(This week we are pleased to feature a guest blog from author Shelli Johnson about her favorite writing advice.  Read and enjoy. And, if you have a mind to, click on the title to pick up a copy of her book, SMALL AS A MUSTARD SEED in the Kindle store.)


“Write without editing for 15 minutes every day in your journal. It will change your life.”


Katherine Black, poet & creative writing professor


Writing steam of consciousness ~ whatever comes to mind, zero editing or judgment ~ lets you open up your mind. It lessens fear of the blank page and the worry of measuring up. It eases perfectionism. It allows you to tap into the subconscious where, IMO, all good stories come from. It allows you to make connections on the page that you might not have thought of but your subconscious knew were there. You don’t show this journal work to others; this is strictly for you. That way there’s no pressure; there’s just simply you writing.

Shelli Johnson, author
Shelli Johnson, author



Doing this was really a revelatory act for me. Not only did I learn to loosen up and let myself play on the page but also I learned things about myself that I hadn’t known at all: things about my own process, things I believed were true, judgments I was making, the vision I had for my life, and how I needed to learn to trust myself and the story for starters.

The trick, though, is that you must write whatever comes to mind, stream of consciousness, without editing it or judging it at all. At first it was awkward, and sometimes I wrote over and over I don’t know what to say. But eventually out of that came what I did want to say. It turns out I had a LOT to say and didn’t even realize it. That was a gift of this exercise, too ~ finding my own voice.

Sometimes during that 15 minutes I talk to myself on the page. Sometimes I chat with characters in my book or think of witty things I should’ve said or finish a still-open argument. Often I write bits of stories or blog-post ideas or opinions I have. Sometimes I work on entire chapters, figuring out how they fit into the grand scheme of my novel.

Even if it’s unfamiliar and strange to you, stick with it. Like most things, the more you practice at it, the better and easier it gets. If you write whatever comes to you for 15 minutes every day, if you guard that time as if it’s precious (meaning you don’t make excuses and skip it), if you let your subconscious come out and lead you, it truly will change your life.


Shelli Johnson worked as a sports journalist and an editor for many years before finally following her passion and pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing. Publishers Weekly called her award-winning novel, Small as a Mustard Seed, “an intense & heartbreaking story of the fallout of war.” It’s available now as an ebook.


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  • Caleb Pirtle

    Shelli Johnson may be young, but her talent is as immense as her advice is valuable and rewarding.

    • Shelli Johnson

      Hi Caleb! Thank you so much for the fabulous compliment. Made me smile. 🙂 Cheers!

  • Shelli Johnson

    Hi Stephen! Thank you so much for having me on your blog today. Cheers!

  • I love this article. I often talk to coaching clients and friends about the benefits of journaling, including the health benefits that have been scientifically documented by the American Medical Association. (symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis asthma decrease with 20 mins journaling/day).
    Thank you, Shelli, for sharing this! Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for my 15 mins 🙂

    • Shelli Johnson

      Hi Taslim! Thanks for the compliment. You know, I didn’t know about the health benefits but that doesn’t surprise me at all. Thanks for sharing them; just another reason to schedule in some journal-writing time. 🙂

  • Maryann

    Terrific advice. I have been an on-again off-again journaler (no such word according to spell-check LOL) – and see I should probably get back into the habit. I, too, spent a lot of time writing, “I don’t know what to write.” Thanks for the nudge, Shelli.

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