7 Journaling Techniques to Jump Start Your Creativity

Try any of these for 10 minutes or less to feel freer and more creative.

A drawing of a robot in a journal. From Pexels.

As someone who writes for a living, I struggle often to come up with fresh ideas to share with the world. Keeping a journal, however, has turned out to be a great way to get the creative juices flowing. But some days even plain old journaling isn’t enough. After lots of trial and error I’ve discovered that these 7 techniques help me the most. Doing any of them for 10 minutes or less makes me feel much more creative. I hope they help you, too!

Turn Your Journal Sideways

From an early age we’re taught to read and write in a certain direction. (In the West it’s top to bottom and left to right.) One way to spark more creativity is to go against what we’re taught. Try turning your notebook sideways or upside down as you’re writing. If you’re feeling extra bold, turn your notebook 90 degrees every time you get to the end of the page so that you’re writing in spirals. Every time you change directions you’re forcing your brain to think outside the box.

Write in Poetic Meter

This is a great strategy to try even if you’re not a poet — especially if you’re not a poet. The reason is because most types of poetry require constraints in terms of meter, rhyme schemes, or a set number of lines. It seems counter-intuitive that constraints lead to more creativity, but studies show (not an affiliate link) that self-imposed limitations actually get the brain thinking in new and different ways.

Don’t Just Write — Draw

Who says journals are just for writing? If you want an extra boost of creative inspiration, take a few minutes to doodle alongside of — or instead of — your writing. Drawing uses a different part of your brain than writing. By using both, you’re encouraging yourself to consider alternative ways of looking at the world. And here’s a bonus: research also suggests (not an affiliate link) that doodling improves your memory and recall.

Use Stickers

Like drawing, using stickers to express yourself can have profound impacts on your creativity. Consider using them in unusual ways: by incorporating them into drawings or by using several smaller stickers to make one larger image. Bright colors and unusual shapes are especially useful when trying to jump start your creativity.

Let Yourself Be Practical

As the American moral philosopher Eric Hoffer once said:

“The leader has to be practical…yet must talk the language of the visionary and the idealist.”

Sometimes in order to be creative you also need to be practical. So let your journal be a way to capture both sides of yourself. Dedicate some of your pages to grocery lists, number crunching, or to-dos that you’ll want to remember later. Creativity doesn’t — and shouldn’t — happen in a vacuum, so allow your practical self to shine through whenever you need it to.

Cheap is Best

Are you as drawn to beautiful — and expensive — leather notebooks as I am?They’re hard to resist, but if you want to be creative, you’re best best is to find the cheapest notebook you can. The reason is because nice journals often have a negative side-effect: they make us think that only the best ideas deserve to be written down in them. But being creative is about letting yourself experiment, brainstorm, and ultimately fail. The cheaper the journal the freer you’ll allow yourself to be in its pages.

Write for Yourself

At the end of the day, your journal should be written by you and for you. If you try to please an ideal reader other than yourself you’ll struggle to impress her. Creativity is stifled by fear and worry, so let those feelings go. Instead, allow yourself to write whatever comes to mind, even if what comes out isn’t beautiful or all that articulate. You’ll fill your pages faster and spark ideas for new projects.

Remember: There’s never just one way to keep a journal. Try combining some of the techniques above to really get the creative juices flowing.

Freelance writer and editor; dreamer; a believer in helping others to write better and be more creative.

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