Journaling to Connect with Your Creative Side

Updated: Mar 30, 2020

Making art, writing, and expressing myself creatively are ways I like to improve my morale, decrease anxiety, and relieve stress. Keeping track of my ideas to help me decide on what I would like to work on next was always difficult for me until I started keeping a journal again. Journals can help organize ideas and generate new ones. Journaling is not just for writing. It can be used to generate and plan all types of projects; dance, music, art, even business plans or home improvement.

Any journal can be used for this purpose, but if you have options, consider your habits when selecting a journal. When does inspiration strike you? Is it a random, sudden occurrence? If so, consider a journal that is easy to carry around in your bag or even your pocket. Do you prefer to draw? Consider a journal with blank pages instead of lines. Do you like to write a lot? Pick out a larger lined journal. Take everything into consideration when picking out a journal, including the color and pattern.

If you do not have options, use paint, markers, stickers, and cutouts to customize any journal you might have on hand at home. You can also create a journal by taking blank paper, folding in half, and stapling down the fold. Use a ruler or straight edge to create lines for your journal.

Generate Ideas

I love Carol Lloyd's "Creating a Life Worth Living" and while some of the business-centered advise is a bit out of touch since it was written before the rise of social media marketing, the creative advice is still very relevant today. It has really shaped my way of thinking creatively and influenced a lot of my practices. If you are not sure what to journal about, use this idea generating exercise inspired by the lessons in the book to get started:

  • Write down a word or phrase that embodies the essence of the work you would like to create. A few for example; “beauty,” “creating peace,” “calm,” “relieving stress,” or “spreading happiness.”

  • List the creative mediums you would like to work with. It could be mediums you already know, or ones you would like to learn. Write down the ones that interest you the most. Some examples could be painting, writing, crocheting, sewing, or public speaking.

  • Invent a single specific project that combines your essence and at least one of your mediums of interest.

  • Brainstorm a name for your project. When you have decided on one, label the top of your page with it, so you can easily find it when you are ready to work on it.

  • Make a list of things you will need for your project.

  • Write out the steps you need to take to complete your project.

Do you feel inspired by your project idea? Then get started! Or if you are not ready yet, use the exercise to create more project ideas. When you have time to work on a project, refer to your journal for inspiration. When you complete a project, put a star next to it and keep track of the types of projects you tend to see through to the end. This may help you determine where your creative interests generally lie and show you what kinds of projects you enjoy doing the most. Since I have been stuck in self quarantine, I have been tackling so many ideas I have been keeping in my journal--and have been coming up with new ones every day, too!

Follow Prompts

Another way to express yourself creatively through the use of journaling is to use prompts. Prompts can be used for creative writing, but they can also be used as a method for generating ideas, like the exercise above.

Here are a few prompts from my Hub “100+ Writing Prompts & Story Ideas”:

  • Think of a time where you regretted not saying or doing something and write about how things would have gone down if you had.

  • Write a story about one thing you always wanted to change about your childhood and how that would have changed you.

  • Write a story/backstory about an abandoned building or lot in your neighborhood, how it came to be that way, and maybe even about something that will happen to it in the future.

  • Write the journey of a child's lost toy. Perhaps even your own lost toy from when you were a child.

  • What is life like from the perspective of your dog, cat, or other pet?

  • Write a short story based on the lyrics of your favorite song.

These prompts can be used to generate more project ideas:

  • What could you make as a handmade gift for your mother?

  • What could you create from the items you readily have available at home?

  • How can you alter a stained piece of clothing?

  • How can you repurpose a broken item in your home?

Your creative journal should only be used for documenting inspiring thoughts and generating ideas. Although expressing feelings and worry is very important and journaling can be an excellent tool to do that, avoid venting in the same journal you use for creative expression. The content you put into your journal will affect the mood and energy it invokes in you. If you fill it with your creative process you will feel more motivated, inspired, and ambitious when working with it. If you use it to vent your fears and concerns, you will begin to doubt yourself. I protect the creative energy housed in my journal by venting my feelings in frustrations in a separate journal.