Writing

8 Effective Journaling Techniques for Creative Writing

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jan 9, 2020 • 2 min read

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Like any skill, writing requires practice. Journal writing is a low-stakes, low-pressure way to get in the habit of regular creative writing. If you’re starting a journaling practice for the first time, there is a wealth of techniques and methods for getting started.

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8 Effective Journaling Techniques

Different writers have different perspectives on journaling, and as you start filling up your journal pages, you’ll probably develop your own techniques. Here are some of the most well known, effective journaling methods to help kick-start your journaling practice:

1. Have a Set Time to Write.

Many writers prefer to write first thing in the morning. Morning pages are a stream-of-consciousness journaling habit done first thing every morning on a daily basis. The idea is to wake up, open your morning journal, and write three pages of longhand of any thoughts that come out of your head. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way, created this approach to journaling as a way for people to unleash their creativity. Building writing into your schedule will make it more of a priority.

2. Get Away From Your Desk.

Go on a walk and bring your notebook. Look around and take down some observations on the external stimuli around you—a tree, a person, a neighborhood, a pool. Ideas may come to you while you are walking that don’t come while you’re hunched over the computer. Take some time off, and be sure to give yourself both physical and mental breaks to recharge. A lot of your best creativity will happen on the back burner when you’re letting your mind roam.

3. Write a Letter to Someone.

Writing a journal entry as an unsent letter to someone else—a real or imagined person—can help you channel your thoughts to a specific audience, and can make your writing feel more like a dialogue.

4. Use Journaling Prompts.

If you’re struggling to start writing, there are many journaling prompts online and in books that can make the blank page seem less daunting.

5. Make Lists.

If free-writing sentences and paragraphs seems too intimidating or time-consuming, try starting with lists. Jotting down ideas with bullet points—also called bullet journaling—can help you get inspired to flesh out some of those ideas. You can start with a to-do list, a list of words or places that you love, or a list of things in a room.

6. Keep a Dream Journal.

Dream journaling is the practice of recording fragments of your dreams each morning while they are still relatively fresh in your mind. Good dreams can be just as informative as bad dreams; both can be useful instruments for unlocking the creativity that goes unnoticed during your waking life. Dreams can also be useful problem-solving devices, helping you gain clarity or break through writer’s block.

7. Keep a Gratitude Journal.

Gratitude journaling is a popular method of self-care and self-reflection that involves making a list of things that you are grateful for.

8. Try Art Journaling.

If making visual art helps you engage in the present moment, an art journal—whether interspersed with doodles, watercolors, or stickers—can be a great outlet.

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