Creative journaling is my most loved tool for expressing myself. Even as a child, I would use my diary as a way to get my thoughts out without worrying about what other people thought. Back then, my diary entries were full of childish rants about my teachers not being fair in their grades, my parents being too strict and playground bullying. These days my journaling is much more creative. Yes, I still write long rants, but now those rants end in solutions to problems. And my journal entries are geared towards expressing my emotions and finding ways to deal with them and move past them. Creative journaling allows me to discover new ideas and new ways of moving forward in life.
The thing about journaling that I love the most is the page doesn’t judge. You can write whatever you feel, and no ones’ feelings get hurt. You can be as brutal or as silly as you like. How freeing, right?
Even if you aren’t a writer, have dyslexia or don’t enjoy putting pen to paper, you can use journaling as a way to express your feelings. To sort through your emotions and take care of your mental health.
I’ve written a blogpost about how creative journaling can help keep positive mental health, but in this post, I’m focusing on the different types of creative journaling and how to find one that works for you.
Creative Journaling 101.
This is the creative journaling practice that I use every day to work through my thoughts and give me clarity. Morning pages come from Julia Cameron’s excellent book “The Artists Way.” This is how she defines the practice:
Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*– they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.
This creative journaling practice works for me because it allows my subconscious to release anything it’s holding onto. Because I have no agenda or purpose of creating anything, I’m merely writing anything that comes to mind, I often have those AHA moments. And I often uncover things that I wasn’t consciously aware were bothering me. As a bonus, this practice usually results in some fantastic ideas for my creative work.
How To Make It Work For You
- Before you go to bed, place your journal by your bed.
- As soon as you wake up and have your morning coffee (if you’re like me, nothing happens before that first sip of coffee) begin to write.
- Let whatever thoughts you have flow onto the page. Don’t worry about spelling mistakes, grammar or if it makes sense. Just let it flow.
Try this practice for 10 days and pay attention to how you feel throughout those 10 days.
- Are your thoughts clearer?
- Do your creative juices flow more freely?
- Are you experiencing less anxiety?
- Do answers to your problems seem to come to you more easily?
Bullet Journaling (the official version)
The creator of the bullet journal method, Ryder Carrol, describes this method as a mindfulness exercise disguised as a productivity tool.
The system of bullet journalling allows you to make good use of your time and energy, while the practice of bullet journaling will enable you to be present and check-in with yourself, which is mindfulness in action.
This creative journaling practice promotes clarity of thought, helps you to discover what’s important to you and can bring a sense of calm and purpose to your everyday busy life.
How To Make It Work For You
I find this method of journalling too complicated, but many people swear by it. If you’re interested in finding out more, I’ve listed some links to resources on bullet journaling at the end of this post.
Bullet Journaling (my creative journaling version)
If you’ve read my about page, then you know I am all for keeping things simple. This form of bullet journaling is as simple as it gets, and it comes with a back story.
I had a member in my Facebook group for introverts who shared with me that she wanted to start journaling but was dyslexic. Her fear was that nothing she wrote would make sense. This is the practice I came up with so she could engage in journaling without fear. Feel free to use it if you also have trouble with words or just need a more straightforward approach.
- Take a blank page at the top of it write: This blank page does not judge me. I am enough
- Begin to write in bullet point style. Use words that make sense to you.
- Let go of the need to write sentences that have a structure
- Draw something next to your bullet point if that will help you express yourself more easily
- Forget about the need to spell correctly and write words how they sound.
Keep in mind that creative journaling is an exercise to help you express yourself. So let go of any rules about being proper. Just get your thoughts out of your head and onto the page.
Elizabeth Gilbert, whom I love dearly, is an avid journaler. If you check out her Instagram feed, you will get a small taste of her voracious and colourful journaling practice. She seems to have one rule about journaling, and that is: get your thoughts on the page. She draws, writes, and creates mandalas and doodles. It appears she even writes lines (remember having to write repeated lines at school?)
The reason I use Ms Gilbert as an example of art journaling is that I’ve never come across anyone else as free in their self-expression. And that’s the whole point of any kind of journaling. To get what is trapped inside your heart and mind out and onto the page so you can deal with it, learn from it and use it to live a simpler, more authentic and joyful life.
How To Make It Work For You.
The first thing I would say here is to let go of any expectations of creating beautiful art every time you journal. If your strong point is not drawing, but you want to draw in your journal, then do it. Let go of any preconceived ideas of how things “should” look and allow yourself to draw. If it’s wonky then so be it, it’s your wonky drawing, embrace it.
- Grab coloured pencils, crayons, paper, scissors, glue, ribbons, anything that takes your fancy.
Give yourself time and space to create whatever is on your heart.
- I suggest a more substantial size art book for this, so you have room to express yourself and let your creativity flow.
- And then just journal and allow whatever is in your heart or mind to be expressed.
Remember – no judgements.
This is one of my favourite practices for those days when I need structure and am working towards a goal. I use prompt journals when I’m looking for an outcome. For example, I wanted to learn more about using my intuition, so I invested in The Intuition Journal. The prompts in this journal are all directed towards understanding and using your intuition.
How To Make It Work For You
If you have a problem that you’re trying to work through or a characteristic or talent that you’re trying to develop (like me with my intuition) this kind of journaling will benefit you.
Simply google the kind of prompt journal you’re looking for. For example, when looking for a way to develop my intuition I googled
“How to develop intuition”
And many blog posts, articles, books and journals popped up. If you’re not wanting to purchase a journal on a specific subject, you could find one of the many blog posts that share journal prompts and use your regular journal. I have a series of journal prompts for simplifying your life. If you’re interested, you can read the first one here.
My Final Tips To Make Creative Journaling Work For You
This list is by no means exhaustive, creative journaling is only limited by your own creativity. Take any of these ideas, and make them work for you. Tweak what needs to be tweaked, this is a practice that will help you sort through your emotions and deal with your problems positively and constructively. So with that in mind, do it in a way that supports your needs.
A few things I have discovered over the years that make journaling more effective:
- Practice regularly. Daily is best, but if you can’t commit to a daily ritual, do your best to create a regular practice.
- Be honest. It’s just you and the page, and the page doesn’t know what you’re saying, so don’t lie to yourself. If you want to reap all the benefits of a creative journaling practise, be as honest with yourself as you can be.
- Be kind. Always show yourself self-compassion. If during your journaling process you unearth something about yourself that makes you feel uncomfortable just sit with it without judgement. We all have light and dark within us. If you think you need some help as you work through things, seek advice. Creative journaling is a self-development tool, and that means sometimes you will need to let go of old stuff, which can be uncomfortable. Always show yourself love and know that “everything is figureoutable”
- Creative journaling is a non-judgement space. This is all between you and the page, and the blank page doesn’t judge – neither should you. If you decide to show your journal to someone else, don’t accept any judgement from them either.
Now it’s your turn, go and grab yourself the best journal to suit your needs. Give yourself time and space and get those thoughts out onto the blank page. You’ll feel better for it.