Why I Write Every Day—And You Should Too

February 12, 2013 — 13 Comments

My wife, Heather, discovered the discipline of daily writing while completing a graduate degree in creative writing. A favorite professor urged her to write at least 750 words a day, and Heather enthusiastically gave it a try.

Typing keyboard woman hands

I liked the idea but was skeptical it could work for me. I had my reasons.

I’d been a sporadic journaler for years, beginning in college. I bought a gum-bound writing pad for the purpose and dutifully recorded my thoughts. Over the years I tried everything from spiral-bound school books to hand-crafted leather jorunals. I wrote by hand, and always preferred a fountain pen.

False Starts

Journaling never stuck, however, possibly because I took it too seriously. When using a fancy journal, it felt as if every word were destined for The New Yorker. So if I dind’t have the energy to be creative, I didn’t write.

Also, I was writing only to process my inner life. So if I wasn’t in the mood for introspection, I wrote nothing. And what I did write was so maudlin and melodramatic that it was worthless even to me.

Years later I made another run at journaling using a different technique. I bought an small spiral-bound notebook that I could carry anywhere, and I began use it for everything—my inner thoughts, grocery lists, to-do lists, project ideas, you name it.

It worked for awhile. The little notebooks helped get thoughts out of my head where they could be examined—or ignored. And when I began using the journal for everything, I began to process the world around me, not just my self. It became a valuable tool for creativity and critical thought.

But when I switched the rest my life to an electronic platform—writing, calendar, to-do lists, communication—the journal did not make the jump. I continued to carry a small notebook for awhile, but it fell into disuse.

A New Platform

Enter Heather and her exercise in daily writing. She introduced me to a free electronic platform called 750words.com that has become a valuable daily writing tool.

As the name implies, the site is aimed at the discipline of writing at least 750 words per day. This writing will never be read, never be published, never need be seen again by anyone unless you choose to go back and read it. The sole purpose is to get you writing.

I now use this platform for my discipline of daily writing, and have found it a huge benefit in unexpected ways.

The Payoff

Here are four great reasons to adopt the discipline of daily writing.

1. It gets you writing. Most of the writers I know talk about writing more than they actually do it. If you are a writer, you must write. Daily discipline breaks the dam and gets the words flowing.

2. It is spiritually enriching. Journaling has long been recognized as a personal spiritual discipline, a technique for opening your heart to hear the voice of God. Like solitude, fasting, or silence, free writing is a pathway to self-examination, reflection, and prayer.

3. It is therapeutic. Daily writing is like REM sleep. It is good for your body and mind in ways that aren’t fully understood. It is calming, energizing, restorative. Try it.

4. It boosts productivity. Any good disciple, such as regular exercise or daily prayer, will do the same. When you overcome your internal resistance to doing one thing, you are better able to do other things well.

5. It is a laboratory for ideas. Writing every day gets thoughts out of your head where you can examine them. Good ideas bubble up and you have an opportunity to explore them. Bad ideas look even worse on paper.

Writing every day isn’t something you have to do. It is something you get to do. Try it, and see what a difference it can make in your spiritual and intellectual life.

What is your experience with journaling?

 

Lawrence W. Wilson

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I'm lead pastor at Fall Creek Wesleyan Church and the author of a few books including A Different Kind of Crazy and Why Me? Straight Talk about Suffering. When I have ideas that might help you transform your life and community, I post them here.
Please note that I reserve the right to delete comments that are off topic, disrespectful, or offensive. See my Comments Policy for further detail.
  • http://sukofamily.org/ Caleb

    Recently I set a goal of writing at least 500 words a day. After a while I found 500 was pretty easy so I upped it to 1000. I did OK with that for about 2 weeks and then for some reason I fell off the horse. Now I’m still trying to get back on. Thanks for the link to 750words.com I’m going over there right now to try it out.

    • http://www.lawrencewilson.com/p/about-me.html Lawrence W. Wilson

      I think you’ll like it, Caleb. Let me know how it works out.

  • http://www.jackiebledsoe.com/ jbledsoejr

    I have been an inconsistent journaler over the years. I recently listened to a podcast and/or read a post by Micheal Hyatt, and have started again. The bad part is I realize the importance, and when i do it is enjoyable and VERY therapeutic.

    My challenge has always been keeping track of it for reference later…using Evernote has been my solution to that…now I am working on the solution of consistency. I have journaled twice over the past week, including today. Looking forward to making it a habit I cannot live without.

    • http://www.lawrencewilson.com/p/about-me.html Lawrence W. Wilson

      For me, the consistency came when I set a specific time of day for it.

      • http://www.jackiebledsoe.com/ jbledsoejr

        Thanks Lawrence, I will have to schedule it and block it out in my calendar.

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  • Bev Murrill

    Interesting, thanks Lawrence and Heather. I do try to journal but sometimes it’s a bit more like a diary… I do think I should be writing something more spiritually stunning than I am. However, I’ve found that writing my blog and responding to other people’s blogs probably gets the 750 +

    • http://www.lawrencewilson.com/p/about-me.html Lawrence W. Wilson

      Bev, I think part of the secret to this is just writing anything for 750 words. I sometimes use it for journaling, but as often as not it’s composing email, sermon drafts, or whatever I’ve got to produce that day. Good luck!

  • Bethany Macklin

    I started using “Write or Die” when I started my NaNonWriMo project (which I finished on time–yay!) I checked this out and think it will be better suited for daily writing since it doesn’t require me to write at such a rigorous clip. Thanks for sharing the resource.

    • http://www.lawrencewilson.com/p/about-me.html Lawrence W. Wilson

      Congrats on finishing NaNoWriMo, Bethany. I think you’ll like 750Words. It’s a very friendly format.

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  • Bob Hostetler

    I love this! I’ve journaled for years. In fact, just posted a VERY short post on my “Desperate Pastor” blog today. For me, however, though I’m a full-time professional writer, it’s not about productivity or ideas so much as the “spiritually enriching” part you mention. It has become over the years an integral part of my evening prayer routine, an opportunity to review the day, think things through, pray things over, and put things to bed before I put myself to bed. Oh, and while I have probably twenty years worth of longhand journals, the practice only became fully imbedded in me when I went electronic a couple (few?) years ago. And, though I’ve tried various programs and apps, I’ve found that a simple Pages document (in which I can easily paste photos or graphics) works best for me. Thanks for the post.

    • http://www.lawrencewilson.com/p/about-me.html Lawrence W. Wilson

      Bob, I like your practice too (from your “Desperate Pastor” post). Thanks for sharing that.