When backing up my computer earlier this month I browsed through old files on my external hard drive. I found my journals from college and some from when I first moved to North Carolina. There is SO MUCH there. Feels like a shame for all of those thoughts and stories to simply lay stale gathering digital dust, so let’s explore a few ways other journal-toting writers may be able to earn money from their entries.
Many writers rely on their personal process journals to release tension, document life events, and capture moments and memories for the future. But few realize the potential of their journals to advance their writing careers:
- Your niche. The ritualistic process of journaling often becomes a life-long routine for writers. What may also become routine are the themes one writes about. Are thoughts about career direction, abuse, family? What stories surface in your journal over and over? Take a step back and look at your journal for a theme or two. You might find an area that you want to dedicate other areas of your writing time to. Perhaps building a blog or forum related to one of your themes.
- Your blog or website. If you develop a blog or other digital property surrounding your interests, an editor may come across it and invite you to write for their magazine. You might get invitations to press/media events that attract bloggers. Many brands build connections with bloggers and offer complimentary products/services for review.
- Your memoir. Personal journals are a perfect mine for memoir material. Emotions, characters, events – they are all there. Many memoirs begin as journal pages. If you already have a journal, read back with an eye for detail, metaphor, and scene. If you’re starting new, stay alert to fresh experiences that offer retrospection and could end up as present-day insights in your memoir. Write them from a place of discovery, focusing particularly on images, metaphors, and meaning.
- Your health. Mention ‘healthcare costs’ and any American immediately sees a long string of dollar signs. Illnesses can develop if we don’t take care of ourselves. Whether or not you have health insurance as a writer, treatments could be costly, plus sick time means less time for writing and that time might not be as focused. According to a piece on PyschCentral, psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin James Pennbaker found “that regular journaling strengthens immune cells.” Many other scientific studies are out there that demonstrate that writing about life experiences in a purposeful way carries health and mental health benefits, relieving stress and anxiety and offering a clear perspective on one’s life. When you dump your cares and worries in your journal, you’re contributing to a healthier, more balanced self—and writing from that place can, in turn, contribute to becoming a healthier writer with longevity and focus.
- Your voice. Your journals might tap into experiences that work well on the printed page and also verbally. Conferences, organizations, and schools all need speakers. Learn about what to charge as a speaking fee. Seek out those that focus on the themes you write about and share your stories with the inflection and cadence words on the printed page can’t convey.
Whether you use a journal to harvest snippets that can be turned into scenes or essays, or as a stress-melting, health-building mental and emotional massage—your journal is a wise and willing companion on the road to your writing success. In a few months I am heading to Long Island to clear out my hard copy personal journals from my parents’ attic as they prepare their move to Savannah, Georgia. Will be interesting to see what old stories surface from the dust there!