Journal writing for creativity

Journal writing is my favourite creative tool. It is also my favourite tool for living.



‘My journal’ spans the last fifteen years. It’s written in a series of cheap chain store exercise books which take up two shelves of a bookcase. Unlike the beauties that feature on Pinterest boards, my journal is ordinary.

Three pages written in longhand first thing every day, get easier with practice. The pages aren’t for anyone else’s eyes. I love the fact that even my Censor (who often looks like a lion ready to pounce) has nothing to do when I write morning pages. Without him looking over my shoulder telling me what I can write, there’s space to moan and complain, I can play, change and grow.

The pages don’t nag about single words and half-formed ideas, poor grammar or spelling mistakes.  They don’t mind that my never-copperplate writing has deteriorated over the years or that some pages are illegible. They don’t worry if I’m tired, grumpy, depressed, disappointed. They don’t care if I’m elated, joyful or complacent.

Content doesn’t matter, either. As long as my hand keeps moving over the page, all is well. If I write, ‘I can’t think of anything to write,’ a couple of times, some other part of my brain takes over. Before long, words, sentences and ideas tumble onto the page. They tell me what I’m thinking and feeling, what I need to do or what I’m longing for.



I stumbled on the idea of morning pages serendipitously. Julia Cameron’s inspirational book, The Artist’s Way, was on display in the bookstall at an Intergenerational Conference where I was speaking on advocacy for older people. I’d never heard of the writer or the book. It didn’t fit with the conference theme, but something about it attracted me. I bought it. That was one of my most significant purchases ever. The Artist’s Way would probably be the most life-changing book I’ve read.



Soon, morning pages, journal writing in another guise, became entrenched in my life. It’s is hard to imagine abandoning the practice of filling the pages.

Often the writing is mundane. Sometimes it is energetic and exciting. Journal writing pushed me into Masters and Doctoral degrees. Mostly the ideas are good, sometimes not so good. As a result of an idea while writing, I once painted an old wooden outdoor setting brilliant turquoise. It was fun, but the chairs and table looked odd under the wisteria in my cottage garden. Someone carted the furniture away ten minutes after I put it on the verge outside my house.



There are tear-spattered pages in my journal – memorials to personal tragedy and overwhelming sadness. Highlighted passages, asterisks and arrows confirm exciting breakthroughs when new ideas I could use in my work, writing and life tumbled onto the page.

My journals incorporates ‘to do’ lists, written once a week in coloured Textas. They act as prompts for things I have to do or hope to achieve in the short term. At the back are lists of longer-term goals. The lists grow organically from what I’ve written.

My journal writing is

  • A blessing
  • A creative prompt
  • Inspiration for writing
  • A place to play with ideas
  • A change agent
  • A problem-solving space
  • An aid to deep and clear thinking
  • An organising tool
  • A life-saver
  • A life-changer
  • Emotional release
  • Intensely personal
  • A record of my life.

Journal writing is also discipline in the best sense of the word. It is often prayer.

8 replies on “Journal writing for creativity”

    1. Not sure it is clever, Rosie. Perhaps it is some manifestation of obsessive compulsive disorder? Anyway, I love that easy, flowing writing. It brings a sort of serenity to often difficult situations, as well as stimulating the creative flow.

  1. You’ve made me want to journal daily now. I have a journal, but I don’t write in it every day, purely because some days I don’t have much to say or what I have to say is too grumpy to put in writing. I’d be embarrassed if anyone else ever read my thoughts on those days. (I could just pretend I hadn’t written it, I suppose—that thieves came in and wrote in it before they left, then forgot to steal anything!) But I know you’re right—there are so many benefits to journalling daily, and I should do it …

    1. Louise, you would love it! Writing a set amount per day is very liberating.
      As I said in the blog, you don’t have to set out with something to say. Just start writing and something wonderful happens. It’s like recording the thoughts that plague a person who is trying to meditate. You put them on paper as they appear. On of the best things about writing reasonable chunks every day is that the grumpiness and other negative emotions dissipate or else you work out how to fix the underlying situation. In my case, my writing is so bad now that now one would want to read what I’ve written. By the time they worked their way through the first paragraph, they’d be so bored they’d beg to be allowed to stop.
      Journal writing is one activity where the process is worth much more than the end result.

  2. Inspiring to be so persistent! Time consuming too, but this practice has been clearly a profound bedrock of ideas and solutions for you in your personal and creative life:-) Jenny

    1. Thanks, Jenny. I like your choice of the word ‘persistence’. Sometimes it feels more like pig-headedness. But journal writing is an important part of my life – the actual writing and what comes out of it. I feel blessed to have found that life-affirming book.

  3. I was taught journalling 25 years ago as a tool to having a life. Whatever came out of the dnd ofhmy pen was what needed to come, and just like you, sometimes I would write ‘I have nothing to say, i am stuck’ just as you describe. However my inner self was just waiting for me to give it voice, and through journalling I came to uncover my calling of midwifery. I was also taught that the journals were never to be shared with anyone except with one’s own voice, never to be read by another as the meaning is for you and you alone. You may wish to consider this with your shelves of disciplined pages (I bow down, onya!) And have a friend make arrangements for their disposal when the time comes, unless of course they will form part of the literary estate (which is also a noble, if revealing, destination for them)

    1. Good to hear from you, Laura. Do you still journal? You sound as if it was as life-changing for you as it was for me. Interesting you asked about the ultimate disposal of my notebooks. I’ve been thinking, in a vague sort of way, about slipping them into the bin, three or four at a time. One less chore for whoever is in charge when I die. But I put off throwing them away just yet. I need to work out why I’m so attached to them first. The pages have no use or value once they are written. It is the process that matters.

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