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I have a confession to make:

Even though I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and even though I’ve written about the benefits of this particular tool in the past, for many years now I have largely ignored my own advice.

It’s a writing tool suitable for everyone, regardless of skill. It takes very little investment of time or money. It’s readily available and portable.

If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m talking about the humble journal.

And now you’re thinking, “Um . . . duh.” But bear with me.

By “journal,” what I don’t mean is Dear Diary, Today I met the dreamiest of boys!

A journal, yes, can reflect on life events, but it can also reflect on a book we’re reading or on a spiritual conviction. It can be as unstructured as free-writing to a prompt, as structured as a to-do list, as creative as a poem, or as mixed-up as a combination of any of these things.

Really, a journal can be anything you want it to be.

While I’ve always kept a computer file with story ideas and snippets of writing that come to me in moments of inspiration, I haven’t kept a journal, as such, since high school.

Misconceptions about Keeping a Journal

Using a journal may be the most obvious writing advice ever, because it’s usually the first writing advice we receive.

But it’s precisely because this is such a simple and often-recommended strategy that we erroneously perceive the journal to be a beginner’s tool. We see our kids keeping journals at school as part of the curriculum, and we think we’re above it, or that it’s boring because we, ourselves, were forced to do it in school. We’ve so often been taught that reflection and practice are good for us, maybe we’ve just stopped listening. And maybe that’s because we see these things as a duty rather than a delight. click to continue reading >>


5 Reasons to Attend a Writers’ Conference

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Kat Gonso, our fiction director at Compose | A Journal of Simply Good Writing, recently wrote an article called Why You Should Go to a Writers’ Conference … Now. This is a topic I know you’ll appreciate, so here’s a little clip: For years, I talked myself out of attending a writers’ conference. I’m not good enough. What if […]

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Stash, Trash or Refresh: The Ultimate Guide to Dealing with Boring In-Between Story Parts

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Today’s post is written by Alex Limberg. In a thrilling murder mystery, your detective has just found out that the villain and his partner in crime will be meeting in the abandoned slaughterhouse. The scene before and the scene after are packed with suspense. But how does your protagonist pass the two days until the […]

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Here’s the Type of Hate Mail Bloggers Get …

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Over several years of blogging, I’ve received some interesting letters from people. And by interesting I mean rude. These are not written to offer friendly constructive criticism or to politely disagree with me. They’re written to get a reaction, but I usually have neither the time nor inclination to give these people what they want. The following letter, for example, arrived […]

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The Duolingo Guide to Writing Productivity

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One thing I love about Canada is the opportunity for my children to receive a free bilingual education through the French Immersion program available at many public schools. Some say, “You’ll never use French unless you want to work for the government or be a French teacher,” but actually, I’m not worried about whether my kids use their French […]

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Literary Journal Seeks “Features Editor” & “Fiction Director”

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UPDATE: Please note that both of these positions have now been filled.  Many of you know I’m the managing editor of an online literary magazine that has taken off quite nicely over the past couple of years. Well, our team at Compose Journal has a couple of exciting opportunities available at the moment: we’re looking for a features […]

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