When I was getting my degree in performing arts, one of the most challenging things I had to do was keep a learning journal. I had no idea what to write in my learning journal and I fumbled my way through it.

And, true to form of youthful hubris, I didn’t realise until years later how good it was for me to keep that journal at the time. Even when it felt silly and useless back then.

A learning journal is a steadily growing document that you write in order to record the progress of your learning. It isn’t just a summary of the course material, but should also include your personal thoughts and reactions to what you’ve learnt.

In my case, I’m adapting the learning journal to keeping an author journal instead.

The purpose of my author journal is to…

  • Document the work that I’m doing because a lot of the “backstage” work that goes into writing a story is invisible once the finished work is compiled and released to the public. Just like you don’t realise how much goes into making a movie or show, you forget how many stages a book goes through before it lands in the hands of the reader – and I forget all the things I’ve done along the way, so I want to keep a record to prove to myself that I am, in fact, making progress and not just procrastinating the days away.
  • Be a thinking tool to lessen the cognitive load I have to maintain on a daily and weekly basis. Creating worlds, characters, and events out of thin air is a task that takes a huge cognitive load. It can’t be achieved in a short time and it requires the writer to develop her thinking skills as a professional tool, if she ever wants to be any good at it. Writing things down helps me to not use my brain as a storage device (which only hampers thinking).
  • Enhance creativity and critical thinking. When you relate your knowledge and understanding to teh work you do, self-reflection can enhance yourcritical thinking skills. It drives the acquistion of knowledge by increasing the level of cognition and analysis you engage in. Journals help you develop a questioning attitude towards issues, views and problems as well as unlock your creativity – all critical skills in writing.
  • Allow you behind the scenes of all the work I’m doing. As I stated previously, there’s a lot of work that goes into writing stories and publishing books. I want to create transparency into the journey and hopefully have someone else derive some use or enjoyment out of it.
  • Help me organise my ideas. That ever-present problem for a writer is that when you’re in the middle of one project, you get ideas for five more. Being able to cultivate your deep focus means learning how to manage your cognitive load – and that means writing things down so your brain doesn’t have to keep track of all those things.

I also process the things I learn along the way into other blog posts, like developmental notes or writing tips that serve as a way for me to clarify my own learning.

Like other journals that I have kept, this will eventually become both a record of my work and a library that I may reference in the future when I need to refresh my own memory of my own learning.

I don’t know if this is something that authors generally do, but I’ve learned from my decades as a writer that my most valued resource is my cognitive ability to clearly process complex concepts, and journaling is one of the best ways to enable that.