By Lisa Tener
I’ve kept a journal ever since my Grandma Lily gave me a diary for my birthday in second grade.
“What do I write in it?” I asked.
“You can write about the crocuses in bloom.” And so I did. Yellow. Purple. White with orange centers.
The habit of journaling has not just stayed with me. Journaling has helped me through the tumultuous college years, over a decade of “finding myself” professionally, and a major illness.
Journaling also inspired my first book, helped me pivot into fulfilling work I deeply love and nourished me as a writer.
As writers, journaling can enhance our creativity in a multitude of ways. Here are 9 ways to use journaling to spark your writing life:
- Journal Your Dreams: Write your dreams down in your journal the moment you wake up (or after you get up to pee, if you’re like me). As you recall your dreams, you tap into that luminal state which sparks creativity. The symbolic language of dream can feed your creative projects throughout the day.
- Journal Your Gratitude: Before you work on your bigger writing project, journal about what you feel grateful for. By focusing on gratitude, you can begin your creative project in an elevated state.
- Solve Your Problems: Is a character giving you a hard time? Dialogue with her in your journal and transform her into an ally. Struggling with how to turn your scientific knowledge into a format that’s accessible to the average Jill? Journal about it. Journaling can help us solve our problems, including writing challenges.
- Create Consistency: A consistent journaling habit, such as first thing in the morning, can lead right into your other writing with ease. And ease supports creative flow.
- Experiment: A journal is a space of freedom, a no judgment zone. Use that freedom to take risks and try new things. You may just hit upon your next book, a fresh voice, a new perspective, or other sparks to your creative life.
- Relax: When you know that no one’s going to read your writing, you can take a deep breath and let your entire body let go. Doesn’t that feel good? After relaxing into journal writing, take that feeling of relaxation into all your creative projects. When you’re relaxed, it’s easier for flow to happen.
- Journal Through Self Doubt: Rather than resist your inner critic, engage her (or him). See what she’s trying to protect you from. Maybe a little understanding and compassion can inspire a shift. Shifting your relationship with your inner critic can unleash your creativity.
- Take Journal Notes Throughout the Day: Use your journal to record observations, insights, overheard dialogue and interactions during the day. You’ll be surprised how much more you remember when you take time to write it down. As you heighten your powers of observation, you strengthen your writing.
- Try Journal Prompts: Prompts take off the pressure of having to create something from nothing. Instead, you can engage with something already created by someone else. I find prompts particularly freeing. And you don’t even necessarily have to respond to the prompt directly by doing what it says. Just let the prompt inspire you and follow your muse.
Pick a journaling method and try it today! Let me know how it goes.
By the way, my love of journaling led me to create The Joy of Writing Journal: Spark Your Creativity in 8 Minutes a Day. By guiding you through easy daily writing exercises, The Joy of Writing Journal can help you to finally sit down and do the writing that has been calling to you. The book offers a wealth of prompts, with QR codes for meditations to enter a state of flow and inspirational videos that feature guest appearances by authors and writers I love. You can use it as a creative warm up or to generate new ideas for your work.
I’d love to know how you use journaling to spark your creativity. Feel free to comment below.
Lisa Tener is an award-winning book coach, speaker and author of the book The Joy of Writing Journal: Spark Your Creativity in 8 Minutes a Day. Lisa has helped thousands of aspiring writers and authors access their creativity, find their voice and write and publish groundbreaking books through her coaching services and courses. Dozens of her clients have won prestigious book awards and/or signed five- and six- figure deals with major publishing houses. For over a decade, Lisa served on the faculty of Harvard Medical School’s CME publishing course, helping doctors, therapistsand other healing professionals bring their books to life. Find out more at LisaTener.com.