Every person wants to grow as a person, and every writer wants to grow as a writer. Did you know that you can do both at the same time? You can do this through a method I call focus journaling.

Focused journaling is, as the name suggests, a journal with a purpose. It involves asking yourself questions and answering them with total honesty, without filtering your thoughts. When used correctly, focused journaling helps you develop as a person by giving you a safe space to explore what truly matters to you in life. By committing to writing at least one focus journal entry per week, you’ll also build a regular writing habit.

So how do you get started? The first step is to find a notebook to be your focus journal. Pick one that’s nice but not too fancy—I find that when I have an extremely fancy notebook, I don’t want to put anything but the best writing in it, and that mentality isn’t conducive to total honesty. Pocket sized is best so it’s easy to carry when you travel. I like to title these notebooks and include a start date inside the front cover so I know how long it takes me to get through each one.

Your next step is to commit to asking yourself at least one question per week and answering it honestly. This is often easiest if you force yourself to write without stopping to think. Any pause is an opportunity for you to write what you think you’re supposed to write instead of what you’re truly feeling.

Make sure to actually schedule time to write in your focus journal. It might not seem like a big deal, but you’ll be amazed at what you discover when you write in your focus journal regularly. In today’s fast paced society we rarely take the time to sit back and think about what we truly want—we’re too focused on what we should do or what we’re told to do.

Many people don’t even know what they want out of lives, they just know they want change. Because they don’t know what they want, they end up either changing nothing or making changes at random and still ending up miserable. Stop being one of those people. Take some time and space in your focus journal to figure out who you are and what you really want. Even if you know what direction you’d like to take in life, focused journaling can help you figure out how to get there and sometimes unearth passions you never imagined having.

So what questions should you ask for the best effect? Focus on you and your life: what you truly want out of life, what you dislike about your life now, what your strengths are, what you need to work on, etc. To help you get started, I’ve created a list of possible questions, designed for the self-published writer before, during and after the publication process.

Before Self-Publishing

  • How can I give my writing the best chance possible?
  • Who would actually pay to read my book?
  • Who will help me?
  • How much energy and time can I commit to this project?
  • Is this really the best choice for me and my book?

During the Publishing Process

  • Does my book look good?
  • Am I ready to move to the next step?
  • Do I know where/how to market my work?
  • Am I doing the best job possible?
  • Am I willing to pay others to do the parts I can’t? Why or why not?
  • Is this book ready to go out into the world?

After Publication

  • Did I do the best job possible with this book?
  • How can I improve the next book?
  • Do I feel good about the book I put into the world?
  • What have I learned by publishing my book myself?
  • Could I gain something by doing it differently next time?

These are just a few of the questions you can ask in your focus journal. Each is designed to help the self published ensure that they’re on the right path. Your own questions should be designed with those same goals in mind.

To make the most of your focus journal, take some time every month to read through it. Analyze your journal entries and use the information gleaned to create a list of changes you want to make in your life and a plan to make them happen. Writing it down can make you feel better, but unless you act, you’ll never be truly happy.

Visit Dianna L. Gunn at Dianna’s Writing Den.