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Journaling for Creativity.

Creativity and Personal Journaling

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.

Introduction Contents What is Journaling for Creativity Creative and Personal Journaling


Journaling for Creativity: Creativity and Personal Journaling
It must be stated that just because the two types of journaling being discussed here have been given different titles, it does not imply that one is better than the other, or that one is more complete, better serving or better suited.

They are both journaling albeit each having a different focus. Each serve a different purpose and so the prospective journaler is not facing an 'either/or' decision, more of a 'when' decision.

As this post is a discussion on how Journaling for creativity and personal journaling differ, it might become confusing to the reader at times as to which one is being discussed. Where one or the other is mentioned specifically I will reference it in full. I apologise if this means that the terms get a little repetitive for the reader, but it is more preferable than causing any confusion.

Journaling for Creativity

Let’s start with a description of exactly what I mean by 'journaling for creativity'. To me, it is a collection of practices intended to enhance the abilities of creativity and awareness in the practioner. Its practices have been drawn from the written, visual and performing arts as well as Zen, scientific and engineering sources. It is an approach based on traditional journaling practices but one which has been expanded to encompass all available media.

The types of journaling entry are diverse and are not simply recordings of details about an event. Notebook pages can be filled with drawings, maps, cloud diagrams, physical objects, photos and any flotsam or jetsam that serves its purpose, even text. Although notebook based, it is not just pages in a notebook that are involved, literally whatever comes to hand is not above becoming part of your creative journal.

The starting point of creativity journaling is learning to be aware, to actively pay attention to what your senses are telling you. The next stage is to learn how your perceptions are modified by your mind, and be active, not passive, in those perceptions. Finally, make use of these skills to be properly aware of the world that surrounds you.

This requires the taking of, or making of time to allow awe and wonder back into your life, to expect to be curious, even if others find your child-like curiosity embarrassing.

By doing this you allow your creative self, your inner artist, to develop, to come out. It allows you to recognise this other you and then to work at establishing a dialogue through your journal. A dialogue that may eventually occur at almost any time you ask yourselves a question.

Awareness of dual thinking

As introduced in an earlier post, there is a duality in the human mind; there are .coexisting two different mental disciplines, a rational self and a creative self. Each mentally and physically separate, they are generally accepted as residing in the left-hand and right-hand halves of the brain, respectively.

Modern life, with its need to continuously process language and logic, makes us favour the logical left-hand side of brain.

Indeed, modern culture does not reward children who continuously ask questions or "have their heads in the clouds". The term "childish imagination" states a great deal about how our culture has actively and continuously squashed our creative inclinations. These inclinations once so strong in childhood eventually become suppressed beneath everyday adult reasoning.

Awareness and acceptance of this split, to be able to recognise and respect your creative self is fundamental to the goal of creativity journaling.

However, it would be wrong to evoke a vision of a completely split personality in your mind. This is not a case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; this is more a case of identical twins, one with a sweet tooth and one with a savoury tooth. It is best to consider them as both being you, a rational you and a creative you, but in the end both are still you.

It does not matter that your creative self has been diminished by continuous suppression, for your brain is capable of change and growth. With the right exercise, just like the rest of your muscles,your brain will strengthen and develop. Thanks to modern medicine, we now know that selected development of brain ability is possible:

"Non-musicians given the task… were found to have grown extra connections in the relevant area of their brains."

Dr. Robert Winston, "The Human Mind,…"

Personal Journaling

The fundamental difference between personal journaling and Journaling for creativity is summed up in their titles; personal journaling is personal and Journaling for creativity is as creative as you can make it.

It is a bit cheeky to caricature personal journaling as that of a solitary figure, curled around a notebook, writing away whilst sipping a warm beverage, since many people fill their personal journals on the train, during lunch, in the park or during any available moment they can find.

However, personal journaling is a form of journaling that is mainly reflective. There are many benefits, both psychological and physical, that have been documented and people report wondrous things that have resulted from personal journaling activities.

With personal journaling people have been able to find strength where previously they had uncertainty. Answers have been found where previously they only had questions. From what is basically talking to themselves via a pen and page, life changing solutions occur.

So, in general, personal journaling tends to be mostly introspective, focusing inwards on personal issues, health, well-being and life issues. In contrast, creativity journaling is focused on awareness and of being aware, initially on you and your senses, then on your perceptions and beliefs, and eventually on the whole world around you.

This is probably the most significant difference between creativity and personal journaling:

Personal journaling is a discipline that allows you to experience the whole you.

Journaling for Creativity is a state of mind that allows you to become the whole you.

When do you journal?

Creativity Journaling is carried out as and when something warrants an entry. It goes beyond passive entries because there is an additional requirement that the creativity journaler seeks out experiences purely as a journaling for creativity activity in itself. This active element is a fundamental difference between creativity and personal journaling.

Another significant difference with Journaling for creativity is the need to actively review your old entries. Each journal is a working muse, your window into thoughts, emotions, events, etc. long passed. So, when a personal journaler might sit down to write, the creativity journaler might sit down to sift, recollect or reorder previous entries.

Can you do both? Yes, absolutely!

It would be impossible to journal for creativity without sometimes including entries of a personal nature.


Journaling for creativity requires the writer to channel the multitude of haphazard experiences that surround us into a neat and, probably, untidy container.

Unlike personal journaling that is epitomised by a well presented, well bound notebook, creativity journaling is not just a single item. It will utilise every recording device you have, whether it is a notebook, video camera, scanner, computer or as in Twyla Tharp’s case, large cardboard boxes.

"A box is like soil to me. It's basic, earthy elemental. It's home. It's what I can always go back to…"

Twyla Tharp, “The Creative Habit

By way of example, the English artist, writer and photographer Geoffrey Shipp has turned his whole house into a creative journal. His collection of photos, prints, paintings, books, objects and knick-knacks adorn every available surface to the point where you may have to move something if you wish to put your coffee down.

You cannot point to one thing and say, "that there is my creativity journal." Your creativity journal is a combination of your journaling activities which fills the mind and causes it to brim over with creative ideas.

Ultimately, journaling for creativity boils down to being a state of mind, characterised by a deep curiosity and active awareness about the world around you.


Photo credit: Something random (348/365-9/21/2011), by Gabriela Pinto.
"Creative and Personal Journaling" by Andy Shackcloth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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