One of the most common bits of advice given to writers of any kind is to keep a journal. Getting in this habit is supposed to help us keep a routine of writing regardless of what else is happening, hone our observational skills and act as a way to let thoughts flow and so on. It’s a good idea and one that likely works for many people.
I’ve never been able to do it, at least not in the way that most of those dispensing the advice seem to mean.
My past is filled with wonderful looking notebooks – and even Google Doc files or Evernote documents – that were created with the specific intent of being a journal. I set out saying “I’m going to take 10 minutes each day and just make this happen. I’m going to write about X and I’m going to capture my thoughts and do it.” Three entries later they’ve been abandoned like a burning Crown Victoria on the side of a rural highway.
The problem for me, it seems, is that this structure just isn’t how my brain works. If I start a “journal” it will fall by the wayside. It just will.
As I read the latest piece encouraging, in this case, freelance writers to get in the daily journaling habit I realized that there was a dogmatic approach to the thinking behind the advice being offered. If I simply pushed that to the side, then I was absolutely doing what they and so many others had suggested.
It’s called “blogging.”
Let me state first that I’ve never much liked the term “blogging.” It was used first to draw a clear line between what people were doing with nascent self-publishing platforms in the early 2000s from the journalistic writing professionals who had made it through the gatekeepers of the media industry were engaging in. So it was useful at first, but it soon became a dismissive, slightly derogatory term used by those professionals to cast the format in a light that let them not take it seriously. “Blog writing” has always seemed better to me since it better described what was being done and where it was happening.
That being said, blog writing *is* and was initially meant to be a form of public journaling. Before it became a business model and first- and second-wave blog writers/editors launched media empires, blog writing was simply sharing your thoughts and opinions out loud. Sometimes those were professionally-oriented, sometimes they were more personal.
Think about the “mommy blogger” category as an example. At first those women started blogs to chronicle their experiences and frustrations with parenting and find comfort and support from others in the same boat. They were journals from women who wanted to share what they were going through with the world, either just to vent and release the words out into the world or to provide help for those seeking it.
Only later did it – and other categories – turn into a haven of “influencer marketing” filled with product recommendations resulting from agency/company outreach and paid campaigns.
Blog writing for many (including myself) is still a form of journaling, though. I may occasionally weigh in on something more news-oriented or share an industry-specific opinion or story, but even that is keeping a journal. Writing, for me, is therapy, just the kind of thing that journaling is always held up to be.
If you’re a writer who sees that same kind of advice frequently offered by those seeking to be helpful, don’t feel bad if you’re not keeping the perfect Moleskine journal each day. Look at what you *are* doing and see if there’s something that fits the intent of the advice even if the format or style is slightly different. Odds are good there’s something that fits the bill.