By Lisa Tener
a. Don’t you love it when you sit down to write and the words flow with ease?
b. Don’t you hate it when you sit down and feel stuck?
As writers we want more “a” and less “b”. Journaling can be the perfect catalyst for writing that flows.
The Creative Effects of Journaling
Where do I start? Journaling can be a writer’s superpower. Journaling can:
- Strengthen your creative habits: Just eight minutes a day writing in your journal can turn you into someone who writes every day!
- Uncover new material and ideas: My journal has often inspired new articles, blog posts and even books.
- Solve problems in your other writing: Creative process is nonlinear. Often, when we return to a challenge after a seemingly unrelated exploration, we can be flooded with new ideas and solutions that we hadn’t seen before.
- Take you in a new direction or spark something out-of-your-box: Your journal allows for experimenting with form and ideas. The freedom of a journal allows you to try things you might not try elsewhere.
- Serve as a gateway to bigger projects: Once you’re journaling, you’re writing. As you leap from journaling to another project you can tap into that state of flow.
How to Journal Your Way into Flow
- Let go of the list making, productivity oriented aspect of your mind and acknowledge to yourself that you are entering sacred creative time. Connect with your inner muse (which responds to symbolism, play, nature, art and beauty). There are many ways to do this. You can pick an inspiring spot in nature, imagine yourself letting go of your to-do lists and concerns, light a candle, create a writing nook for yourself surrounded by inspiring artwork, take a short walk to tune into your muse, or…well, the possibilities are endless; aren’t they?
- Set a timer for 8 minutes of journaling. If you’re journaling first thing in the morning, you may want to record your dreams and explore their symbolism. You can also use a prompts journal, like The Joy of Writing Journal to provide a jumping off point. Write for 8 minutes. Can you journal longer? Yes! There aren’t many rules, but I do encourage you to:
- Let go of judgment. Just write and don’t worry about whether it’s good or whether you’re writing enough. If you find yourself judging, smile at the common temptation to judge and remind yourself this is a judgment free zone.
- Allow yourself to improvise: a prompt is a jumping off point. If you feel moved to alter the prompt or create your own, go for it. Or if you don’t feel inspired by a particular prompt, move to another (but perhaps come back to this one tomorrow–sometimes resistance means there’s something powerful behind it and your subconscious mind may just need more time to noodle with the prompt).
- Turn to another writing project: If you’re working on a particular project, once your timer rings, turn to that project (unless you feel strongly compelled to continue journaling). Allow the experience of flow to transfer from one project to the other. It often helps to set a goal or intention, such as “to complete chapter one” or “to write an anecdote about x that illustrates the science behind the principle” or “to write a blog post (or article) about y.” If you don’t have a current writing project, comb through your journal to see if you can find ideas that spark your interest, which you might continue to explore or develop. Set a timer if that’s helpful. Takes breaks for stretching, walking, other movement or deep breathing as needed.
- End with gratitude: Like any relationship, your relationship with your inner muse or creative source is one that you can nourish with gratitude. When you take a moment to feel grateful for whatever came today, you honor your creativity. Even if you didn’t produce as much writing as you wanted, or you feel yourself judging the writing, you can turn your focus to what you are grateful for—that you took time to write, perhaps find a phrase or idea you are excited about. When you take time for gratitude, you set yourself up for the long run—nurturing your creative source and creating more of what you’re grateful for. It may not mean you’re thrilled with your work every time, but gratitude will lead you in the direction of greater fulfillment over time.
Do you journal before other writing? If so, how does it affect your work, your attitude and your experience?
Lisa Tener is an award-winning book coach, speaker and author of the book The Joy of Writing Journal: Spark Your Creativity in 8 Minutes a Day. Lisa has helped thousands of aspiring writers and authors access their creativity, find their voice and write and publish groundbreaking books through her coaching services and courses. Dozens of her clients have won prestigious book awards and/or signed five- and six- figure deals with major publishing houses. For over a decade, Lisa served on the faculty of Harvard Medical School’s CME publishing course, helping doctors, therapists, healing professionals and entrepreneurs bring their books to life. Find out more at LisaTener.com.