There’s a feeling of anxiety that you can get sometimes – it’s a kind of knot in your stomach when you feel like you should be doing something but you’re just not doing it. Do you know what I mean? “I should paint something,” you think, and then sigh and keep on packing the dishwasher. “I haven’t written a word in weeks,” you say, and then take the kids to school.
A great way to help combat this feeling is to start a creative journal. A journal is a way to connect with your thoughts and emotions, doodle new ideas, go on wild tangents, or just explore the inner workings of your mind.
So whether you’re in a creative rut, or you just haven’t been able to find the time for your passion, start a creative journal. Even if you’re in a happy place creatively, a journal will help you to get even more out of your artistic journey.
What is a creative journal?
The idea of journalling can fill some people with dread. It sounds like work, hard work, that you have to do every single day. Sigh. Another chore.
But a journal is not like the diaries you had to keep in school. It’s not just a record of tasks done or boxes ticked.
A creative journal is a promise to yourself that you are worth spending time on.
And it’s a great way to kickstart your creative juices at any time of the day.
One of the most famous advocates for daily journalling is Julia Cameron. In her book, The Artist’s Way, she introduces “morning pages”. This is an opportunity to sit at your table and just dump your brain onto the page. Using an actual pen and paper, you allow yourself to write in a stream of consciousness fashion, knowing that no-one is going to read what you write except for you.
I love this idea, although personally I don’t always do mine in the morning! You can do it in the dead of night under your bedsheets for all I care. It’s not about when you do it – it’s the consistency that’s key. If you forget in the morning, it doesn’t matter; you’ve still got the rest of the day. And at a quarter to midnight, you’ve still got 15 minutes.
Benefits of keeping a creative journal
If self-reflection scares you, you’re not alone. The idea of spending 15 minutes (or 5 or 10 minutes) entirely focused on your own mind can be terrifying. But once you start, you will feel liberated. As the words spill out onto the page, that knot in your stomach will begin to loosen. Give yourself joy with colourful pens and doodles, jot down every wild idea that takes your fancy, let your brain out on an adventure, and your soul will follow.
Part of the reason for this is that you no longer focus on blocks or “I can’t” thoughts. You are literally not allowed to care about grammar or sentence structure or spelling mistakes.
Nobody is ever going to see your journal. And you are not allowed to judge yourself because it’s an act of complete freedom.
While you’re in your free-writing mode, you’ll find that you’ll be able to come up with new and spontaneous ideas. With your inner perfectionist carefully locked away, you’ll be more receptive to diversions. You know how you come up with your best ideas when you’re in the shower? It’s because you’re not really thinking about anything and then BOOM – brilliant idea. Creative journalling has the same effect except that you’re actually in a position to write it down and not, you know, naked and damp.
But don’t just take my word for it. Psychology studies have shown that you can write your anxieties away. The theory is that “expressive writing” helps to free up your precious mental resources by offloading your worries. So if you’re going through a stressful period in your life, writing about it can actually help.
How to start a creative journal
Personally, I think nothing beats good old fashioned pen and paper for journalling. You can actually feel the ideas flowing out of your brain and onto the page. It’s extraordinary. So all you really need to start a creative journal is a writing implement and some paper.
If you want something more permanent, obviously a notebook is best. And if you feel like spoiling yourself, make it a really pretty one. But don’t do that thing where you’re then too afraid to write in your beautiful new notebook! When you buy your gorgeous new stationery, make a promise to yourself that you are going to write in it every day.
Earlier I said that creative journalling is a promise to yourself that you are worth spending time on. I know it’s hokey, but I want you to say that out loud.
I am worth spending time on.
Now I’m sure you can guess what I want you to do next. Yep, grab the nearest pen and a bit of paper (make sure it’s not something important) and write. Just write for 5 minutes, anything at all that comes out of your head. Because if you’ve had time to read this article, you have time to write!
Did you do it? Did you write for 5 minutes or maybe more?
Well, there you go. You’ve started creative journalling.
Now just keep doing it.
By Valerie Khoo