Journaling: A Method for Creative Discoveries

I’ve been a journaler since my first diary as a young girl.

Journaling is a way to get thoughts out of my head and neatly tucked away; a way of removing words/thoughts that distract me. Once I have something written down, I can stop thinking about it and move on.

I have this visual of raising my hand next to my ear, reaching just inside the ear, and pinching the end of a string. When I pull the string, I discover it’s a string made of words. Pulling some words out of my head makes room for others.

Of course, there are some days where that string seems never ending, like those colorful handkerchiefs magicians pull out of a sleeve or a pocket — color after color after color with no apparent end. But there is always an end to the words that need to be cleared away so that new discoveries can be made.

As I browsed through a book store’s magazine section yesterday, I discovered Art Journaling Magazine. It’s a magazine full of examples from visual artists’ journals.

Sketches, multiple colors, ideas, thoughts… Some journals had a bit of a scrapbooking feel, others were done in black and white, most had numerous colors on a page. It inspired my inner muse who loves to find new ways to express myself.

LeatheretteJournalMy mother gave me a beautiful turquoise journal for Christmas. The edge is embossed with a design and each interior page has a light imprint of the design. The color is attractive, the design adds personality, the soft leather-like texture is welcoming, and the pages are spectacular to write on (some paper accepts ink better than others). What looks like a snap cover is a magnetized button closure, and it’s depressed into the cover a bit, so that the journal plays nice if in a stack. There is also a ribbon to use as a placeholder between pages. Everything about the journal is welcoming and comforting and begging to capture words.

ArtistWayMorningPageJournalAnother favorite journal of mine is the actual workbook used for Artist Way Morning Pages. This is a large 8.5 x 11 book, so has heft to it, but it allows for more expansion on creativity with pages. The paper is thick and reminds me, for some reason, of paper I used in first grade when learning to form the letters of the alphabet.

As I flipped through the journaling magazine in the store, a lot of ideas popped into my head about how to add a bit of pizzazz to my journals as I make entries.

I’ve heard a lot about the online LiveJournal tool, too. I’ve never tried it, but I know it allows for more than straight typing of thoughts into the cosmos. And since it’s an online tool, there’s the option to share some of your writing with others. This intrigues me since I could attach photographs to the entries. It’s something I’ll look into. Here’s a listing of those tagging themselves for the writing community.

I believe that any way to clear clutter from the mind to make room for new thoughts is a great exercise.

What is your favorite way to journal?

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. Journaling keeps everything in perspective. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

60 thoughts on “Journaling: A Method for Creative Discoveries

  1. I love paper journaling too (although it’s been a while…my journal sits neglected in my desk). I also love to blog. I almost prefer it because I like starting conversations with my thoughts and the sense of community, plus writing pen to paper is strenuous on my wrist sadly.

    Love your journal though! It is beautiful.

  2. I’ve been on LiveJournal for years, but it’s died off recently. There used to be a really thriving fan community there, which I loved being a part of.
    These days I’m using 750 words on the computer and an A4 page-a-day diary that I picked up cheaply.

  3. Unfortunately, I journal less frequently than I should. It can be a dumping ground and a playground…that’s what I enjoy the most about it. I also love the way you personified your journal as an old friend!

  4. I love to journal! I have one that I use as often as I can, but sometimes thoughts just appear (like that string) and I can’t do much else before writing them down. I do this so that I can remember something I want to expand on later, so that I have reference to feelings and emotions during stressful times in my life, so that I can record milestones that my children have to be proud of and remember later, and the list goes on! My big problem is carrying said journal with me. I do however have a little bound book that holds 2 size post it notes inside, and a spot for a pen. I use this on the go ALL THE TIME!
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    It makes it easier for me to just stick the post-its onto the pages of my journal and expand when time allows. Ah, the joys of having 3 young children :):)
    Thank you for sharing, I will be looking into the larger size journal, as that may leave extra space for sticking post-its, and still being able to see what I add to my thoughts, haha!

  5. I love journaling. I currently have 2 notebooks (like old school, science class in high school notebooks) and 1 actual ‘Journal’ going. 1 notebook is for blog entries/ideas and notes on books I’m reviewing. I’ll have to get a new one soon. I’m down to 3 or 4 pages.

    The next notebook is short stories, ideas, little jotted notes, one liners, etc.

    The Journal is my fifth in the past few years. I write my novels in them. Each pages is full of scribbles, doodles, different colors, word counts, and crossed out lines. I can’t stand people who have ‘clean and neat’ notebook pages. That just means you didn’t pour yourself into it.

    I draw in the margins, and sometimes in the middle of the pages. I write notes for illustration ideas (I can’t draw much at all so these really help when I talk to my Mother…who has a degree in Art, and a drawing journal of her own!).

    I also have a container that holds notecards. I took each character, special place, and a short synopsis of plotlines from each book and wrote them down on notecards. I also write one liners I don’t want to lose, or ideas that don’t fit with my journal/notebooks, and keep them in a special section of my card container.

    All in colored pens of course, who has time to only write in black or dark blue?!

    • Estyree – thanks for sharing! I have scented colored markers that I got once when learning mindmapping techniques, would love to sit and write with them all day, but once thoughts start flowing, I don’t want to take time to change pens! I like that you do, I think it expands the experience quite a bit. most of my writing is in purple, but journals tend to be with ‘special’ pens that are blue (or black) ink.

      Thank you for sharing what you use and do for journals.

  6. Reblogged this on Shewrite63 and commented:
    Thank you Live to Write – Write to Live for sharing this post about journaling and stimulating feedback. I have journals in which I have not yet written, too intimidated by their beautiful design and worried my words, my thoughts may not be worthy of the ink spent in them :o\ Talk about squashing chances for creative discoveries! I have done the Morning Pages from the Artist’s Way in cheap-o Hilroy notebooks and plain black journals, written weekly or monthly updates and thoughts in lovely Paperblanks creations. I think it depends on the time of your life, what events are happening – or not happening. I agree that it is a big relief to pull the words out, to transfer them onto paper, to feel that sense of relief and move on with the day.


  7. Have you ever tried a Smashbook? It’s like an art journal/regular journal/scrapbook/whatever you want it to be! I’m still working on my first because school keeps me from really giving it a lot of time. If you are a Pineterest-er, you should check out my Art Journal board. It has so many pretty ideas and inspirations for journals. I love and hate it because its so taunting and I get all these great ideas, but then I can’t do them because of school. :$ (:

  8. I’ve love looking at Art Journaling magazine, even if I find it intimidating. There are dozens of hours of work poured into each photograph. I look at the background images of perfect art studios and stashes of supplies artfully arranged and become slightly overwhelmed at the thought of entering my cluttered unfinished basement. Yet, I often buy the magazine and use it as a springboard to my own ideas. My time in the bookstore alone is my own creative brainstorming session. It’s my golden happy place. A fresh empty journal is a canvas just waiting for me to paint with my words.

    • Mary — I should have spent more time with the magazine yesterday, but felt I could have been there for hours and I was with Little Sis at the time (occupying myself while she did homework). I almost bought the magazine, but it’s quite an investment and, well, now that I know it exists I’ll keep checking it out at least!

      I love your description of the journal being “a canvas waiting for me to paint with my words”. Beautiful 🙂

  9. Lovely post! I have been journaling since I was a teen and fill about three journals a year with private reflections, story ideas, poems etc but only last year did I suddenly start filling pages with doodles 🙂 Since then I have also been drawing more. I guess creativity leads to greater creativity at least that’s what I am hoping.

    • I agree that creativity leads to creativity, or even if you try something creative you’ve never done before, that can positively effect your writing, too. I tried pottery one year (was horrible at it) but my muse liked the change from pen & paper and started dancing around with ideas (once I washed the clay off!)

  10. I like to keep a daily journal to note my personal thoughts and feelings and have done so for a number of years which I keep separate from my other writing endeavours and find it useful to help get my daily thoughts in order. It warms me to know that I am not the only one who does this!

    Heather xxx

  11. I kept a journal last year and I absolutely loved it. There’s a real sense of accomplishment now when I hold it that I’ve filled an entire book (a page to a day) and I now hope to keep doing it

  12. Good day. I had been a journaler (a detailed one) too since my preteens years until before the ‘busyness’ of being a doctor made it very difficult for me to write on my journal religiously. What I have now is only an organizer where I can jot down as fast as I can anything (reminders/notes/special emotions at a particular moment) that comes to mind. 🙂

  13. Beautiful post! I have toyed with the idea of paper journaling for years, but never dabbed into it, at least not since I was 7 or 8 year old. Part of me has an issue with leaving physical traces behind if it is too personal.

    I spent about 7 years on Livejournal though, but used it mostly as a way to connect with fellow fans and vidders, thanks to the tagging system and communities. It was a great way to keep in touch with friends at times, but I deleted my account more than a year ago. I went back to email/Skype communication and gathered my fannish side into my Youtube channel and including it more profusely on my professional website on WordPress, since I’m a fan of what I work on in terms of research as well.

    Though I don’t journal, I still love notebooks and to jolt notes down for upcoming projects on actual paper before transcribing them on Word documents. Finding new notebooks and picking favorite pencils are always a joy!

  14. I journaled from age 9 to age 40. Then my mother died. In going through her things, I found diaries she’d kept. They were full of hurtful lies about the family, and while I knew she had a mental illness, it seemed worse seeing it written down. While my sister sobbed, I took all those diaries and threw them on a bonfire. I then suddenly thought, what if my words caused my child hurt? And threw all of my journals on the bonfire and never journaled again.Yesterday my sister sent me some old letters I had written to an uncle. In them were stories I had forgotten, that made me laugh to read again. Today I read this post, and was hit with the memory of how wonderful it felt to hold a journal full of blank pages. There is now the tentative urge to go shopping for something leather-bound or embossed. Very tentative, but there.

    • I appreciate you sharing all that, Lisa. You’ve touched on quite a lot in your comment. I seldom go back and read a journal, but there have been times when I wanted to check a particular date and see what I wrote. I track my health in my journals and sometimes need a reminder of what was going on at a certain time. I really don’t intend mine to be read by anyone, so will end up burning them some day.

      I think there’s just something freeing in getting thoughts onto a page and out of my head. It makes them tangible and real, and I can change them into something else. Great for stress relief sometimes. 🙂

  15. Wow Lisa, great post on journaling. I can relate so well to what you wrote. I also became a word-lover at a young age, and so your analogy of the “string of words” resonated with me!

    Your readers might enjoy my latest episode of JournalTalk (a podcast about various techniques and benefits of journal-writing) because, like you, I asked the listening audience to participate. It’s the one-year mark of creating these podcasts and there was some really great ideas mentioned. Please feel welcome to share:

    Nice to meet you; I hope we can stay in touch via Twitter or Facebook.

  16. Hello, and thanks for the ideas. I especially liked the one about pulling words out of your head to make room for others. I’m not always sure I WANT others, but I definitely would enjoy getting some of them OUT 🙂 Have you tried 280daily? It’s not for a real writer, more just a quick synopsis of the day, but it could be a good place to start…

    • I haven’t heard of 280daily, I’ll check it out. And I agree at maybe not wanting more words to fill in, but, then again, I’m always interested to see what new ideas and thoughts move to the front once I’ve dealt with a few that have been on my mind for a while! Thanks for the comment. 🙂

  17. I had a bunch of paper journals through high school, and then moved to online blogging. I actually started with LiveJournal, back in 2004 or thereabouts. I moved to Blogger, and now have been using WordPress for my blog for 6+ years. That being said, I have started to buy little notebooks again for more random, private thoughts that I’m not ready to do anything with yet, or for ideas. There’s still a lot spinning around in my head that I don’t put online, so I like having paper to get those thoughts down.

    • Thanks for sharing, Jenna. It’s nice that you have a mix of paper and online and appreciate both. I think that different thoughts require different outlets, myself – with some, getting them out is a priority and for me that means typing them; others require more ‘appreciation’ and therefore I write them to involve more senses and a slower pace.

  18. I know I’m going to offend reader/writers by saying this, but I believe that journaling is the highest form of literary expression. Once a story-kernel is put through the refinining and editing process, I feel some of the innocence and freshness of the idea is lost. I find heavily edited pieces unmotivating, yet journaling usually holds my interest.

    • I agree that thoughts captured in their moment have the most ‘value’ and that editing can then take away some of that. But it’s up to the writer what to do with the words once out of the mind and on a page. I enjoy stream of consciousness writing, but find a lot of value in going back through that writing and making it applicable/useful/enjoyable/relateable to people other than myself. I’d love to be able to capture thoughts in their freshest form, but even memories are tainted in that once something is experienced, it cannot be experienced the exact same way again. If I experienced something in this moment, by the time I expressed it to someone, it would have changed because life doesn’t pause and the mind keeps on moving. If that makes any sense at all.
      Capturing thoughts in their exact moment of creation, to me, is like capturing a snowflake and having it last — can’t happen. 🙂

  19. For my own part, I used to write many things by hand, but I’ve found that typing things out in my blog is faster. However, when I journal by hand, I tend to doodle also, and those doddles never make it online.

    • Typing is definitely faster and I type when I want/need to capture as much as possible as quickly as possible. Writing by hand is more creative and free moving — also more time consuming — but there are times when it feels better to me than typing.

      And you’re right — you can’t doodle onscreen (although I’m sure there are computers and apps that you can use to do exactly that!)

  20. Pingback: Walking and Writing Toward Wisdom | Live to Write – Write to Live

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