A Low-key Approach to Journaling and Creative Writing

Journaling has been a really productive and creative way for me to process my emotions. It can be intimidating but once I started trying it casually, I found it really helpful to declutter my brain and lighten my mental load. This is especially true during the pandemic with the constant consumption of information from the news, school, or social media – it was nice to look back and see what I’ve made. 

  • Where?

Notebooks! Having a designated notebook just for journaling can work really great.

A photo of five journals stacked on top of each other
A collection of journals (varying sizes) open wide

However, if you’re like me, I have a lovely habit of buying notebooks and then finding myself not wanting to mess up how nice the pages are (plus, my thoughts flow so much faster than my hands can write).

So, I use my phone or laptop. There’s not enough praise for the Notes app, it’s a mix of everything in my life, making it an approachable place to journal. I also find a document on my laptop helpful, since my typing speed is pretty close to my thought speed!

Pro Tip: use a funky font like Calibri or Comic Sans. It makes writing more informal, which lets my thoughts flow easier.

  • Approaches/Prompts

Personally, I often ramble! I think writing whatever thoughts first appear in my brain has helped remind me that my journals are not going to be pretty; they’re going to be as disorganized as my brain once felt.

The best way to gain momentum with journaling was learning to recognize when my emotions become too heavy, and when I need to let them out. So, every time I feel overwhelmed, I try and step away from whatever task I am doing and then journal.

Here are some prompts:

  • Stream of consciousness (Set a timer for 5 minutes and force yourself to keep writing even if it’s nonsense. If you can’t think of anything, keep writing the same word/phrase until a new thought forms)
  • Write a letter to someone or something that is taking up space in your mind (they won’t ever see it, so you have complete freedom with what you want to say)
  • Reflect on your emotions from throughout the day.
  • Vocabulary

Journaling has also helped me realize how important labeling an emotion is. Just by acknowledging what emotion I’m experiencing, I can understand how to take care of myself better.

Here is a wheel of emotions for reference if you ever need it!

Wheel chart of emotions
Image Source: /https://flowingdata.com/2020/03/20/wheel-of-emotional-words/https://flowingdata.com/2020/03/20/wheel-of-emotional-words/
  • Turning Journaling to Creative Writing (Optional)

When I find a topic that really makes me start to write, I will see if I can use this as material for creative writing. Turning journal entries into poems can be truly cathartic, because now you have a medium in which to share your emotions with others or just for yourself. Whatever you do with your journal entries will let you know your thoughts are valid and (not to sound too cheesy but) worthy of being known, heard, and read aloud if you want to.

Reminder: Your journals aren’t supposed to be clean, organized, or pretty. You can always use the material/revelations/thoughts from your journals and turn them into art (as I personally find them a good resource for figuring out what topic I am passionate about) but you definitely don’t have to!

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