Journal Writing

Journal writing is a wonderful way to express your creativity. It also brings many other benefits, especially if you develop a regular journal practice. You may be familiar with Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages. She advocates that writing every day when you first wake up is one of the bedrocks of a creative life. Morning pages are three pages of daily longhand writing that will, “center you, steady you, empower you, enlighten you.” Cameron suggests, “You may think of them as anything from ‘brain drain’ to meditation.” (Julia Cameron, The Vein of Gold)

My favourite book about journaling is by Australian writer Stephanie Dowrick and is called Creative Journal Writing: the art and heart of reflection. This is how she sees journal writing:

Journal writing is a supreme way to record your own life’s journey. It is a way to discover what matters to you and even what and how you think. It is a gloriously self-directed source of inner development, yet it also makes the world beyond your own self more real and more vivid. It can become an interface between you and the outside world. It can become a companion that supports but doesn’t judge. It can be a place of discovery, of learning, of emotional relief and insight. It can also be a playground, where the everyday rules of writing, reflecting, problem-solving, goal-setting, production and planning no longer apply.  (Stephanie Dowrick, Creative Journal Writing)

Dowrick emphasises that journal writing is liberating because you are free to write what matters only to you, and the focus is on the process, not on the outcome. It “can literally be life changing. It can be the companion you need whatever life is bringing you. It can also be addictive, surprising, moving, illuminating and tremendous fun. It can deliver a vast array of invaluable new insights. It lets you ‘read’ your own life even while you are writing it. It lets you see the world around yourself more richly and deeply.” (Stephanie Dowrick, Creative Journal Writing)

There is evidence that journaling or “expressive writing” can boost your immune system and help with healing. This surprising result was found in a study by psychology professor James Pennebaker (This BBC article reports on the study).

There is a well-established practice called “therapeutic writing,” which has been used for decades by counsellors and psychologists, both with individuals and with groups. “Whatever format is chosen, writing therapy can help the user to propel their personal growth, practice creative expression, and feel a sense of empowerment and control over the user’s life (Center for Journal Therapy). Read more in this article from the Positive Psychology Program.

Whether you write every day, first thing, as Julia Cameron suggests, or whether you journal whenever you can spare a few quiet moments, making it a regular practice will bring benefits and can be life-changing. Journaling about your creative ideas and projects helps to bring them to life and can energize you to move toward your creative goals.

Journal Writing Activity

Here is a journaling activity to get you started if you are new to journal writing, or if you need some fresh inspiration. Write for five to ten minutes, answering these questions:

  • Who am I?
  • Where am I?
  • What do I want from my journal writing?

You can also journal about journal writing! End your journaling session with: the most surprising thing about my writing today is …

An empty page in your journal is an invitation. It is a door or window opening or falling away. It is a meeting place for inside and outside. It is a promise. All you need do is rise up to meet it. 

– Stephanie Dowrick, Creative Journal Writing: the art and heart of reflection.

Journal Prompts

These are from: Inside Out: a Journalling KitPublished by Innovative Resources:

  • Sentence Starters:

* I love to dream because…

* Humour has helped me through …

* I wish …

* If I knew then what I know now…

  • You could find your own sentence starters by choosing sentences in books, magazines, poetry, song lyrics or conversations you participate in or overhear. All you need to do is listen for something that sparks or triggers you, write it down, then complete with your own responses.

Happy journalling!


Try some of these activities: