Why Christian Writers Should Journal
Recently, I was deleting some old files off my computer hard disk. I found a file from 2006 that I didn’t recognize. It was a journal I kept that covered the seven months of my life following a horrific auto accident.
Journaling My Fears and Hopes
I was stopped at a traffic light, and a man driving under the influence of marijuana rammed into the back of my Jeep Cherokee. He did not attempt to brake. The impact turned my Jeep into an accordion front and rear, as he rammed me into the cars, stopped in front of me.
Worse, I had been out shooting a video that afternoon and had my equipment packed in two large, reinforced Pelican cases in the rear. They were strapped down, but the force of the impact sent them flying forward. They both went flying through the windshield, one grazing the side of my head. It could have knocked my head off my spine, but by God’s mercy, I got only a concussion from the glancing blow. I was hospitalized for weeks, my head in a restraining brace.
The driver of the other vehicle, a large Chevy Suburban, had no license or insurance. He had prior drug convictions, and I the county prosecutor asked me to testify. I went twice, but each time they postponed the trial. Later, I discovered the driver made a deal and was sentenced to jail for six months. But he only had to show up on Friday nights, and they released him on Sunday afternoon each week.
Meanwhile, I felt like I had fallen from a six-story building. My cognitive functions failed me, and my body ached. I had doctor appointments and had to deal with my insurance company and get a new car and video equipment.
It was a dark time. Looking back, I could see I was struggling emotionally and spiritually. I asked the age-old questions, “Why me, God? Why all this suffering when I was innocently waiting for a traffic light to turn green?”
How do I remember all this? Not because it stuck in my mind. After all, it happened 15 years ago as I write this. It took me over a year to fully recover, but when I was my old self again, I put the accident and the injustice I felt out of my mind. I remember the details because I kept a journal during that period.
What to Write in Your Journal
What should you write about in your journal? Well, it should be more than the “Dear Diary” experience of your teen years. You want to reflect on all aspects of your life as you presently experience it. That includes:
- Daily events. They may seem ordinary now, but looking back, you can see how God was directing your life even though you were not aware of his hand upon you.
- Relationships. Write about your interactions with people. Sometimes our exchanges are good, sometimes bad. Over time, we can see a pattern develop. We can see how some people encourage us and how others harm us. This helps us be discerning when we meet new people. The direction of our life is often dictated by the friends we choose.
- Feelings. Our feelings are important, and we should record them each day to see the pattern that develops over time. Do circumstances or certain people trigger certain emotions in you? It’s okay to express them. What days and times are you most productive? Knowing that will enhance your writing life.
- Spiritual Development. You want to make a record of your walk with the Lord. That includes the times when you feel distant from him and when you sense he is close and precious. Write down the Bible passages that speak to you on a particular day. Make a note of your prayers and how God answered them. It is always an encouragement to a Christian to be aware of God’s presence, even if it is in the rearview mirror.
You get some benefit by expressing yourself in writing each day. You get the most benefit when you review your journal each three to six months so you can get some perspective on your life. Are you growing as a person and as a Christian? If not, your journal will reveal why you are being blocked.
Of course, your journal should be full of the fun part of your life. You should laugh as you review pages, just as you would when you page through a favorite photo album. You want your journal to reflect the broadest possible spectrum of your life. As a bonus, you’ll discover that your journal is a rich source of material you can use in your writing. After all, journal entries are why you know about my car accident, right?
Consistency is the Key
Christian writers should journal every day. Sadly, I have not followed this advice over the years, and I regret that I didn’t do it. As I look back over the years, I seemed to journal during times of stress. When I review the fragments of journals I have kept at various times, I see the “downs,” but I do not get to remember the “ups” with any clarity. I robbed myself of looking back on the moments of joy in my life by not being consistent in my journaling.
Christian writers can get into the daily journaling groove by writing in their journal for at least 15 minutes before you start your daily writing session. You use your journal to prime your creative pump. That enables you to transition into your writing session easily.
Your journal can be a regular word processing file, and you add the date before you make an entry. Be sure to back up your journal document regularly. Some people like to write in a blank book designed for journaling, and that’s a good option.
We tend to delay journaling. Or worse, we write haphazardly rather than systematically. Ask the Lord to help you become a faithful journalist and reap the present and future blessings of what you write.