Should Freelance Writers Keep a Journal?

Jenn Greenleaf
Dec 10, 2018 · 5 min read
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Should Freelance Writers Keep a Journal? by Jenn Greenleaf

I’ve been an avid journaler for years. I fill thick hardback journals, several of them, annually. In recent years, I’ve done this less. Life and stress have gotten in the way and, to be honest, I’ve seen how it’s taken a toll on my creative work. Therefore, it begs the question, “should freelance writers keep a journal?” In my opinion, the answer is always, “yes.” I’ll explain.

I use several notebooks and journals:

· Personal Journal
· Two tracking notebooks for pitches
· Brainstorming notebook for this publication
· Brainstorming notebook for the coaching classes I’m launching the first of the year
· Planning diary
· Art journal

My art journal is rarely used now. It was part of my regular rotation, but now it’s left unopen most of the time. I want to change that during the New Year. The rest of the journals, diaries, and notebooks are essential daily, though. They help me stay organized, on-task and maintain mental agility. Let’s talk about why.

Why Should Freelance Writers Keep a Journal?

In recent years, stress and emotions have taken a toll on my work. I’ve gotten a considerable amount of work accomplished despite those realities, though. Stress and trauma can be incredibly isolating, though. While I had a great support system and was tracking everything that was occurring with updates on social media, I still needed a release.

Here’s the backstory:

My husband was hospitalized with hemorrhagic pancreas for nearly ninety days. He was put into a medically induced coma during that stay, coded once and, the second time he was about to die, they rushed him into emergency surgery. When he returned home, he received nursing care periodically and around the clock care from me.

All of this began May 22, 2017, and he’s still in recovery. His last surgery was May 16, 2018, and he’s still having complications from that. While he’s been released from his doctor and has no restrictions, he suffers. He looks good, but can’t stand up straight.

During his initial hospital stay, he lost a lot of weight, and he’s put all of that back on. So, when people see him, they think he’s better. However, after undergoing almost twenty surgeries, he’s suffering. It’s a lot for us to handle, but few understand. We persevere because our ultimate goal is to achieve, “normal.” He wants to work every day, and that’s what he does for at least four hours.

Having a release helps. When turning to social media or others to talk doesn’t seem like a resource, open your journal or a blank document in your word processor and writer. That’s the beauty of a journal. It doesn’t have to a conventional “diary.” You can write it in anything you want.

How Does Journaling Help with a Career?

· Daily writing: You’re writing daily, even if no one ever reads it. Words are “happening” somewhere on paper or in a document.

· Ranting: If you need to rant, be it in a letter or stream of conscious writing, you can do it in your journal without anyone getting hurt. Under some circumstances, this act can produce real feelings of closure.

· Releasing: During extreme times of stress, venting that tension in your journal is a great way to release so you can move on with your day or close your day (depending on when you’re writing).

Even if nothing is bothering you, a journal is an excellent tool. Each time you have an idea, open your journal and write it down. When you’re working on an article, blog post, or project and another idea creeps in, use your journal to keep track of other ideas as they happen.

Whenever you begin feeling distractions during your workday, use your journal to help combat them. Write about those distractions for a few minutes, and then you can dive into them later that day.

The Beauty of the Bullet Journal

Bullet journals help move what’s in your brain to paper. It’s that simple. You can use them to write out:

· Checklists
· Creative ideas
· Impulsive (spur-of-the-moment) ideas
· Random thoughts
· Notes

There are no two bullet journals that look the same. Everyone has a unique way of approaching how they create one that works for them. Begin by creating a key and an index. Reserving several pages for this is ideal. When creating your key, use color and symbols and what each represents. There are no rules on how to do this.

Number each of your pages for reference. Then, create a daily diary or monthly plan. Each time you develop a new page, add it to your index so you can find it later. It’s as simple as that. There are many blog posts, articles, and videos outlining how to create bullet journals in greater detail than what I’ve just done here. I bring up the bullet journal because some prefer this method of keeping a journal in comparison to a traditional diary or notebook.

What Should be in a Freelance Writing Journal?

There are many other things, aside from stress-related topics, that could be in a freelance writing journal. How you approach your journal is entirely up to your freelance writing goals. For example, if you want to write for a blog or create one, you could write out your strategies. Here are some ideas:

Create an overview for your blog including your mission, the readers you would like to target, and the main topics you intend to cover.

· The goals you have for 2019.
· Strategies you have for social media.
· Trackers you intend to use for email subscribers, income, traffic, and so on.
· Affiliate programs you’re considering.
· The competition you’re analyzing.
· Potential revenue streams.
· A master task list of more significant things that you need to do.
· A list of things that need to be done each time a blog post goes live.
· Ideas for blog post series.
· One-off blog post ideas.
· What you intend to use for an SEO tracker.
· How you intend to audit your content.
· What are your goals for the next six months?
· Plans per month.
· Editorial calendars per month.
· Plans per week.
· Plans for individual posts to include outlines and lists of sources.

How You Keep a Journal is Up to You

Ultimately, whether or not you keep a journal or not is up to you. Some writers feel it’s a waste of time. When others are asked, “should freelance writers keep a journal,” they think it’s an invaluable tool. The notebooks many writers use can be considered a journal. They just don’t refer to them as such. It’s a matter of labeling, and that’s fine.

Working Freelance Writer

Do you have what it takes to be a working freelance writer?

Jenn Greenleaf

Written by

Jenn Greenleaf is a freelance writer hailing from the great state of Maine. Check out her work at

Working Freelance Writer

Do you have what it takes to be a working freelance writer? Here are some tips.

Jenn Greenleaf

Written by

Jenn Greenleaf is a freelance writer hailing from the great state of Maine. Check out her work at

Working Freelance Writer

Do you have what it takes to be a working freelance writer? Here are some tips.

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