Creativity

7 Things you can do right now to create a daily journaling habit

The start of a new year brings the chance to re-establish good habits. For me, this of course includes my daily journaling practice – a chance to recommit to my favourite ritual. Most importantly, I want to make sure that it is a priority each day.

I want to make sure that this year I will continue to maintain my daily journaling habit and not let it get lost in the chaos of life.

I’ve journaled pretty consistently for over two years now (and inconsistently for over a decade before that), so I know the best ways to make sure I stay on track. If you’ve struggled to make your journaling a priority every day, then these tips will help you.

1. Schedule it into your day

This might seem a bit obvious, but when you’re busy it’s easy to not make daily journaling a priority, or to just simply forget in the busyness of life. You could write it down with your important tasks for the day into your paper planner, or put it into your Google calendar to get a reminder. Even writing it on a post-it note to stick on your desk would be helpful.

2. Set your alarm earlier

One of the best ways to make sure your daily journaling gets done (much like exercise, so they say) is to do it first thing. And if you just don’t feel like you have the time, then set your alarm 10, 20 or 30 minutes earlier. It is such a positive way to start the day – to connect with your deeper self, get clear headed and invite purpose and inspiration into the rest of your day. Alternatively, get ready for bed a little bit earlier then spend a few minutes journaling before switching off the light. This is what I’m doing right now and it’s a wonderful way to wind down for bed.

3. Tell someone else

We all know that one of the best ways to stay accountable towards a goal is to share our goal with someone else. Maybe you can find a journaling buddy with whom you can share journal inspiration. Or join a group of like-minded journalers who have the same goal of daily journaling. Check in with them each day and share your progress. It can also be really inspiring to see others working in their journal each day – and it can push you to keep going with yours. Sharing your journaling journey can be a great way to keep you feeling inspired.

4. Prep your journal

This can be as simple as putting the journal and pen on your nightstand so you naturally pick it up before going to sleep, or it can mean preparing a background to write on when you get the time. For example, if you like to write in the mornings, you might prepare a background before bed the night before, so it’s ready to go when you wake up. If you like to use prompts, print out a bunch at once, maybe for the week ahead, and glue them onto a few pages. Then you can just pick up and go!

5. Work in the cracks

I can’t remember where I heard this phrase, but it makes so much sense: we think we need a good 30 minutes undisturbed to sit down and journal, but really it can be done in bits and pieces throughout the day. For example, if you leave a journal open to a spread you’re working on, it can be easy to swipe a bit of paint across the paper right before you head out to work. That literally only takes 2 minutes. Then when you get home and the paint is dry, you might stamp a few images or glue something down while you’re waiting for dinner to cook. Watching a movie with your partner that night you might scribble a few words down. Before you know it, you’ve got a page done.I find this really helpful when I’m busy – I will leave my journal lying open on my desk and then when I get a few minutes – say, if I’m waiting for the kettle to boil – I will scrape a bit of paint across the page and put down a piece of washi tape. It doesn’t have to be all done at once! Chip away when you have a minute or two free.

6. Take your journal with you

This can offer another opportunity to work in the cracks. If you’re sitting at the bus stop, or you’ve got 10 minutes free on your lunch break, or you talk to people on the phone a lot and doodle on a notepad – work in your journal! It can be mindless doodles or deep and thought-provoking -it’s up to you. So often I find myself killing time at work or waiting places (doctor’s waiting rooms, at cafes when meeting friends etc) that could be used creatively. I now take a tiny notebook with me for on-the-go journaling.

7. Get clear on your why

You won’t be able to create a regular journaling practice unless you really want to. It takes commitment to showing up each day, working through stuckness and dealing with the discomfort of trying new things and facing your thoughts and feelings. If you do want to create a daily journaling habit, get clear on why, so it’s easy to keep showing up. It’s not enough to just think it would be fun, because some days it isn’t. Some days it’s frustrating, disappointing, even painful. But it can bring so much growth, it can help you to create a better life and become a better person, and it can nourish you creatively. For me, those things are reason enough to show up each day, even when I’m busy. What is your why?

*  *  *

If you’ve maintained a regular journaling practice most days, what do you use to help you stay on track?

Creativity

Journal spotlight: Personal journal

The personal journal is your ‘dear diary’ sort of journal, where you pour all your thoughts and feelings, hopes and dreams, fears and doubts onto the page.

Some people argue that the terms ‘journal’ and ‘diary’ have different meanings – that a diary is to record daily events and experiences, whereas a personal journal is a lot more, well, personal.

Regardless of what you call it, it’s the sort of notebook where you are usually quite candid and it’s the kind of thing you tend to keep private.

I started keeping a journal (although at the time I called it a diary) when I was about 11 years old. At that time it mostly was a daily record of events, with a few thoughts and feelings mixed in. Slowly I started to include crushes, conflicts with friends, worries about the future, feelings of inadequacy.

IMG_8803
My first journal, started at age 11. Somehow this tiny notebook lasted me for two years!

I didn’t think much about what I was doing or why I was doing it, although it was right when I started middle school (what we call intermediate school in NZ). I think I did it to have a record of my experiences, but the practice grew into so much more.

My personal journaling practice has grown and evolved over the past two decades.

I spent most of my teens and early twenties turning to my journal mostly in times of trouble: breakups, career concerns, friendship dilemmas, existential crises. It was my go-to place to process these things, and I almost always felt better for doing so. When I was deep in a depression a few years back, simply writing in my journal each day made me feel much better.

Now I keep a personal journal for many reasons, including processing emotions more effectively, developing a sense of self compassion, overcoming fears and creative blocks, and increasing my self confidence, among other things.

I certainly still turn to my personal journal in tough times as I’ve always done, but I write a lot more often and explore many more positive things too.

It functions as a record of my life, a portable therapist (accessible 24/7 and a fraction of the cost!), a friend and mentor, a creative coach, a life coach, a container of fears, dreams, secrets, and the mundane.

If you’d like to keep a personal journal, it’s very simple.

You write by hand (it can certainly be done digitally but I think there are many benefits to writing by hand). You write stream-of-consciousness, you write honestly, and you try not to edit yourself. You don’t share what you write with others.

You can literally write about whatever you want, but the aim is to include personal aspects. If you want to describe your day, great, but bring in the personal elements of it too – how did you feel today? What did you think about? What do you hope for tomorrow, or next week, or next year? What bothered you today? And so on.

There really aren’t that many rules when it comes to keeping your own personal journal. You can write as often or as little as you like, however, writing more often than not can be very rewarding.

I think the most important thing is to write for yourself, not for someone else – that means keeping the journal private and writing openly and honestly without censoring yourself.

Do you keep a personal journal? What do you include in it? Share your personal journaling experiences in the comments.

Creativity

Why fear is a friend, not an enemy

Last night a had a dialogue with fear in my journal. It was simply a case of me writing what I wanted to say to fear, then waiting to hear what fear had to say back, and writing that down.

I’ve done dialogues in the past, and they always feel a little silly. Each time I go to use this journaling technique I think, but isn’t it just me writing those words?

Well, yeah, of course. But the fear is a part of me.

And this turned out to be an incredibly useful exercise.

You see, it started out as a rant. I’ve been pushing myself to dream bigger lately, with creating an online course and offering my coaching services online, as well as redesigning the website. I have a lot of ideas and inspiration floating around at the moment.

And then fear comes along and – as Elizabeth Gilbert says in Big Magic – screams the one word it knows: STOP. STOP STOP STOP.

So when I sat down to talk to fear last night, I was all ready to give it a piece of my mind. I was sick of it getting in my way, ruining my plans and basically just crapping all over everything.

But the strangest thing happened.

I found within myself a sort of compassion for my fear.

It is so worried about me, about protecting me and keeping me safe. It’s like a little child who just wants us to hide under the bed. Instead of yelling at it and pushing it away, I took a moment to see things from fear’s perspective. No wonder it’s so worried – going after big dreams can be a scary thing!

And then I realised another thing – I actually need fear. Fear is a great indicator that I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Whenever fear starts to pop up, I know that I’m growing and challenging myself.

So I reassured fear that I wasn’t trying to get rid of it, but that I just needed it to trust me. I said:

But here’s the thing: I’m going to keep going even when you feel like stopping. And I know we will be safe, because of faith. I have faith that things will work out – I certainly wouldn’t be asking you to quiet down and let me continue if I didn’t have faith! So I need you to trust me, to trust that I know things will be ok. I’ve been doing this for 30 years now and I am absolutely on your side. It’s just that I have access to information that you don’t – and that’s my faith. You know, if you worked along with faith, we could do some amazing things.

I’ve always thought of faith and fear as polar opposites – natural enemies. One of my favourite sayings is, ‘let your faith be bigger than your fear’. But what if they could help each other?

Imagine that – getting faith and fear to work together!

Fear pops up and says ‘stop! This is too scary!’ and faith says, ‘thanks for that – we’re definitely on the right path then. Ok, we can keep going, just trust me.’

Maybe this sounds silly to you. It feels a little silly as I write this, in all honesty. But I can tell you one thing for sure: I feel so much better for talking with my fear, for reassuring it that I need it and it is heard.

And from now on, I’m going to approach fear in a much different way: less anger, resentment and irritation at its arrival, and more compassion, reassurance and trust instead.

How does fear hold you back? How could fear become a friend to support you?

Creativity

Overcoming fear in the creative process

4 ways that fear can hinder the creative process and what to do about it

Of all the things I’ve thought about myself, I never would have thought to describe myself as ‘fearful’.

But, when I began a regular dialogue with myself by journaling every day, I started to see how much fear held me back in my life. I have lived a lot of my life in fear, mostly without knowing it.

As I developed my journaling and creative practice, I noticed a strange thing happening. As much as I loved creating, I also found a great deal of resistance towards it. I would sign up for the latest course, buy the art supplies I’d been lusting after, then stop.

The tricky thing about fear is that it has so many disguises, we sometimes don’t even recognise it. I wasn’t not creating because of fear! How silly. No, I was just really busy, you see. Plus, I wanted to do it just right, so I was waiting until I had the skills and time to perfect it. Also, it was really important that the house was clean and I checked my emails before starting.

No, it wasn’t about fear at all, right?

Nonsense. It was fear all along.

But because of the way that fear is so sneaky it took me a while to realise what was actually going on. Resistance is fear. Avoidance is fear. Perfectionism is fear. Procrastination is fear. It was just fear in its many disguises.

I suspect I am not alone in battling the many faces of fear when creating. I wanted to share some of the things I have learnt and the tricks I have used to beat fear at its own game.

This is one of the easiest ways fear gets us, because it can seem so legitimate. Of course you have to clean the house, that’s not fear – that’s being responsible. And you’ve been meaning to organise your bookshelves for ages anyway, so now is as good a time as any. And today is probably a good day to sort out the dry cleaning you’ve had waiting to take in. And of course, you can’t begin until your desk is tidy.

STOP!

It is amazing what we can convince ourselves to do when we are procrastinating on a project. I can put off folding the laundry for days if I feel like it, then as soon as it’s time to start writing a blog post I can hear the laundry calling my name.

Or, it could go the other way: I sign in to my computer to see the next video in the art course I’m doing, and before I realise it I’ve spent two hours on Facebook and another hour reading blogs.

That’s the thing about the internet – it is the ultimate procrastinator’s tool. It can start with a simple ‘I’ll just check my email’ and then you fall into the procrastination vortex, only to resurface an hour later wondering what happened.

But procrastination is nothing more than fear, particularly when it comes to the creative process. You need to be wise to the signs and look it right in the eye.

Try this:
  • Make a list of all the ways you procrastinate. Be as specific as possible.
  • Post this list somewhere you can see it so that you can be aware of when you are procrastinating.
  • If you’re prone to online distraction, use an app that blocks access you the internet for set periods of time (yes, you will survive).
  • Something a bit different: In your allotted ‘creative time’, deliberately do all the things on your list (or as many as possible) instead of creating. Procrastination is often an unconscious process, so once you start trying to procrastinate, it usually stops working.

There is a lot more to procrastination than what I’ve covered. For more amusing and insightful reading on procrastination in general, you can’t go past this article and then this one on Wait But Why. Yes, I spent some time reading those posts instead of writing this one.

Perfectionism

This one is a bit tricky because it can be quite deeply ingrained, especially if you are a bit of a Type A personality or prone to perfectionism in many areas of your life. This is something I struggle with constantly when creating.

In fact, I like to buy spiral-bound notebooks for art journaling because I can always rip a page out if I ‘mess it up’. In my mind, working in properly bound books is tantamount to getting a tattoo on my face. It cannot be undone! It takes all my strength to just create anyway.

But your work will never be perfect. And that is why perfectionism is one of the most destructive ways we stop ourselves from creating – because it is based on a myth: that our work could possibly be perfect, if we just try hard enough.

No. That’s a lie that fear tells us.

And in believing that, we are really short-changing ourselves because often we know that if we don’t start it, we won’t mess it up. If we keep it in our minds, it can remain perfect. I love this line:

Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly – Robert H. Schuller

Or, stated more simply: a done something is better than a perfect nothing.

Try this:
  • Buy yourself the cheapest notebook/journal/supplies possible. This should take away the ‘preciousness’ of them. Fill them with wild abandon and then buy another cheapie.
  • Do something poorly on purpose. Don’t try to make it good – just do it as if you didn’t really care. Then do another and another. Practice being ok with not being perfect.
  • Make a copy of the quote/saying above and place it somewhere prominently in your workspace.
  • Something a bit different: I think that the benefits from journaling or art journaling are often found in the process of creating, not in what we create. When you sit down to create, try to focus on the process instead of the product. Take a few deep breaths before beginning and bring your attention to the present. Eliminate any other distractions. Take pleasure in the movement of the pen across the page, the sweep of the brush. And when you are done, throw the finished product away.

Avoidance

This could potentially have been put under the heading of Procrastination, but I wanted to pay particular attention to the way that avoidance can manifest itself in other ways.

Similar to procrastination, we can often find ways to avoid doing what we deeply long to do, simply because we feel fearful. In particular, I find busyness and numbing to be two powerful avoidance tactics.

Busyness is symptomatic of life in the twenty-first century. We are more overwhelmed by professional, social, familial and financial commitments than ever before. Add in possible health commitments, domestic commitments and other distractions and it starts to become impossible to imagine fitting in time for a creative practice.

But if you want to make time to create, you will – you can. Make sure that you are not using busyness as an excuse to avoid creating.

Numbing is another tactic that can help us avoid creating.leap

Creating is scary stuff: we have to be comfortable with making mistakes, growing, being vulnerable. It’s easy to avoid the dangers of this if we just watch TV, or have a drink, or go shopping, or have another nap. These things can take the edge off our feelings of fear, and disconnect us from ourselves.

The scary thing is that we can’t just numb some feelings – when we numb feelings of fear and vulnerability, we also numb good feelings.

It is only through facing the scary feelings that come with creating that we get to experience the growth, inspiration, accomplishment and bliss it can bring. That’s not to say that all creative experiences will be a bed of roses, but, more often than not, facing the fear and vulnerability head-on leads to a rewarding experience.

Try this:
  • Literally schedule in creative time. Write it in your planner, on the family calendar, put an alert in your phone – whatever. Tell your friends/partner/self that this time is sacred and will not be given up. Try to make it the same time every day/week so that you and others know that Sunday evening is creative time and you are unavailable then. Getting into a routine can help to make creativity a habit.
  • Make a list of all the ways that you numb. My main numbing activities are watching hours of TV episodes, eating when not hungry and oversleeping. Yours might include online shopping, watching lots of movies and drinking. Whatever these numbing habits are (no judgement please!), you need to bring awareness to them.
  • I have found journaling to be invaluable in bringing awareness to my numbing habits. Often I will sit down to journal and think, ‘I don’t have much to say, there isn’t a lot going on’. This is usually a sign to me that I’ve been numbing in some way or other, because I don’t seem to be feeling much. Try journaling regularly each day to check in with what numbing activities you have been doing and how they are making you feel.
  • Get comfortable with discomfort, and go gently: accept that you will feel some feelings you may not enjoy, but that they cannot harm you and they will pass. Be gentle with yourself.

Inner Critic

I couldn’t write a post about creativity and fear without mentioning the inner critic. While not necessarily a separate category from those above, it does deserve special attention.

The inner critic tends to rear its head once you actually start the work. It’s the voice inside that tells you your work is no good. Often it will spiral into a rant along a the lines of: this sucks, you can’t do this, you’re worthless, just stop.

It’s a shame that once you have overcome the obstacles of perfectionism, procrastination and avoidance to actually start creating, the inner critic is waiting to pounce. You’ve managed to sit down and get to work, but the inner critic makes it so painful and unpleasant you want to stop.

The inner critic is once again based in fear. Often the inner critic and perfectionism can work hand-in-hand to make the whole process one big crapfest.

All I can say is this: the sooner you learn to deal with your inner critic’s wily ways, the sooner you will make progress creatively.

Try this:
  • Draw a picture of your inner critic or find an image that represents how you think it looks. Give it a funny hat, or a monocle, or a silly bow tie. You could even give it a name, so that when you’re creating and it speaks up you can think, oh that’s just Dave doing his job. Silly Dave. This takes a lot of the power away from it.
  • Talk to your inner critic as you create. Every time you have a thought along the lines of this is no good, respond out loud by saying something like ‘thank you, but I will keep going anyway’.
  • Write a dialogue between you and your inner critic in your journal. Ask it questions, tell it how you feel, stand up to it! You might be surprised by what it says!

* * *

Artists and creators have struggled with various forms of fear for centuries, and will continue to do so. It is natural as part of the creative process because being creative requires vulnerability and risk.

The topic of fear and creativity is widely discussed and this post barely scrapes the surface – there is so much more I could say! For further reading, check out this book or this book or even this book!

In the meantime, hopefully these ideas will help you to get around fear and give you a way into your creativity.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

The problem with numbing (and how journaling can help)

I watch a lot of TV. Not on my television – I don’t actually have one – but online. I love comedies – Community, Big Bang Theory, The Office, Seinfeld, Friends, New Girl… I guess that seems pretty harmless, right? Who doesn’t love to have a laugh?

Except that I don’t always watch the show to have a laugh. And sometimes, I’m watching an episode for the second, third… fifth time.

So why is this a problem?

A lot of the time, I’m watching the show to numb.

What is numbing?

Brené Brown defines numbing as something we do to avoid feeling the feelings we don’t want to feel.

Numbing can take many different forms – watching too much TV, over eating, over sleeping, shopping, gambling, drinking, drugs, sex… some of these things are obviously more socially accepted than others. Things like watching a little too much TV, or comfort eating after a bad day, or buying yourself something nice when you’re feeling down don’t seem to be particularly dangerous.

When it comes to watching my shows, if I’m being totally honest, it can be a variety of feelings I’m trying to numb: boredom, emptiness, fear, fatigue.

This might not seem like too much of a problem – I mean, we all do things to comfort ourselves when we are feeling vulnerable, bored or just not great.

Why is numbing a problem?

The real problem with numbing is that we can’t just numb the bad feelings. When we numb ourselves to the negative feelings, we also numb the positive feelings. Brown says:

We cannot selectively numb emotions: when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.

So while it’s all fine and dandy to take the pain of the moment away with a little retail therapy or a pint of icecream, if you do this often enough you’ll also notice a lack of joy in your life.

The other thing about numbing is that is that it can look a lot like self care. It can even start out as a gentle act of self care.

Having a some chocolate and snuggling under a blanket to watch a movie when PMS hits certainly can be self care. But usually this is one act that is part of a bigger self care approach. 

The key thing is how it leaves you feeling afterwards. If it leaves you feeling nourished and comforted, then it’s self care. If it leaves you feeling empty and craving more, then it’s numbing.

And there’s something else I’ve been thinking about, in between episodes of Parks and Rec: we can be numbing ourselves without even realising it. It’s not always a conscious decision – ‘oh what a lousy day, I don’t want to feel crappy so I’m going to drink a bottle of wine instead’ – sometimes we don’t realise we are doing it.

Like my TV shows – I don’t sit down to watch one thinking I feel crappy – oftentimes I don’t actually feel crappy to begin with. I might put on a TV show as something in the background while I potter around in my art journal. This in and of itself is not bad; it can be a lovely way to spend an evening. But if I do it too often, it starts to have a numbing effect, whether I mean it to or not.

And this is the third danger with numbing:

When numbing behaviours become habitual, we often turn to them out of habit and they create a numbing effect without us even noticing.

Before long we can be feeling, well, nothing, without even noticing it has happened.

How can journaling help?

The antidote, for me at least, is journaling. Some people might meditate, go running, or really do any number of things. But journaling is simple, and I can do it in my pyjamas.

With journaling daily, I cultivate awareness. The more awareness, the more I notice if I’m not feeling the good feelings – usually a sign of too much numbing or numbing behaviours.

Everyday when I sit down to write, since I don’t use prompts in my love and couragejournal, I wait to see what I have to say. I’m a firm believer that most of the time, we have plenty of things to say. I don’t know about you, but I walk around all day with a million thoughts going back and forward in my brain. I feel like a browser with 1567 tabs open at all times.

Strangely though, sometimes when I sit down with my journal I find the words aren’t coming. I feel empty, like I’ve got nothing to say. This to me, is a sign that I’ve been numbing too much. A sign that a few too many episodes of Community or a few too many sugary carbs has interfered.

I guess this could seem helpful in a way – I mean, numbing has a function of sorts, or else we wouldn’t do it. But the problem is that I can’t tap into my creativity or inspiration in this state. I can’t feel joy or gratitide for my life.

So when I find this happening in my journal, I know it’s time to step back from the TV episodes for a few days and go for a walk, read a book, and spend more time diving deep in my journal. I know it’s time to cultivate a sense of awareness in my life again.

Journal prompts for dealing with numbing

If you find yourself showing up to your journal feeling unsure of what to write, and you suspect numbing might be the cause, the following prompts can help.

  • Lately I’ve been feeling…
  • I don’t want to feel this way because…
  • Sometimes I spend too much time (your numbing methods here) because…
  • If I were to stop (your numbing methods here) then I would feel…
  • It can also help to have a list of positive coping mechanisms when you have feelings you don’t want to face. Make a list of alternatives to numbing in your journal, for example writing in your journal, having a chat with a friend, taking a walk outside, playing with your pet, doing some yoga, speaking to a counsellor, listening to music, painting, etc. Instead of numbing, I could…

Remember to be gentle and kind with yourself.

Creativity

Creativity: lover on the side or lover in the center?

In Page after Page, Heather Sellers asks, ‘Is your writing life going to be a lover in the center of your life? The thing you pulse toward, the fever in your soul? Or is your writing life more of a casual crush, something you think about, but don’t do much about?’

I would ask you the same thing, but about all creative pursuits – whatever sets your heart on fire. Is it a lover at the center of your life?

For me, it’s creative journaling… and a bunch of other creative interests I have difficulty categorising:

  • Painting
  • Writing fiction
  • Creating found poetry
  • Creating inspiration cards
  • Blogging
  • Typography/handwriting
  • Collage and mixed media
  • Visioning journals
  • Crafting – using stamps and washi tape and stickers…

These are the things I ‘pulse toward’. These are lovers at the center of my life. How do I know? Well, it’s much like a love affair:

  • I can’t focus on my job.
  • I don’t want to make plans in case I can spend that time with my ‘lover’.
  • I need to see my lover each day.
  • I feel complete with my lover, like I don’t know how I lived before.
  • I get a rush of excitement at the thought of spending time alone with my lover.
  • Instead of checking my phone for texts, I’m checking my instagram and browsing blogs for inspiration.

Sometimes, the feeling is almost too much to bear. I want to spend every spare minute with my lover, but other things get in the way. Work gets in the way. Housework gets in the way. I’m tired after a day of taking care of others. We try to steal moments together, but it never feels like it’s enough.

I wish I had a solution to offer here. But I don’t. All I can say is that this feeling is so delicious, so exquisite; I have to keep following it. Nothing sets me alight like it. Even though I can’t spend all the time in the world with my lover, I know we are meant to be together. I need to just keep following my heart.

What is the lover at the center of your life?

What Inspires Me

Wild inspiration

Sometimes I like to share the wonderful things I stumble across online. Here’s what I’ve loved lately.

I can’t get enough of Mary Ann Moss’s journals. This flip through is ewild nzspecially gorgeous.

This is such a good idea!

A reminder of the power of creativity.

It’s been two weeks since I began my year of journaling dangerously, so reading about others who’ve journaled for a year is inspiring.

Akiyo explains why writing morning pages won’t always make you feel good, but are still worthwhile

Or if you’re not a morning person, or don’t like morning pages, what about night notes?

Creativity

Simple journal prompt for when you’re short on time

Today when I got home from work I didn’t really feel like writing, but I still felt drawn to my journal.

When we are super busy or stressed it can be easy to feel like journaling is too much effort, or takes too much time.

Today I used a really simple journal prompt to just check in with how I’m doing, without writing pages and pages. It took all of 5 minutes.

I got this idea from a random piece of scrapbooking paper I had floating around.

All you do is simply this: create the following headings and jot down whatever comes to mind for each.

  • Loving
  • Wishing
  • Dreaming
  • Feeling
  • Thinking

It was great to help me get some of my thoughts and feelings down. Here’s a few of the things I came up with:

  • Loving – sleeping, glasses of wine, journaling, cuddles with my pup, cups of tea
  • Wishing – the holidays would get here faster (less than a week to go!)
  • Dreaming – about living in the tiny house with my partner and working less
  • Feeling – tired, stressed, overworked, grumpy
  • Thinking – about business ideas

Some positive, some not so positive. But it has made me feel better to get some of it off my mind and onto the page, even though I’m short on time and energy. And it has provided a concise little snapshot of where I’m at today.

Another thing you could do is add some prompts to include your senses:

  • Hearing
  • Seeing
  • Smelling
  • Tasting
  • Feeling

So a journal entry could look like this:

  • Hearing – the rain on the roof, the ticking clock
  • Seeing – the blank paper, the lamp light on my page
  • Smelling – dinner cooking
  • Tasting – a sip of coffee, sweetness
  • Feeling – the soft and warm blanket over my knees, the chair under me

If you’re short on time or energy, try using one of these lists/prompts to quickly and easily check in with yourself.

Creativity

Journaling vs. morning pages – what’s the difference?

 

I’ve kept a journal sporadically for twenty years and written morning pages on and off in the past.

Throughout my teens I wrote about crushes, friendships and fights, my biggest dreams for the future. In my early twenties I wrote about my disappointment with the real world, my struggle to meet ‘the one’ and how much I wanted my life to be different.

It wasn’t until my late twenties that I learned my journal could be so much more than simply a place to pour my heart out. It could be used to transform and change my life dramatically, and that’s how I’ve been using it ever since. My goal with a year of journaling dangerously is to really focus this powerful tool into creating an even better life for myself.

I got the idea for the project from the awesome book, Paris Letters. The author has a ‘year of journaling dangerously’ where she writes morning pages every day for a year. Her life is transformed in unexpected ways.

What I’m doing isn’t strictly morning pages, but I am hoping for the same outcome: a life that looks different in a year’s time. The more I thought about how I wanted my project to look, the more I thought about journaling and morning pages and wondered, what really is the difference?

Morning Pages

The term ‘morning pages’ comes from Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. She defines morning pages as: ‘three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness’. Unlike journaling, morning pages have a set of rules:

  • Write every day
  • Write by hand
  • Write first thing in the morning, before doing anything else
  • Write three pages
  • Write whatever comes to mind, without stopping, until you reach three pages (even if that means writing ‘I don’t know what to say’ for three pages)
  • Write whether you feel like it or not
  • Do not reread the morning pages

That’s a lot of rules, but Cameron assures us that doing so will lead to great insights, unblocked creativity, inspiration and a better relationship with ourselves. It’s designed as a sort of ‘brain dump’ – to get all the whiny, petty nonsense out of our brains and onto the page, so we are free to focus on other things.

Journaling

This is a very broad term and cannot be as easily defined as the morning pages. While morning pages are focused entirely on stream-of-consciousness writing, journaling can take many different forms. It’s up to each individual to define what their own journaling practice looks like, but here are some of the most common approaches to journaling.

Types of journaling

  • Written journaling, which can include:
  • Art journaling using some or all of the following:
    • Paint
    • Pencils
    • Pastels
    • Crayons
    • Stamps
    • Collage
    • Inks
    • Writing
    • Photos
  • A combination of any of the above

Journaling is entirely up to the journaler to define. We can journal in the morning, the evening, the middle of the night, or all of these times. We can start and stop, leave a page for days, pause to reflect, and reread as much as we like. Journaling is entirely open to interpretation, and I think the reason for this is that we all have a different purpose for journaling.

The purpose of journaling

The purpose of journaling goes beyond unblocking our creativity, which is the primary goal of morning pages. Journaling can include any and all of the following goals:

  • A form of creative self-expression
  • A way to connect with our inner, wiser selves
  • A way to connect with God
  • A way to process emotions
  • A place to explore goals and dreams for the future
  • A way to keep track of day-to-day appointments, events, goals, etc
  • A place to record favourite quotes, song lyrics, sayings
  • A way to learn more about who we are and what we desire
  • A method for tapping into inner resources such as courage and determination
  • Creating a channel to receive inspiration
  • A place to play with colour, composition, media, language – whatever we like

I’m sure there are many more reasons that people journal that I’ve not covered here. Feel free to share yours in the comments!

The difference

While journaling is very open to interpretation, morning pages come with a set of rules. We could certainly include morning pages as part of our journaling practice, but the same could probably not be said the other way around.

It seems to me that the greatest difference between the two is the rules with the morning pages, and possibly the purpose of each.

What matters, really, is that you find a way of journaling that works for you. If you find the guidelines of morning pages helpful, then do that. If you prefer the freedom to approach the page differently each day, then let yourself do that. The important thing is that you enjoy the process and that it brings some benefit to your life.

I believe that any form of journaling regularly (morning pages included) will bring all kinds of benefits to your life, regardless of what method you choose. Instead of worrying about whether you are doing morning pages ‘right’ or whether you are journaling ‘properly’ – just enjoy it, and keep showing up.

What does journaling mean to you? Do you do morning pages, journaling, or both? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Creativity

Join me in a year of journaling dangerously!

At the beginning of last year I was not in a good place. I was unhappy with my life and felt like something was really missing, although I couldn’t put my finger on what it was at the time.

On a whim, I enrolled in a journaling course. A friend of mine was doing it too, and we both fell in love with everything journaling.

After the course I continued to journal every day, and found my life turning around in unexpected ways. I no longer felt on the verge of tears for no reason every day. Instead, I wrote and poured my heart out on the page. I tuned into my own source of inner guidance and found out what my soul was really calling out for.

I tapped into a wellspring of creativity within that I didn’t even know existed. I kept up my daily journal writing, and began to blog, paint, collage, carve stamps… and my creativity blossomed. I felt constantly inspired to create, and I found courage inside me to try new things and share them with others.

For about a year after taking the journaling course that started it all, I was riding the inspiration high. Sure, I still had dark days and moments where I just wanted to crawl back into bed – but most days I turned to my journal for comfort and inspiration.

Notice there that I say ‘most days’. It’s easy when things start to feel good to let habits slide. It’s easy to relax into the things that bring pleasure without challenging yourself to move forward. And that is what happened to me: over a year later and my lovely daily journaling habit has slipped away. I check in with my journal a few days a week, but the joy and inspiration is short-lived, and fades quickly.

I know that the best way to tap into inspiration and courage is through my journal. And I know that these things come through a regular creative practice.

That’s why I’m launching my new project: a year of journaling dangerously!

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Simply put, I’m going to journal in some form every day for a whole year and I invite you to join me.

Some of you may remember that Journal Wild started out as Journaling Dangerously. Even though the blog has gone through some changes, the idea of journaling dangerously has never left me.

I see it as committing to showing up to the page every single day, even if all I do that day is write the date or swipe some paint on the paper. It is the act of showing up that makes it worthwhile.

So I send out an open invitation for anyone who wants to join me: all you have to do is show up to the page in whatever way you want, every day for a year.