"Josh and Henry, September 2007"

If You Don’t Journal, You Should.

Trying my best not to procrastinate while writing a paper for my Renaissance and Reformation class, I am ashamed to admit that I am … procrastinating. But don’t get me wrong – I’m actually really excited to be writing about science’s wrangling of scientific authority from the Catholic Church and why it matters, even if I am forced to read excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI’s 1994 book The Turning Point for Europe? The Church in the Modern World. Yet how could I resist sharing the following, which found by accident as I was checking viewer stats for U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan’s pretty awful giraffe?

As some people may know, I have been keeping journals since I was a freshman in high school when I realized that during class I had way too much time on my hands and no outlet to truly express myself. While everyone else was foolishly “reading” “books” I was productively writing my epitaph and all the reasons why I was going to be a better poet/musician than Kurt Cobain.

"Josh and Henry, September 2007"

You can’t say I didn’t try.

And though there have been periods when the whole allure of rambling to oneself has floated away in the streams of the urgency of now, the remarks of “maybe later when I’m not so tired,” journaling is something that I sincerely believe to be the best way to improve one’s writing skills. So I was happy to find a fellow blogger’s article about the 10 Ways Journaling Makes You a Better Writer. Without quoting the entire thing at length, I’ll just list the two that I find most agreeable:

Number 10:It helps develop better writing habits. The more often you make time to put words down, the more often you will make time to put words down. Don’t wait for some Big Project, just sit down with pen and notebook and let fly with the words.

And how could I resist the Outlier (2008) shout out?

Number 6: It brings you closer to perfect. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says that to be an expert at something, you must invest at least 10,000 hours in practice.  The hours you spend journaling count. Start logging pen time today.

3 thoughts on “If You Don’t Journal, You Should.

  1. Kele says:

    Yeah, I plan on writing regularly once I get back home after graduation. I want to devote some regular time daily but I have yet to figure out at what time of day is best – I think setting aside a 2-hour block dedicated to writing every day would be the best way to get into the habit.


    • joshuapreston says:

      A two-hour block is usually pretty good. For me I’ve noticed that when I really get into the journaling mood I can lose upwards to an hour and a half, which just fly by (thus I usually write in the evening). There’s just something so nice about writing with a pen and paper and not a word processor. It’s refreshing!

      To illustrate my appreciation of pen/paper I can only resort to analogy: It’s kind of like the difference between digital and film photography. When it comes to modern cameras everything is digital; it’s erasable; it requires minimal concentration and critical concern for the worst case scenario (that it may be crooked, slightly blurry, etc.). Compare this to the cameras of old when, after paying an arm and a leg to buy a finite amount of film, you had to actually focus and think. If something was off, you were screwed and the mistake was permanent. There was no Ctrl+Z.

      The same applies to writing – when every stroke of the pen is committed to the page, it really makes one plan out ahead of time and is often the source for some of my best writing. Who would have thought that thinking, planning and concentration can be helpful? Oh, you were right all along, English teachers of old.


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