Feeling Stuck? Try These 14 Creative Things to Write In a Journal
What To Write In A Journal
When I read Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way, I took her suggestion to write “morning pages” to heart. For several months, I woke up every morning to write three magical pages. Cameron suggests that if you get stuck, you simply write “I can’t think of anything to write” over and over until you think of something to say.
Some people have had incredible results with this technique. However, my attempts were less successful…in fact, I thought it was boring and it made me hate writing. Not only that, I began to resent the time I was spending on these morning pages when I could have been doing some real writing. The argument goes that these pages will improve focus and clear the mind. I didn’t necessarily find this to be true. If anything, I found myself ruminating more on my frustrations after I had taken time in the morning to write about them.
I know morning pages work for a lot of people. They just didn’t work for me. And yet…there was something about the idea that appealed to me. I suspected that Cameron was right to suggest that writing could help clear my mind and improve my focus. When I dove into researching the topic, I discovered that there’s scientific evidence to back her claim.
The trouble was that the assignment wasn’t specific enough to engage my mind. “Write about your thoughts” is about as vague as it gets—your thoughts are the only thing you can write about, anyway. There is absolutely zero inspiration in writing “I can’t think of anything to write” over and over; it’s discouraging. In talking with other would-be journalers, I discovered that this was everyone’s major stumbling block—they simply weren’t interested in what they were writing. They needed better journaling topics.
I know that there are lists and lists of writing prompts out there. However, studies of consumers show that it’s easy to overwhelm people with choices. If you give people 100 items to choose from, they will walk away without buying any. If you limit them to eight, they’re more likely to buy.
Anyone who ever watched an episode of Project Runway has seen the designers struggle with an unconventional materials challenge. In these, the designers are forced to use items that aren’t fabric—such as newspaper, candy, or party favors—to make clothes. Sometimes, the garments were disasters. Sometimes, they were sublime. But they were always interesting and exciting for the designers to work on.
So here are some different kinds of journal ideas that are specific enough to help ignite your mind and will be interesting enough for you to actually go back through your journal to mine it for ideas later.
14 Creative Things to Write in a Journal
1) Past Present Future
2) Ten Years from Today
Write in the present tense, beginning with where you wake up in the morning. Is there someone beside you? When you step onto your balcony or out your front door, what do you see? How do you spend your day? Include as many details as possible.
3) Literary Inspiration
Write about your favorite book. If you have the book on hand, begin your journal entry with a passage from one of the pages. Why do you love it so much? Is it the message, the prose, the characters? Did it provide you with information that changed your life? What makes this book special?
4) ‘What if’ Scenarios
Everything that comes out in this session will be creative. It’s kind of like a free write, because you can ask ‘what if?’ about absolutely anything and take it in any direction you want.
5) Your Wildest Wishes Come True
6) The Big Good Wolf
Get into the villain’s head and see how they were just doing what they thought they had to do. Turn them into a sympathetic character by exploring their past trauma and good intentions.
7) A Talk to Remember
8) A Ship in the Harbor
How did this affect your future and your sense of self? What might your life look like if you had chosen differently? In what ways are you still choosing safety over living a full and vibrant life?
9) Alien Intervention
10) Find Your Why
11) Quotes to Live By
12) Re-Examine Reality
You can do the same thing for your thoughts and established facts (what constitutes a ‘fact’ anyway?). Play around, imagine a different ‘reality’ where everything is opposite… or even skewed 90-degrees.
You may end up with a flash-fiction short story or an epic fiction masterpiece. Or, you could possibly discover new thoughts that will change your daily perspective and approach to different situations.
13) Rewrite Your Subconscious Thoughts
First, make a short list of things you’re struggling with, maybe 5 things. Then, for each thing, write down 5 ways to turn that struggle into a positive. What skills could you practice or learn to solve the problem? What actions or new understandings could that struggle lead to? Etc.
Second, write down your dreams every morning. Use this dream journaling to look deeper into your emotions and how the things going on in your life are affecting you. How can you use those insights?
14) Free Write
Don’t pause to think. Just keep your pen moving, even if it’s ‘I don’t know what to write I’m bored I feel anxious about that zoom meeting at three.’ Fill at least two pages. Keep flowing, and eventually you’ll move past your surface thoughts and into deeper reflection.
4 Gratitude Journal Apps That Can Help
Gratitude / Bliss Journal
For example, the Gratitude Journal or Bliss Journal is an old standby in the area of gratitude journal apps. It is available for Android devices and takes up only a tiny sliver of your phone’s memory. Best of all, it’s free to install!
This app will only set you back about 45 MB of space, but it packs a powerful punch. It aims for a distraction-free and easy-to-use interface, with easy scrolling and syncing on all iOS devices.
Gratitude 365 Pro
This gratitude journal app is available for iPhone and allows the user to incorporate photos, track their journaling by day, and organize with email, Facebook, Twitter, or Flickr calendar.
Another app for iPhone, iPad, and Mac users, Day One helps you keep a digital diary complete with pictures, maps, and notes about your day. This app can cut across devices, presenting you with the same look and format for each platform.
While this app is intended for more of a diary or daily journal purpose, it is easy to use it for tracking your gratitude. You can find it for Mac or for iPhone and iPad in the iTunes store. Click here to learn more about this app.