How to Improve Writing Skills through Journaling


From the time I started writing regularly at age 11, I learned how to improve my writing skills through journaling. Notebooks were as much of a sanctuary to me as my yoga mat, or the old church in my grandmother’s Northern Italian village, or the warm arms of loved ones... Each open page offered sacred space to process whatever passed through my mind, body, and soul. The more I journaled, the more I could see what ideas, beliefs, and stories impacted me the most.

Eventually, journal writing helped me build a bridge between what mattered to me and what mattered to others. Journaling evolved into a tool to make an impact on my audience through my words. And, in my journal writing blog series that follows, you’ll learn how journaling can support you in creating the impact you long to make by sharpening your writing skills.

First, I’d like to teach you my Spill-See-Shape method. This method can help you cultivate the mental clarity and focus you need to write your most impactful content. Try adding it to your journaling practice. My clients also find it to be a helpful brainstorming tool for their writing in general.

Spill-See-Shape: How to Improve Writing Skills by Gaining Clarity & Focus

Spill-See-Shape is a three-step process. First, you spill whatever comes to you onto the page. Second, you’ll see patterns in your ideas, beliefs, and stories. And, third, you’ll shape your writing around the core phrases you find in your writing. With practice, this Spill-See-Shape process will show you how to improve your writing skills by helping you clarify the focus of your writing. 

  • Spill: First, give yourself at least 15 minutes to just put pen to paper and write using the prompt: What am I called to write today?

  • See: Underline or highlight any repeated or related ideas, beliefs, and stories that arise. (If your ideas feel random at first, that’s OK. You can skip this step and keep writing until patterns emerge organically in your content.)

  • Shape: Choose one to three phrases from what you wrote that impact you the most. Record on a separate sheet of paper. Elaborate under each of these phrases on why that particular phrase resonates with you.

Once you feel you’re clear about the ideas, beliefs, and stories that resonate with you, you can focus on which aspects of them matter the most to you.

Keep expanding on one of the phrases you wrote down in the Shape step until you feel you’ve said all you can say about it. Then, ask yourself the questions that follow to hone your focus.

  • Do you notice yourself going off on unrelated tangents as you write? If your answer is yes, see whether your tangents lead you to stronger ideas that you could focus on instead. Or, if these tangential ideas don’t resonate as much as your original topic, return your attention to that topic and ask yourself the questions below to refocus your writing.

  • Are you seeing stories, quotes, or other data that could help you connect your ideas to your key point? Even if your answer isn’t immediately clear, write freely on a story, quote, or data related to your key point, until you feel you feel you have fleshed it out. Mark which parts of this content support your main idea the most.

  • Where could you use visual aids to support your journaling process? I sometimes write freely on a whiteboard at first so I have lots of space to link ideas visually with arrows, bullets, numbered lists, headings, and pictures. This also makes it easier to erase ideas that don’t relate. Once my main ideas and supporting details feel clear, I’ll record them in my journal.   

How to implement: Explore each of the three bullet points above on its own and add more at your own pace as you work with Spill-See-Shape. Briefly jot down in your journal how these tips improve or don’t improve your writing, and write what you would do differently during your next journaling session.  

If you find yourself drawing a blank when you put pen to paper, download my FREE 10 Journal Prompts for Authentic, Powerful Writing below. Or, consider signing up for my FREE online How to Slay Writer’s Block course or cheat sheet.

10 Journal Prompts for Authentic, Powerful Writing