This post forms part of a serialisation eventually building into a complete reference on Journaling for Creativity and the writer's notebook. One that will demonstrate how to journal in order to improve creativity and effectiveness of artists, writers or anyone needing to be creative.
WARNING:If you have just arrived at this page after a search for “journaling”, I must warn you that this site has very little content about personal journaling, i.e. the style of journaling that is normally done once a day, last thing at night or first thing in the morning. Journaling where the writer settles down with a notebook, pen and warm beverage for thirty to sixty minutes of personal time scribbling reflectively into a journal.
If that is the style of journaling you are looking for then, I am sorry but you have arrived at the wrong place.
This site is about journaling for creativity; a sibling of personal journaling, a sibling which shares the same hereditary, but it is a powerful sibling, one who can release and develop the artist in all of us.
The big deal with all journals is that they allow you to draw upon untapped resources in your life. Not only do they help you achieve more in the same or less amount of time, but they also give you the ability to produce a far higher quality of work than if you weren't using a journal.
Many creative writing courses insist that their students maintain a journal throughout the course; some students do and some don't, whilst others stop practicing the second the requirement is over. However, those that see beyond a prescriptive dogma, who embrace the tool presented to them, who make it their own verve, soar on the creative wings generated by their journaling habit.
“Trying to convince some authors that journaling is good for their craft, that it is something they will find enjoyable is akin to convincing young children that not only are green vegetables good for them but that they are also rather tasty.”
Creativity journaling uses the power inherent within journaling, focuses it inwards and feeds your inner creativity. As your creativity grows stronger the journal allows you to have dialogue with your creative self, it assists you with meeting the inner artist who resides within you. And with practice this dialogue becomes easier.
And in so doing, a synergy of thought, creativity, memory and awareness is created, one which allows you to become much more than you ever thought you could be.
“Most of the methods of training the conscious side of the writer – the craftsman and the critic in him – are actually hostile to the good of the artist's side; and the converse of this is likewise true. But it is possible to train both sides of the character to work in harmony, and the first step in that education is to consider that you must teach yourself not as though you were one person, but two.”
Dorothea Brande, “Becoming a Writer”
Journaling for creativity will be what you make it. It will be as interesting and as lively as the life you breathe into it. If you fill it with dull, boring entries then it will be dull and boring. If you inject life and passion onto its pages then it will explode with life and enthusiasm, enthralling you at every future reading.
It really is down to you, as to how good it will be.
The power behind the action
The collection of knowledge contained in this series of posts is the result of my wanting to understand and embrace the power of journaling and use it to assist me in my fiction writing. I had been reading many articles where authors expounded the importance of journaling in contributing to their work. So in early 2009 I started reading everything I could find about journaling and how a person could get the most out of it.
This then led to the discovery of the huge use of journaling, not just in writing but also in all forms of artistic and creative endeavours. Many times I read epiphanies of personal understanding that people new to journaling were experiencing, and even more exciting were accounts of eureka moments that preceded some people’s greatest achievements.
Much of what had been written on the subject tied up with insights from some very influential books; Tony Buzan's "Use Both Sides of Your Brain"(1974), Betty Edwards' "Drawing on the right Side of the Brain"(1979), Gabriele L. Rico’s “Writing the natural Way”(1983), Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way”(1992) and many other works referencing how the functioning of the left and right hemispheres of our brains affect our thinking. These works predominantly having roots in the innovative work on the human mind performed by Dr. Rodger W. Sperry in the 1970’s, for which he received the Nobel Prize in 1981.
Sperry discovered that, for most people, verbal and analytic thinking is mainly located in the left hemisphere of the brain, whereas visual and perceptual thinking is mainly located in the right hemisphere. (This is a simplistic model which will be discussed in greater depth in later posts, but is sufficient for now for the purpose of this post.)
This means that, for most people, the dominant part of the brain, the controlling part, is the logical, analytical left side, and this is the part we are most aware of in our thoughts. It also means that the sub-dominant visual and artistic right side is subjugated, and we are only aware of it primarily as “gut feelings”, intuition or urges.
It is important to note that the right hand side is sub-dominant, meaning that it wants to be, and would be dominant if only the left hand side would stop shouldering it aside. This exchange of power is something we have all experienced; it happens to you far more than you realise, it only happens in certain circumstances, but when it does, it happens effortlessly and automatically.
Betty Edwards explains why more succinctly than most;
“In order to gain access (to the right hand side)… Present the brain with a job the left hand side will turn down.”
Betty Edwards, “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”
There are daily tasks which are devoid of the requirement of language or logic. During these tasks, the right hand side of your brain dominates, and with artistry in control and logic now sub-dominant you can have your most artistic, impulsive, insane thoughts. Now you know why when driving, showering, sewing, ironing or during other similar tasks, you receive a blitz of artistic or crazy thoughts. It’s why Zen Buddhists meditate, make sand mandalas etc, they perform repetitive perceptive practices which allow the creative part of their brains to become dominant for a while. (Again this is slightly simplistic and we will discuss this in more detail in later posts.)
From studying how people are using journaling, it became clear that there is a part of the journaling process which not only releases, but also feeds the subjugated artistry and creativity of people. Unsurprisingly, artists, with their more visual activities, had already discovered this and the practice of "Art Journaling" is well established, with books available to aid an artist’s journey with this technique. In contrast, writers, with their language centred craft, had not, in quite the same way, recognised just how profoundly journaling affects their artistic side.
The following posts will further explore the current thinking behind how journaling achieves the results it is credited for, whilst also covering journaling styles, entries, considerations, techniques and tips. Although these are written for the benefit of writers, any artist or person whose work involves some degree of creativity should find items of interest.
In the posts, reference will be made to the reader’s current project and not the current manuscript. This is because in today's world an author needs to be creative, not just whilst writing the book, but also whilst working on the many other factors such as marketing, promotion, publishing and the author’s platform, which are nowadays inextricably linked with a successful publication. Additionally, I have assumed that the reader is likely to be working on different stages of more than one book or writing project.
Topics on journaling for Creativity covered in forthcoming posts
What is journaling for creativity?
We start off this topic with a discussion about what is meant by journaling for creativity and where it differs from the personal journaling that people predominantly think about whenever journaling is mentioned. Later posts summarise positive benefits gained from the practice, many of which will be familiar to the reader whilst others will be a surprise.
The topic finishes with comparing writers with other artists and how artistic professionals in different fields have encompassed the concepts of creativity journaling into their professions without ever giving it a name.
The choice of which media to use
, sets creativity journaling apart from all other journaling practices. For the creativity journaler has the option to use any available media and sometimes will choose more than one type per entry. This chapter runs through the major media options, discussing benefits and disadvantages associated with each when gathering journal entries.
Types of entries
These posts discuss more than twenty different types of entry used during journaling. The list is not exhaustive but it covers the most commonly used forms of entry discovered during research.
Finding or making time to journal was one of the biggest reasons given when people were asked why they no longer journal. Time is such an important issue with successful journaling that it has been given its own topic. Here we cover the issues of attitude, commitment, friends, family, modern life styles and time requirements, in order that you can discover the journaling time hiding in your day.
The different ways of interacting with your journal are covered in this topic; including, how to link separate thoughts, guided free writing, mind maps, visual tools, conversing with your creative self, blocking the inner critic and many more techniques to make your journaling rewarding.
What goes wrong
There is no right or wrong way, simply whatever works is the best way for you. However, what works best can vary between the beginning and the end of the day, let alone between a week, month or year.
There are however, many things that stop or interfere with journaling and this chapter is dedicated to recognising those things that make it "go wrong" and which may block you from attaining the rewards from the habit of scribbling creatively in your journal.
Respective reviews in terms of their interest to journaling will be posted of all the books and other sources that have contributed to this project.
Photograph 1 credit: Chains and ropes, by Michael Foley.
Photograph 2 credit: TibetianMonks015, by Jason Maurer.
"Creative Journaling: What’s the big deal?" by Andy Shackcloth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.