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Journaling for Creativity.

Media Options, What to write on pt3

This post forms part of a serialisation eventually building into a complete reference on Creative Journaling 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 Media Options are There What to Write On, Pt3


Post it, Jörg Beckmann This is the third part of our look at the types of writing media that are available to the creative journaler considering how to journal. We now move on from the writer’s paper notebook and look at other ways that can be used to capture text. If you missed the previous posts just click on the navigation bar above to go back to them.




The Smartphone

Modern Smartphones are capable of being a key part of a creative journal. These highly versatile devices can;

  • take photos
  • take video
  • record audio files
  • playback third party podcasts
  • playback third party videos
  • remind us of things
  • record text files
  • make use of apps
  • interface with the internet
  • and more

They can even be used to phone someone.

However, for now we will only discuss using them for recording text.

When recording text they can be either used as supplied in a standard setup or, with a little investment of time and money, an enhanced setup can be formed.

Standard setup

Many of the latest Smartphones have, as standard, a built-in text editor and full character QWERTY keyboards, or virtual representations of one. These make it fairly easy for you to use the Smartphone as a mobile journal. Type your entry into a file, save it, then either transfer it later on to a main computer or send it via e-mail straight from the Smartphone.

Even if your phone is not supplied with its own built-in text editor, there are plenty of free ones that can be downloaded. As with all free software some are better and some are worse than others, so don't give up if the first one you try fails you in some way.

If your phone is one that cannot download and run a text editor, then as long as it has an e-mail function you can use the e-mail editor to enter text files. Although, if the phone is this limited you will probably be restricted to a non-qwerty keyboard and entering text will be a chore. In such a case I suggest you would be better served looking for a replacement Smartphone.

At first, entering loads of text into a Smartphone might seem a bit daunting to anyone used to a large keyboard or writing pad, but this medium should not be underestimated; this technology is still developing and is incredibly powerful and incredibly empowering.

For example, the novel "The Painted Man“ was written by Peter Brett whilst commuting on the 'F' train from Brooklyn to Times Square. His novel was optioned for its film rights and Peter went on to write half the sequel in the same manner before he was able to move to writing full time (read more about this).

The versatility of Smartphones combined with that they are always with you, makes them very important devices to the creative journaler.

Other notable advantages to a Smartphone over a paper notepad are the ability to password protect your files, to quietly write in bed using the phones illumination whilst not disturbing your partner and to store phenomenal amounts of past or reference information.

Because of their abilities it has to be considered if it is possible for a Smartphone/computer arrangement to replace a traditional notebook journal?

This depends upon the individual. Some tech savvy people would say yes, whilst others would decry anything other than handwritten notes. There are now inexpensive software programs (apps) designed to be an all in one journaling solution and websites dedicated to supporting the software and its users, for example

It is my belief that all journaling media should work side by side; each type of media has advantages and disadvantages, and should be used accordingly. In this case, electronic journals have the advantage of a phenomenal capacity to hold entries but there is the disadvantage, among others, that you can't flick through pages, randomly looking for inspiration or for a page with that vaguely remembered note, the one with a shape that looks “about so-and-so" or feel the texture of a collected leaf. By way of comparison, I believe my use of sticky-notes is as important to my creative journaling as my notebooks; creative journaling is not about what you use, it is about what it provides to the creative-you.

In her comment on a previous post Su George informed us that people with dyslexia may be helped by changing the screen colour on a Smartphone. Since reviewing past entries is a very important part of creative journaling this may be very important to a creative person coping with dyslexia. Further information on this can be found at

All this for Smartphones in their standard setup, but there is so much more they can do.

Enhanced setup

One very useful accessory is a full size keyboard, which makes life much easier for those of us who don't have elfin fingers. Although they are sold as "full size", this only refers to the keys and their spacing, and even then some of them shave a little bit off the standard size.

Most of these further shrink by folding in half or by thirds, such that the combined size of the Smartphone and keyboard is smaller than many notebooks. Another variant made from rubber simply rolls up and one very small laser device shines a virtual keyboard onto any flat surface.

Coupled with a connection to the phone, via a Bluetooth wireless link, these keyboard-phone combinations are bliss to set-up. Open your keyboard, activate the phones text editor, place it in a cradle on the keyboard and they are connected and ready to go; no wires, no fuss.

The text files, apart from being stored on the phone for later transfer to the home workstation, may also be stored in what is known as the 'cloud', that is, remote storage on the internet. Smartphones connected to the internet can take advantage of internet services, which allows files to be either directly entered onto a remote server or synchronised. Examples of these include, Google Drive and Dropbox, both of which offer limited free storage. Your files can then be accessed from anywhere in the world and automatically synchronised with your home workstation. In the event that the replaceable Smartphone is lost or damaged in any way, Cloud storage of files provides security for the irreplaceable text files and it allows the files to be accessed anywhere, by any compatible device.

Even if you don't take advantage of cloud storage with your Smartphone, there is free file synchronising software for computers that can detect (via Bluetooth) when your Smartphone is within range and automatically synchronise the files between both the Smartphone and the computer. This also ensures that an up-to-date backup is maintained in the case of disaster.



Like the mobile phone, a computer or tablet is far more versatile than just a text entry and storage device. For now though, we will just look at its more humble aspirations of entering and storing text.

Whether it is a stationary desk computer, a more portable netbook or one of the highly portable tablet computers like the iPad, they all allow you to type in your journal entry, browse all past entries and organise them if needed.

The differences come in the form of immediacy. For the creative journaler, the desk computer is best suited for those predetermined journaling tasks such as planning, practicing, development games and organising the photos, videos and other samples taken whilst journaling away from the desk.

So, although a desk computer may become the central archive and directory of a creative journal, it is not really suitable as the dynamic input device that creative journaling requires.

Netbooks and tablets can be better suited for this as the entry is made at the moment of inspiration or observation, and can later be effortlessly, well almost effortlessly, transferred to any other mass storage device or location.

For some writers a computer keyboard, irrespective of size, is just too impersonal, and they seek the tactile feedback from a pen moving across paper. However, with creative journaling there are the longer, contemplative entries where tactile feedback may be more important and then there are the shorter entries, crammed with observations and immediate thoughts, for which tactile feedback is secondary to the urgency of the moment.

Particularly useful text recording abilities of modern computing are text recognition, speech recognition and e-mail. Let us now look at these a bit closer.

Text recognition

Modern computers have become more capable at recognising text with every passing year. The technology now allows them to recognise text and convert it into electronic files from the printed page, the handwritten page and with handwriting as it is being written. In my opinion, the technology used by the Galaxy Note 10.1 is amongst the most impressive examples currently available (view demo on YouTube).

Handwriting recognition can be a boon to the creative journaler since work done elsewhere, such as the pages of practice beats and other trials from your notebook, may be scanned in and converted into text files and placed in a relevant collection or worked further. Since the work is transitory, it matters little that the software might hiccup here and there, making laughable errors in transcription, but some diligence in the forming of your handwriting can make this a rewarding addition to your toolbox.

Speech recognition

Another option for text entry into a computer becomes available when the computer is trained to recognise your voice and can transcribe an audio tape directly into text. The software for this has also been improving year by year, but during my last trial, I found that it still requires considerable effort to train such software to your personal voice and vocal nuances. However, despite producing irritating erroneous words in the final file, this software does offer a way of easily transcribing dictated audio files, such as one made during a car journey, into editable text. After all, journals are not supposed to be error free, even when it is the author’s hand that is guiding the pen.

Sometimes, a transcription error can be so humorous that the entry becomes more memorable because of it. It would be wise to allow these memorable errors to remain.


Whether you consider e-mails a scourge or a boon, there is no getting away from the simplicity and elegance of sending an e-mail to yourself in order to catch those quick thoughts as they occur.

If you are very unlucky and happen to work at a place where the pulling out of a notebook would be frowned upon, but fortunate enough to have access to e-mail, then a quick e-mail to your home address can be just the answer to your misfortune.

 Neat tip: Leave an e-mail to yourself open in the background, and give it an innocuous title such as “Remember to buy present”. This can then form a solution to being able to harvest ideas as they occur during the day, or for allowing a longer entry to be completed during idle moments.


Sticky notes

These wonderful little scraps of paper can provide the most cost effective and efficient medium for creative journaling. Simply seed your environment with sticky notes and pens; scatter them in your house, car, wallet, main journal, cupboard door, current reading book or just about anywhere an idea or observation may occur to you.

Then, when you are ironing and that brilliant idea leaps into your mind but, horror, your journal is too far away, just grab the nearest sticky note and scribble the idea down. It is these ideas that are often the best, the ones that come when your right brain is dominant because it is occupied with a spatial and repetitive task and your left brain is not currently controlling your thoughts. However, these are also the most difficult thoughts to hold in your mind and they will slip away with a sickening swiftness. Once you have made the note you can stick it to a prominent flat surface for later transcription in to a journal.

Neat tip: You could transcribe it into your journal, but why not just stick it in, after all who said your journal had to be neat?


Opportunistic materials

What if your journal is not to hand? Maybe your last sticky note was used whilst waiting at the bar, but you have seen something that must be recorded and so your hand reaches out for a napkin, then you become self conscious, think better of it and stop.

At these moments there is every reason to keep on going, grab whatever opportunistic material is to hand, be it a napkin, newspaper or cigarette packet, grab it and scribble your thought down. Later, stick the note into your journal, transcribe it if you must. Sometimes those odd entries written on strange materials can be so evocative that they bring whole sections of the journal to life.


News and other clippings

Newspapers and magazines can be sources of text that can go straight into a creative journal. Simply cut or tear these out, use a highlighter or scribble on them and paste them into your journal. Once pasted in, you can write a journal entry about the clipping that investigates your thoughts of the important aspects in the clipping. Some people will wish to scan and store such clippings with their other visual media in a computer, whilst others may just drop them into a compost journal, whichever system suits you, works for you, is good.

Neat tip: The large inexpensive scrapbooks that can be bought just about anywhere are absolutely perfect for using as a dedicated clippings or compost journal.


For some people this will sound strange, but by placing these scraps of the world into your journal, they will do more to remind you of the original moment when you initially read those words, than if they were transcribed.

Neat tip: You can add even more value to the clippings. Don't just leave them pasted on the page in an ordered and boring (logical) layout; stick them in at odd angles, upside down, sideways, folded. Write your thoughts around them or on them, a doodle or a sketch will help make them more interesting and memorable. This way, the uncreative act of recording by cut and paste can become, if you allow it, one of the more creative acts performed in your journal.



This ends the section on capturing text in different media. As is the way with things, I expect there are some means of capturing text that I have overlooked. If you know of anything then please let us know in the comments below and I will add them to this section.


Photo credit: Post-it, by Jörg Beckmann.
"Media Options, What to write on pt3" by Andy Shackcloth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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