How I Use Scrivener for Journaling

Despite the "dear diary" image the word journaling may conjure, it's an extremely beneficial tool and process. It's something I have been doing with Scrivener for years.

Travel writers keep a journal of the places they visit, sites they see, people they meet. Scientists keep a journal a of their experiments, the results, and discoveries. Why not do the same thing for the journey of life?

The "journal" can take many forms and isn't always written.

Some people meditate to clear their minds or to focus on specific ideas.
Some use yoga for the same purpose.
Others listen to music and step away from tasks and chores for an hour. This allows their mind to explore and wander to new ideas.
Others take time to write gratitude and affirmations.
Some keep track of goals, activities, or events.

For me the journal and the process of writing in it serves several purposes.

At times it's a way to warm up for article writing.
If I need to focus on a topic, I write down extraneous ideas so I don't forget them.
It's a way to brainstorm. To write down everything that comes to mind about a topic to see how they fit together.
Other times it's a chronicle of the next steps I need to take in a project.
On most days it's a reflection of events, feelings, good ideas, opportunities to do better, and a general clearing house.

Because of the way Scrivener works, it's the perfect vehicle for this type of writing. As mentioned before, I have a folder for each month of the year. In each folder is a file for each day of the month I write something. And within that file is anything and everything I think is important at the time.

It's a free flow of ideas, thoughts, feelings, projects, and anything that springs to mind. Any idea that comes to mind is jotted down. There is no spell checking, no grammar checking, no revising, no deleting, no stopping to go "That's a stupid idea." The goal is to write down as much as possible as fast as possible.

Going through this process on a daily basis for several years has taught me many things. Using this "quiet time" I'm able to write down and chain together dozens of ideas in ways that still surprises me. Ideas flow together without me realizing. I see common threads and themes.

For example, I keep writing about Idea X, so maybe I should act on that. Or after writing about a certain topic, another one springs to mind and they are related in a way that didn't seem obvious to me before. I was able to add links to the chain in a natural and organic way.

If the same frustration keep rearing it's head, I need to figure out how to deal with it. What's at the root of that frustration? What's at the root of that action that generates the reaction?

When thinking about an article topic, many new ideas spring out. In many cases what appeared to be a somewhat bland topic, reveals itself to be far more complex with lots of avenues to explore.

What I have learned is that when you allow yourself to express whatever ideas you have without trying to justify them, all sorts of things take root.

For example, what's wrong with writing down anything and everything related to a business idea you have. You're not trying to convince anyone. You're not asking for money. You're writing down how awesome the idea is, your expectations, where you believe it will lead, how things will turn out, how you feel about those outcomes.

Same goes for a story idea. You're not trying to sell the idea. You're not trying to publish anything. You're mapping out how great those characters are and how fantastic this adventure is going to be. Let the stream of consciousness whisk you along and see where it goes.

Additionally, no one has to ever hear or criticize these ideas. Others aren't privy to hear what you're grateful for unless that's your choice. No one needs to see your life affirmations unless you share them.

Two years ago, I found a list of "writing prompts." Fifty two in fact, one for each week of the year. The goal was to take the prompt and write whatever came to mind. There was no "right" nor did you need to stick to the topic. It was an exercise to get you thinking and writing. I put those in Scrivener, each prompt in a document, and filled them out on Sunday. Some were serious, some were for fun. But, by sitting down and writing down whatever came to mind, without trying to think too hard about it, correct mistakes, or even try to stay on task, not only did I enjoy those topics, I noted all sorts of interest ideas. It was a fantastic learning period. Writing about someone who had a positive influence on me was very engaging.

Yes, it does feel a little awkward when you first get started, staring at that blank screen not knowing where to begin. You may have to start with, "Today I did …" Or use a fun writing prompt. You may have to write a few thousand words of junk until you get comfortable with the process. However, with practice, ideas will literally leap to the fore. They will connect without you trying. You will have more to write about than you have time.

Yet another advantage is an "inventory" of the year. As we ended 2020, I'm sure people were taking stock of what they did and what they wanted to do.

"2020 was so shitty because of Covid! There was nothing good about that year!"

True, but I disagree as well.

I wouldn't be surprised if many people had to think long and hard about what they did throughout the year. What good things did they do? What goals did they check off the list? What did they accomplish despite the adversities? What should they look to do for 2021?

With a journal, those questions can be easy to answer. Keep a list of goals, Check those off. Write about the things you want to do. Write about the things you want to learn. Write down all the great things you did. Write down all the things you plan to change. Write down how you expect 2021 to play out. As we know, all the world's a stage. Make it your story.

There are a myriad of journal apps to choose from. The biggest thing people are looking for is a way to protect those thoughts and ideas. As mentioned, I use Scrivener with a password protected DMG file. No need to use a specific app or document format. Everything in the volume is protected. This has served me well for 5 years.

Whichever route you take, I find the journal invaluable. It's fun, educational, motivational, inspirational, and extremely satisfying. Regardless of platform, regardless of tool, take the time to write. Write down goals, thoughts, ideas, aspirations. In many cases, you'll see the plan develop and you can follow it to fruition.


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