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.
This post follows on from So why journal?, where I listed a few reasons to journal and why journaling is a sound investment of your time. Here, we further investigate the ‘journaling to write’ section, expanding those ideas and exploring their benefits in our quest on how to journal. and what is a journal.
One result of capturing your thoughts in a creative journal, and then reviewing those entries, is that thoughts continue to circulate in your subconscious. The outcome being that they drive more thoughts and more ideas up to the surface, which cause even more questions to be asked and even more possibilities to be considered.
A creative journal feeds this “buzz”, and so during quiet periods of the day you will find your mind alive with new ideas and thoughts on your project.
Your project is more on your mind simply because the journal never allows it to wander away for very long to dwell on other issues. This gives an increase in creativity, characterised by your subdominant creative-mind taking advantage at every opportunity, when the dominant logical-mind is quiet, to inform you of its thoughts. All you have to do is to have enough awareness to recognise those moments for what they are when they occur, and to record the ideas in your creative journal before they disappear with the arrival of the next logical thought.
This is where you “tell” your story to yourself, where questions are asked and answered, causing yet more to be asked and those in turn answered in a glorious carousel of cause and effect. During this period of heightened stimuli, both the logical-mind and the creative-mind are chewing on the problems, each passing thoughts and ideas backwards and forwards through the medium of your creative journal.
"Writing has been a way of explaining to myself
the things I do not understand."
Rosario Castellanos, from “Writing to Save Your Life”
by Michele Weldon
It is akin to slow motion freewriting (a technique we will cover later) where a channel is opened to some of the more creative thought processes of the mind. However, in this case it is performed simply by flooding the creative-mind with unresolved issues whilst practicing awareness.
To build characters
Within the confines of a journal, you are free to create, meet, modify and maim your characters. They could be current characters or different ones that you currently find interesting and they can be worked on either inside or outside of the story arc; your options are only limited by your imagination.
For example, it is possible to play with a character outside of the story line, maybe in the past, maybe in the future, maybe in a completely different setting. When writing prose for a specific project, you can be concentrating on so many possibilities that individual characters may have insufficient attention paid to them.
But in a journal essay entry, you can play with one character and all your attention is only on just that one character. Then, by introducing the character into different scenes, it is possible to develop a greater contact and deeper understanding of that character and by doing so improve your writing.
It does not have to be a character from your current project, often it will be someone your creative-mind is currently flirting with. In the book "The Writers Journal", Kathleen Tyau wrote:
"I've also found journal entries for characters I invented before I came up with the idea for a book… …I just hadn't known what to do with them at the time."
Kathleen Tyau, from “The Writers Journal”
by Sheila Bender
A creative journal gives these characters a place to live until needed, and whilst they reside in your journal and play in essay entries, they grow, develop and mature. They may suggest possibilities to you during cameo appearances in other journal entries. These characters will never be static and they may have a long life, during which he/she/it might wear many heads, forms, roles, jobs, appearances or traits, but in the end they are the same character on their way to becoming fully matured.
This is where character traits that you have previously collected in your creative journal, becomes the raw clay of new characters. With that rich but rude clay you can sculpt vibrant unforgettable characters into existence.
To combat “writers block”
Using a creative journal when away from your desk generates so many options circulating in your mind that when you do sit down to write, the only writer’s dilemma present should be which option to pursue.
However, even then there may be a time when you get stuck before the keys. Times where you have drawn on the well of your imagination until there is nothing left to be found. At these times taking a break away from the keyboard and either simply reviewing recent creative journal entries, performing a creative journaling exercise or going on an “artist’s break” can provide the necessary creative nourishment needed for a parched mind.
"It is frightening to spend quality time with a child or lover, and our (inner) artist can be seen as both to us. A weekly artist date is remarkably threatening – and remarkably productive."
Julia Cameron, “The Artists Way; A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity”
Another use for your journal when blocked is to follow Kathleen Tyau’s practice. In “The Writers Journal”, she describes that when she has difficulties with her work, she starts freewriting in her journal until the "voices start coming again”, then she switches back to her project and continues writing.
Freewriting and other journaling tools to combat writers block will be covered in later posts.
Photo credits in order;
Photo credit: The Harvest Writer, by John ONolan.
Photo credit: Journal, by RJ Mac.
Photo credit: Kathie Writes, by Julie Jordan Scott.
Photo credit: Joy Communes with a rock, by Julie Jordan Scott.
Photo credit: Joy writes by the Kern river, by Julie Jordan Scott.
Photo credit: Molly Writes, by Julie Jordan Scott.
Photo credit: Girl Writing, by Ruifernandes.
"Why Journal?: Journaling to write" by Andy Shackcloth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.