I eyed my resistance. “You should journal every day,” a voice said. Fingers had wagged at me over journaling, and now shame cooled my desire.


I overrode my resistance, though, and reached for a pen. I dug out my long-neglected notebook and wrote one paragraph.

Something within me loosened. An idea arrived and brought along an idea’s best friend, energy. The knot slipped loose. I opened my manuscript document and wrote.

Excerpted from Creative Juices: A Splash of Story Craft, Process & Creative Soul Care (2019)