Is Journaling as a Freelancer a Tool or a Waste of Time?

How many times have you sat down to write and just stared at a blank screen?

You are overly worried that whatever you write needs to be perfect, or you’ve run out of ideas, or your mind is simply too full to sort out anything worth putting into a blog post or article.

Is Journaling as a Freelancer a Tool or a Waste of Time?

What freelance writer does not have stress in their life?! Journaling can help to point out negative thought patterns.

Or maybe you’re filled with self-doubt today as you stare at that blank screen.

You’ve received yet another rejection, you feel like your work is crap and wonder why are you wasting your time on this dream that will never come true.

Enter journaling.

What is Journaling?

By definition, journaling is a daily record, as of occurrences, experiences, or observations.

Journaling is recording your thoughts or feelings in an effort to get to know yourself better. By daily dumping your thoughts onto a blank page, you begin to notice what stands out. You begin to understand what makes you happy, what makes you angry, what motivates you to action.

Benefits of Journaling

Journaling can help you to manage anxiety, cope with depression, deal with problems and fears, to name only a few benefits. Whatever you may be struggling with, it helps to get it out of your head and onto the page.

This activity allows you to let it go and be a bit more objective about the problems you’re wrestling with. You can look for the triggers for your fears and then learn to avoid or eliminate those triggers.

I wrote a post on my own blog about how journaling can reduce stress in your life. And what freelance writer does not have stress in their life?!

Journaling also can help to point out negative thought patterns.

Your thoughts become more clear and the real you begins to come out. You start to discover when your thoughts may be going astray.  When you allow the negativity to spiral your thoughts into a deep black hole, you make bad choices.

And you experience writer’s block. Writing down your thoughts lets you look at the pattern and reverse it with countering positive phrases.

But isn’t Journaling Just Wasting Time that I Could be Using to Finish the Next Project?

Sure, you could be facing a deadline and need to spend your time getting the actual paying work done.

And the temptation to just write in your journal so you don’t have to put yourself out there only to be rejected again can be very tempting. It’s like doing something just for fun instead of the hard work of freelance writing.

And even if you spend only 15 minutes per day journaling, that would amount to an hour and 45 minutes per week spent on a possibly trivial pursuit.

You could watch a good movie & get inspired in that time instead of producing no tangible return on your investment. You could be getting a really good start on that query letter that’s been hanging over your head instead of just playing around.

So Why Should I Journal?

Journaling is a part of a writer’s self-care.

It should be a part of your personal daily routine – just like brushing your teeth or getting dressed – then it won’t be cutting into your professional time.

In this regard, it is a valuable tool and not a waste of time.

If you’re like me, “imposter syndrome” frequently creeps into your writing time.

Journal writing helps to keep those negative thoughts at bay. This is a good place to include inspirational quotes when you’re feeling like a fraud,  reminding yourself that you belong in the community of writers even when you receive criticism for your work or get that latest rejection email.

Jot these quotes down in the margin next to your negativity to give yourself validation.

How to Start Journaling

How do you start writing a journal?

Get some paper and something to write with. Start writing whatever comes into your head.

OK. That may be a bit over-simplified, but that’s the basics of keeping a journal.

Your journal writing of thoughts can be in a spiral or loose-leaf notebook, college ruled or standard, big or small, plain or fancy, guided, or free-form.

If you like order, there are journals out there that allow you to basically fill in the blanks each day. If you’re more of a free spirit, choose one with blank pages. This is YOUR space, so get creative!

You can use an app or word processor if that’s where you’re most comfortable. But psychologists tell us that by writing things out by hand, we force our brain to engage in the activity.

Remember as you write that your journal is your private thoughts.

No one will see it but you, so there’s no need to edit as you write. Spelling, punctuation, grammar – none of these count in this space.  Censorship is not necessary.

Just free-write. Write single words. Write Phrases. Doodle. Jump all over the place. No smooth transitions necessary. Just put on paper whatever comes into your mind.

It doesn’t have to flow. It doesn’t have to make sense. But get it out there and let your mind just create. Editing is not allowed when you’re journaling, so don’t even try!

7 Types of  Personal Journals

1. Prayer Journal

Write out your prayers as you say them, if prayer is something you believe in.

Return periodically to make notes about the answer to those prayers. This reminds you of the results and helps to encourage you to keep praying.

2. Reflective Journal

Spend time journal writing about how a specific event or day played itself out. Include your observations, your feelings, your reactions.

This can be helpful if you were fearing a certain situation as it can point out whether you were correct to be afraid or not.

3. Business Success Journal

You can use this type of journal to write out a business plan of action.

As freelance writers/bloggers, we are business owners. So we need a plan.

Leave plenty of space to make notes about what worked out as you planned and what you may need to change next time.

4. Mindfulness Journal

This journal will contain meditative writing.

Examine your feelings and then ask yourself why you feel that way. This can be helpful in getting your thoughts out of your head.

Once you let go of them onto the page, your mind can get back to the business at hand.

You can refer back later if you need to describe this feeling for your readers.

5. Gratitude Journal

What do you have to be grateful for?  Focusing on the positive things can be very uplifting.

You can find websites like Academic Writing Success with some prompts to get you started.  A quick Google search will reveal plenty more if you need them.

6. Writer Journal

This is a good place to corral all of those creative ideas you come up with.

They don’t have to float around and get lost in your head. Or lost on that scrap of paper that floated under the front seat of your car (take your journal with you wherever you go so you can jot those things down when you think of them.).

Then when you’re staring at that blank screen, just pull out your journal to find an idea to run with. You can also note your successes here and celebrate your accomplishments.

7. Travel Journal

This is a great way to document your trips and is especially useful if you are a travel blogger.

You can record everything from planning to budgets (planned and actual) to itineraries. You could also make notes about blog post ideas for later.

The above is by no means an exhaustive list of journal types. It’s just a sampling.

Do I Need Separate Journals for Each of Those Things?

Absolutely not! You can keep everything separate, especially if you’re a person who ascribes to “a place for everything and everything in its place.”

But you can include elements of each of these types of journaling practices in one single journal.

You could do different entry types on different days for each of your personal journals. Maybe you do Mindfulness Monday entries, Travel Tuesdays, Writing Wednesdays, etc. Or just decide each day what you feel like writing.

So is Journaling a Useful Tool or a Waste of Time?

Journaling can be very useful to a freelancer. It helps keep your mind clear to experience the adventure in front of you. It reduces stress.

And it can help you work through whatever’s causing that writer’s block and keeping that screen blank when you sit down to write.

Which type of journaling do you use to keep yourself moving forward?

Let me know in the comments below.

Deb is a writer and questioner, a fan of penguins, music & books. She is an overplanning, often anxious, lover of travel and of history.
When she's not composing at her computer, you'll probably find her with a box of tissues and a good romance book or binge-watching a compelling series on Netflix. Learn more at debkylewrites.com

Leave a Reply


Deb, Great ideas. Yes, you said it! Journalling is all about self-care. And who needs self-care most? Freelancers have got top billing. My favorite writing tool for self-care is the morning page. It’s a practice of writing three longhand pages first thing in the morning of whatever is in or on your mind. I like to do them because it is like having a clean slate for most of my morning. I’ve heard of a similar technique called brain dump, but my experience is more like brain-spill. And my pages take on a very prayerful tone. I follow that up later with a page of thanks. It literally is one long hand page full of what I am thankful for. This really helps to keep me from comparing or complaining. Well, too much. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Deb. Take care.Reply to Jeff
Thanks, Jeff! I like your practice. I may tweak my routine & as that page of thanks. Sounds like a good reality check. Blessings on you & your work!Reply to Deb