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.
Personal ponderings can be a slight problem when journaling for creativity, because how can you be sure that you are actually pondering in a creative way and not pondering about issues more aligned with personal journaling?
As has been mentioned previously, creative journaling is not a replacement for personal journaling, and by performing creative journaling, there always will be some elements of personal reflection that will have more to do with growth and personal development than creativity.
Personal thoughts are really personal journaling, tending to be introspective rather than being the gregarious clamorous thoughts of creativity. Ultimately, it is simply a decision; whether to mix personal journaling entries with creative ones, or keep them separate.
The problem comes when you start a journal entry. Is it going to be personal or creative, or perhaps it will wander impishly between the two?
Kathleen Tyau has a simple solution to this little dilemma;
"I start with my daily journal, and when the words start turning to fiction, I switch over to the other journal."
Kathleen Tyau, from "The Writers Journal" edited by Sheila Bender
The act of writing personal thoughts gives clarity to the commotion in your mind. It allows for an internal dialogue to occur with yourself that can provide huge insights and comprehension of issues. From making personal journal entries, life changing decisions and new understandings can be achieved. It is just part of what makes personal journaling so powerful, and you may wish to keep a separate journal just for these types of entry.
However, we won't dwell on personal thoughts here, because the subject is huge and there are a great many good books and websites already dedicated to this subject.
These are journal entries which have the intention of directing yourself to perform a future action.
We are all used to leaving ourselves notes or writing out to-do lists, sometimes we follow them and other times they are conveniently ignored, as I'm sure you have all done before now.
However, leaving a creative personal direction has an additional requirement; we are making a request on our creative-mind and we shouldn’t assume that just because we desire something done, that our creative-mind will concur.
We have to remember to instruct ourselves to do something as opposed to just listing needs. We actually have to instruct our creative-self to do something that we want done as if we are talking to a second person (which in fact is exactly what is happening.) Also, it will help greatly if we word it in a manner that is interesting to our creative-self, otherwise like we do with boring to-do notes, it might just ignore it.
Simply put, when entering personal thoughts that have a directive element to them, be personable and strive to be interesting in your dialogue with yourself.
About current writing projects
Odd thoughts can be a flood at the start of a project, when the ideas abound and insecurities have not yet set in. Many of these, such as character outlines, story thoughts, and the outline will have their own section of journal or even a separate work area.
Apart from these, there will be other thoughts about the project, more personal entries such as those revolving around the project, family and finance. The need for creativity can be just as great for resolving these considerations as for constructing your story, and your journal can be just as useful in providing answers.
As time passes and the project drags or comes under critical review, personal thoughts and judgments will again need expressing and answering via journal entries.
It is important to note these as it allows niggling thoughts to be explored before they mutate into creativity sapping issues.
About personal growth
Whilst actively observing the world around you there will be many times when observing the interaction of others, the value sets of others and the cause and effect of life, that you will be forced to ask yourself where you stand on something, how you measure up and how you would have reacted if an action was required from you.
This is a good thing even though at times it may be that you don't like your own answers.
By journaling your feelings to events, you explore the things that move you and discover the real you, a you measured against your real self, your real responses and not self-deceiving beliefs.
The combination of active observation, personal journal entries and self directed questions makes it possible to gain a deep understanding of who you are and your true values.
For a writer, this personal growth is fundamentally important because if you don't know your personal value set from which colours your view of the world then you will not realise how it is colouring your writing.
A page of affirmations is a very useful part of a creative journal. Sometimes the self doubts can be crippling for the artist and at these times simply repeating mantras from stronger times can bring back portions of that strength.
They can also provide discipline against other destructive habits and tendencies. Simply write down positive affirmations of your goal or preferred behaviour and read them aloud to yourself at the same time each day.
"I am a writer."
"I consistently write a thousand words a day."
"I have control over my fears."
“I won’t check my e-mails until I have written a thousand words.”
Some journalers write positive affirmations in large letters on the front or on the inside cover of their journal. These may be just as easily be displayed on a computer desktop or screen saver. The media used is not important, the process is.
Neat tip: Write affirmations across the top of each page of a new notebook. Then, as each page is completed, a new affirmation greets the turning of a page.
As we read aloud a positive affirmation the message feeds past our cynical logical-mind and gets lodged in our subconscious, subsequently giving direction to our desires. The more we read them, the more our subconscious strives to make them true.
So, if we wish to always write a thousand words a day but currently don’t, then if we repeatedly read aloud the affirmation.
"I consistently write a thousand words a day",
then the gap between the current practice and the spoken desire will close.
Photo credit: One Way Sign, by David Amsler.