Journals and Diaries – Building a writing habit


As a kid I remember wanting a diary. The little book with a lock and key. I was told this was a place I could write all my secrets and tell all my stories. My older sister had one and I wanted one too.

It seemed like years before I had my very own diary. I am guessing I got one so I would quit trying to open my sisters. I have to be honest here my interest in this small book was more about the lock and key then the book itself.

Once I had this book in hand and I had spent lots of time locking and unlocking it I sat down to write. Well, I tried. I could think of no secrets to share with my diary. I had stories to tell but writing them was so hard. I was a student who struggled with words, spelling and grammar. (The word dyslexia might have been a good description of me then.)

I carried my diary everywhere but put little in it. I told stories to my Mother and she always said go write them down. I never did. It was a task to large to hard to do. As I grew older I left my little book in the drawer with a few odd sentences in it.

As an adult I start a Journal – now just a notebook where I could write my thoughts. I bought lots of them – different colors, lines and no lines, different sizes using different colored pens. I have tons of them on my book shelf. Some have lots of writing in them – others not so much. There was no habit of writing.

Now I am in my 60’s. I wish I could have focused and filled all those journals. I have stories and bits of stories in so many of them. I have lost track of events, people and thoughts because I didn’t write them down. I am famous for the line “oh this was so important or fun I will remember it!”   You know how that goes.

images-2So now I am on to a new adventure in diaries. I am using One Note on my computer to write just that – one note a day. My new goal is to write each day just one or two things that went on. No big stories, no secrets just happenings of the day – they do not need to be events that need to be remembered. This is about building a habit of writing daily. Just one sentence!

Somewhere long ago I needed support to build that habit of daily writing. My jumping from activity to activity, book to book, and story to story did not serve me well. So now I am taking it one step at a time – one or two sentences at a time.

This is something I wish my teachers had helped me with and I share it now as we think about our writing workshop in the classrooms this fall. What can we do as teachers to help support that daily observation and writing? Maybe students could write just a sentence or two at the end of the day or the beginning of the day?

I write my blog posts (now on Monday and Tuesday), and I am working on a novel but I can’t seem to write the little daily observations. I wonder how much farther I would be in my novel writing if I had found the support to hold me to writing what I saw or did each day. The building of a writing habit is so important.

I am working on the one sentence a day idea – on my computer when I check my e-mail each morning. I am hooking my new habit of writing to an old habit of checking my e-mail. I am putting down one sentence about what happened yesterday. It is one sentence – not a story – just one observation from the day. Building a habit takes time and so linking it with an activity that I already do can support me as I build this new one.

Have you thought about how you built your writing habit? Do you have a writing habit? How do you help students build their own daily writing habit?



About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, care for my Grandson and write. Life is good!
This entry was posted in Reflection, writing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Journals and Diaries – Building a writing habit

  1. arjeha says:

    One sentence a day…I like that. It is doable. Besides, who knows what those one sentences may turn in to?

  2. I would like to develop a daily writing habit, too. I have been good about blogging every Tuesday, but other writing is a struggle. I admire your solution. Best wishes for continued writing!

  3. Linda Baie says:

    I’ve kept a diary, then journal for many years, Joanne, still have a few of the earlier ones, & yes, one brown one with a lock & key. There isn’t much in that one, but I like having it. I have an old diary of my husband’s great Aunt Jo’s, one of those five year diaries where she wrote a bit each day, the weather, much about canning, & visiting or visitors. It reminds me of your one line each day. I’ve loved reading hers, think you will gain much by this new habit.

  4. Love these ideas: What can we do as teachers to help support that daily observation and writing? Maybe students could write just a sentence or two at the end of the day or the beginning of the day?
    I may have to share those with some of the teachers I work with. Writing is a habit, and we don’t always realize that as with many things, the more we do it, the easier it becomes. Great post!

  5. Amy Warntz says:

    I think you have a great plan here, Joanne! I started my blog in 2012 but it only posted on and off again. I really didn’t start my journaling until 2014. I’m glad I did though and I’m glad to have this writing community that is here when I am ready to publish. Happy writing! ~Amy

  6. Tara Smith says:

    Jennifer Laffin’s SOL echoed some of your thinking, too. Writing comes down to habit and discipline, I believe – and if we live this, and know this, we can help our kids become writers, too.

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