My non-writing friends alert me whenever a magazine they read of having a writing contest.
Usually I don't do anything with it because I find out two weeks before it is due or the previous winning entries are too intimidating.
But this year I'm entering.
I've spent the summer working on my entry. I took a class on writing essays.
But two weeks until the story is due and I was still stuck. I didn't feel like my story was compelling.
So I wrote in my journal. And I did other exercises in my journal trying to figure out what was really important in my story. The exercise I used I learned about in my essay class.
I wrote the things my essay is about on the surface and feelings associated with each of the things until I landed on a feeling I didn't know was there before and it turns out that is what the essay is really about.
I've kept a journal for years. Probably longer than I realize really. They are instrumental in my writing.
What about you? Do you journal? How does it help your writing?