Sometimes when we sit down to write, the muse is in full effect and the words pour forth effortlessly. Other times we sit there staring at a blank screen, waiting for creativity to manifest. We wait and we wait.
Then we wait some more.
Writer’s block is the state of being uninspired. It’s just a state of mind, so it can be changed at will, which is a good thing, because when it comes to creative writing, state of mind is pretty important.
Years ago, when I used to draw and paint, I often listened to a particular mix of music. It was ideal background audio for making art, very inspiring. As a result, every time I hear that music, I get an urge to pull out my watercolor pencils and sketchbook because I have built a psychological association between a certain kind of music and a creative activity.
What is art?
People have been trying to answer that question for centuries, but we still don’t have a definitive answer. We know art is borne of creativity. It’s meant to impact whoever is experiencing it. And it comes from a place within the artist that we don’t truly understand.
Art remains a mystery, both in its definition and its origin. Why is art a cornerstone of every culture on Earth? Why do some people flock to artistry while others prefer to sit in the audience? Why do people need art, whether it’s music, films, paintings, sculptures, dance, or literature? Read More
Technically, a journal is a chronological log. Many professionals keep journals, including scientists and ship captains. Their journals are strictly for tracking their professional progress.
A writer’s journal can hold many things: thoughts, ideas, stories, poems, and notes. It can hold dreams and doodles, visions and meditations. Anything that pertains to your creative writing ideas and aspirations can find a home inside your journal.
Today let’s explore an intimate style of journal writing, one in which we write about our own lives: reflective journaling.
Creative Writing Gets Personal
Some personal journals are diaries. A diary is merely an account of one’s daily activities and experiences. In a diary, we record what we did each day.
A reflective journal is similar to a diary in that we document our experiences. However, reflective journaling goes deeper than diary writing; it strives to gain greater understanding of our experiences rather than simply document them.
Reflective journaling is a form of creative writing that allow us to practice self-reflection, self-exploration, and self-improvement, and through reflective journaling, we gain greater awareness through observation, contemplation, and writing. By chronicling and then examining various aspects of our lives, we become more self-aware.
We all have stories to tell. With reflective journaling, you write about your own life, but you’re not locked into daily chronicles that outline your activities or what you had for dinner. You might write about something that happened when you were a small child. You might even write about something that happened to someone else — something you witnessed or have thoughts about that you’d like to explore. Instead of recounting events, you might write exclusively about your inner experiences (thoughts and feelings). Reflective journaling often reveals tests we have endured and lessons we have learned.
The Art of Recalibration (by Kristin Donovan, who is a sisterly spirit but no relation) is a perfect example of reflective journaling in which stories about our lives are interwoven with our ideas about life itself.
Reflective journaling has other practical applications, too. Other forms of creative writing, such as poems and stories, can evolve from reflective journaling. And by striving to better understand ourselves, we may gain greater insight to others, which is highly valuable for fiction writers who need to create complex and realistic characters. The more deeply you understand people and the human condition, the more relatable your characters will be.
Do You Keep a Journal?
I guess I’m a journal slob because my journal has a little bit of everything in it: drawings, personal stories, rants, and reflections. It’s mostly full of free-writes and poetry. I realize that a lot of writers don’t bother with journals at all; they want to focus on the work they intend to publish. But I think journaling is healthy and contributes to a writer’s overall, ongoing growth.
I once read a comment on a blog by a writer who said she didn’t keep a journal because she couldn’t be bothered with writing down the events of each day; I found it curious that she had such a limited view of what a journal could hold. A journal doesn’t have to be any one thing. It can be a diary, but it can also be a place where we write down our ideas, plans, and observations. It can hold thoughts and feelings, but it can also be a place where we doodle and sketch stories and poems.
I’m curious about your journal. Do you keep one? What do you write in it? Is your journal private or public? Is it a spiral-bound notebook or a hardcover sketchbook? Does journaling inspire or inform your other creative writing projects? Have you ever tried reflective journaling? Tell us about your experiences by leaving a comment, and keep writing!
photo credit: Auzigog
Every expert in the world thinks you should keep a journal. Physical trainers suggest keeping an exercise journal, and nutritionists recommend keeping track of your meals. Oprah insists on a gratitude journal, and business consultants promote journaling throughout one’s career.
How much journal writing can one person do?
Of course, journals are, first and foremost, the forté of writers. Journal writing provides a sacred space where thoughts, ideas, stories, and poems can be recorded. We turn to our journals for inspiration and when we’re inspired.
Some journals are topical while others are a hodgepodge. You might use several different journals, each for different projects or topics, or you might use one journal for everything. There’s no right or wrong way, and there are no limits to the journal ideas you can use to inform and inspire your creative writing projects.
Journal Ideas for Writers
These seven journal ideas foster creative thinking and promote regular (daily) writing. Some are good for keeping track of your ideas. Others are ideal for solving problems or keeping yourself inspired and motivated to write. Try one or try them all, or just create one journal for all your creative writing.
1. The Dream Journal
The subconscious is a wondrous thing. Artists and geniuses alike have attributed some of their best work to the messages they received while dreaming. A dream journal is useful for anyone interested in exploring the subconscious mind, where creativity often lives and breathes. This type of journal writing is also ideal for folks who are interested in dream interpretation or trying to achieve lucid dreaming. For writers, journals that hold dreams will provide a myriad images and plots that the waking creative mind simply can’t drudge up. Keep your journal near your bed, and make sure you jot down your dreams as soon as you wake up, otherwise with each minute that passes, you’ll lose chunks of your nighttime imaginings.
2. Art Journal
Even us writers have to admit that a picture is worth a thousand words. Symbols are particularly powerful and speak directly to the subconscious, which is where your muse might be hiding. Like a dream journal, an art journal is a clever way to get in touch with the deeper recesses of your mind, where some of your most creative ideas are lurking. You don’t have to be a fine artist to use an art journal. Doodles and stick figures will open up your right brain too! An art journal is also perfect for sketching your characters, scenery, and maps of the worlds you’re creating for your fiction.
3. Freewriting Journal
Sometimes called stream-of-consciousness writing, freewriting is a way to clear your mind of clutter. If you keep at it long enough, some pretty interesting stuff will emerge through your freewrites. Yes, it’s yet another way to tap into your creativity. If you can stop your conscious thinking and let the words flow, you’ll be amazed at the creative stew that is brewing just beneath the surface. You can do straight freewriting or try guided freewriting in which you focus on a specific word, image, or topic. It’s a great way to hash out conversations with your characters, accumulate raw material that can later be harvested for poems, and brainstorm for just about any writing project that you’re planning or working on.
4. Idea Journal
How many ideas have you lost? If you make it a point to note your ideas through daily journal writing, there’s a good chance you won’t lose any at all. This is why so many writers keep a journal or notebook with them at all times. In fact many writers use miniature notebooks for this very reason — there’s nothing worse than coming up with a brilliant idea when you’re at a party, in the middle of a phone conversation, or trying to fall asleep. Keep your journal near your person at all times, and you’ll never lose an idea again. Or pick up several miniature notebooks and keep them in convenient places — your nightstand, purse, car, desk drawer at the office, even the bathroom!
5. Inspirational Writing Journals
What inspires you? A sunset? A day with friends and family? A great movie or an inspiring song? Quotes from the greats? You can record all the things that inspire you in an inspiration journal, taking notes from some of the world’s most successful creators. You can even paste photos and clippings, using images to capture moments that were especially inspiring. Then when your creativity meter is running low, you can flip through your inspiration journal to capture ideas that ignite your passion (and your next writing project).
6. Life Events or Diary
A diary is pretty straightforward — you simply record the goings-on in your life. Some people start writing journals in diary format for special times or events in their lives, such as when they’re getting married or having a baby, traveling, or moving to a new place. Diary writing is a great place to start if you’re interested in writing a memoir or autobiography. It’s also a perfect place to record the real experiences that you’ve had even if you plan on fictionalizing them later. Some of the best dialogue, descriptions, and scenes come from real life!
7. Reader’s Journal
If you want to be a writer, read. Read a lot, then read some more. You just can’t read enough. When you write about what you’ve read, you can capture what worked and what didn’t work from a writer’s perspective. You’ll pick up neat writing tricks, jot down techniques that you’ve observed other writers using effectively, and of course, as you read and get ideas for your own projects, you can include those as well. Best of all, you’ll have a place where you’ve listed everything you’ve read and by keeping notes, you’ll retain all of it much better.
Which of These Journal Ideas Sparks Your Imagination?
Not all writers keep a journal. Especially with advancements in technology, writers are more and more likely to turn to their computers or handheld devices for all their writing needs. Don’t let technology stop you! You can always create writing journals using your computer or smart phone. Start a document or blog and maintain it electronically. But there is something to be said about putting pen to paper, something that the computer just can’t mimic.
What types of journals have you kept? Do you think journal writing is beneficial? Did any of these journal ideas appeal to you? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.
We all make mistakes in our writing. The most common mistake is the typo — a missing word, an extra punctuation mark, a misspelling, or some other minor error that is an oversight rather than a reflection of the writer’s skills (or lack thereof).
A more serious kind of mistake is a deep flaw in the writing. It’s not a missing word; it’s a missing scene. It’s not an extra punctuation mark; it’s an overabundance of punctuation marks. And these mistakes aren’t limited to the mechanics of writing: plot holes, poor logic, and a prevalence of bad word choices are all markers of common writing mistakes that are often found in various forms and genres of creative writing. Read More
Do you ever sit down to write only to discover hours later that you’ve done nothing but stare off into space with a blank look on your face, occasionally breaking from your stupor to notice that you haven’t written a single word?
Conversely, have you ever noticed that after watching an intoxicating film or listening to a mesmerizing piece of music, you feel that creative impulse start to throb, luring you to your keyboard or notebook?
Don’t Tell Me It’s Writer’s Block
Writer’s block is nothing more than a myth. In some cases, it’s an excuse. Creative writing is not supposed to be easy. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be so rewarding. Creative writing requires skill, focus, motivation, and inspiration. When we’re tired, emotional, hungry, or distracted, we’re not suffering from writer’s block; we’re just stressed out like everybody else.
But sometimes what’s lacking is writing inspiration.
If you want to keep your creativity flowing, start by taking care of yourself. Make sure you eat right, get plenty of rest and exercise, and keep your emotions in check by finding ways to be happy.
You have to take special care of your creativity too. Feed your imagination and keep a journal so you can store ideas for later use. Try some creative writing exercises to get yourself going in new directions. And absorb art.
When you take some time to experience a little art or entertainment, you’ll find that your creative juices really start to flow. Not only will you enjoy yourself, you’ll also massage your creative muscles and come away with fresh writing inspiration for your own projects.
Art Begets Art
Haven’t you heard? Creativity is contagious. The more you expose yourself to it, the more creative you’ll become. Here are five tips to keep the breeding grounds for writing inspiration fertile:
- Watch a movie, preferably a good one. It doesn’t matter which genre or whether it’s an award-winning film. The key is to pick a movie that speaks to you, the kind that leaves you feeling reawakened.
- Read a book or even just a chapter. This is sure to get you back in touch with your muse, but make sure that whatever you read when you’re looking for inspiration is something that fully engages you.
- Peruse art and photography. You can go to a museum or check out the many art sites on the web. Sometimes when I need a break from writing, I type something into Google, click the images button, and spend a few minutes enjoying the beauty of art and imagery. It’s good refreshment for the mind.
- Listen to music. One of the best things about listening to music is that you can do it while you’re also doing other things, like exercising, driving, cleaning, or working on your creative writing projects. Then again, you can just lie back, relax, and let yourself get swept away by the sounds. Or, you can…
- Dance. Not only will dancing get your blood pumping, it will increase your energy level. You’ll be listening to music all the while, so this one’s a double hitter with the added benefit of exercise!
Next time you find yourself floating around inside your own headspace when you should be forging your masterpiece, take a break to take care of your body and mind, and then go take in a movie or an album or some incredible artwork, and let someone else’s art beget your own. That’s how you get creative writing to come naturally and effortlessly!
Do you have any tips for finding creative writing inspiration? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Creative writing, like all art, is subjective, and therefore difficult to define.
Certainly fiction and poetry qualify as creative writing, but what about journal writing, articles and essays, memoirs and biographies? What about textbooks and copywriting? Technical writing? Blog posts?
Where do we draw the line between creative writing and other types of writing?
In some cases, what qualifies as creative is obvious. You read something and you know it belongs in the creative category. Other times, a piece of writing, while skillful, might not strike you as creative in nature. And then there’s everything in between – stuff that’s sort of creative or not quite creative enough.
Creative Writing and Art
People have been struggling to define art for centuries. Some feel that a Monet is definitely art and a child’s drawing is not. Others would say that both are art, and a few would even argue that a child’s work is a truer form of art because it’s not developed or learned. It’s completely intuitive and therefore more creative and artistic.
Creative writing presents us with the same dilemma. Does a piece of writing qualify as creative by merely existing? Would we refer to a legal document or instruction manual as a piece of creative writing? Does a straightforward essay or something like an encyclopedia article qualify as creative? What about letters or emails? Is creative writing determined by the level of skill versus talent?
For the most part, defining creative writing is a subjective pursuit. You can determine what creative writing is for yourself, but others may see things differently. Yet there are some types of writing that most of us would never refer to as creative writing, and a few types that we’d probably all agree on.
Obviously Creative Writing
As mentioned, when you think about creative writing, fiction and poetry spring to mind, possibly because the creative nature of both fiction and poetry is so obvious.
Fiction is made-up stuff borne from the imagination and therefore inherently creative. Poetry too, takes many liberties with language and imagery, and many poems are rooted almost entirely in creativity. Song lyrics also fit well with fiction and poetry, as does screenwriting, since all of these types of writing certainly require a significant level of imaginative and creative thinking.
But many other types of writing are creative as well. When you read a memoir with beautiful turns of phrase or an essay that fires up your imagination, you know that you’re experiencing the writer’s creativity. Conversely, when you read a bit of dry, factual material, you’re positive that it’s not creative writing at all.
Obviously Not Creative Writing
While these types of writing may require some level of creativity, they are not usually considered members of the creative writing family. That might sound exclusive or elitist, but one of the things that defines creative writing is how enjoyable it is to read.
It’s easy to glance at a poem and know that it’s a piece of creative writing, and it’s easy to flip through a legal document and know that it’s not. The problem with defining creative writing is all the stuff in the middle – writing that may or may not be considered creative, and that makes its membership in the club completely subjective. So, what is creative writing?
Creative Writing is Subjective
If a historical textbook is not creative writing, then wouldn’t that exclude other nonfiction works like memoirs and biographies from the creative writing category?
The line that separates creative writing from other types of writing is not drawn between fiction and nonfiction. Creative nonfiction is a broad genre and includes memoirs and biographies, personal essays, travel and food writing, and literary journalism.
While nonfiction indicates that the writing is rooted in fact, it can be quite creative (unlike technical or medical writing) because it is written with emphasis on language and the craft of writing.
Creative Writing and You
Ultimately we each get to decide what is art and what is creative writing. Most of us will know creative writing when we experience it, either as a writer or as a reader, even though we rarely take the time to examine why we consider one type of writing creative over another.
A few questions to consider:
- Do you differentiate between creative writing and other types of writing? Do you even think about it?
- Have you ever thought about the difference between literary writing and other types of creative writing?
- Do you feel that copywriting (ads, commercials, etc.) can be classified as creative writing or art even though its purpose is strictly commercial?
In the big scheme of things, it may not be that important to go around labeling what is and isn’t creative writing, but it’s certainly worthy of a few brief moments of consideration.
In any case, keep writing (and stay creative)!
Do you have any ideas to add or questions to ask about creative writing? Leave a comment!
Practice makes perfect, right?
That’s exactly why keeping a journal is essential for writers. The countless benefits of journaling include getting regular writing practice, establishing a space where you can explore your creative ideas, and fostering a daily writing habit.
Do all writers keep journals? Of course not. But most of us have kept journals at some point, and for most of us, journal writing has been instrumental in our development as writers.
Probably the most famous application of journal writing comes from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. In it, she encourages people who are trying to connect with creativity to write every single morning. “Three pages of whatever comes to your mind — that’s all there is to it.”
Writing morning pages is like boot camp for your muse. By writing every day at the same time, you train her to show up when you say it’s time to work. Cameron’s methodology also involves turning off the inner censor, that little voice that berates every sentence.
The key is to simply let the words flow.
Think about it — if you write three pages a day, in seven days, you’ll have twenty-one pages. In a month, you’ll have about ninety pages, and in one year, you’ll have well over a thousand pages. That’s a lot of creative material to pull ideas from. And those are just a few of the benefits of journaling.
Get on the Writer’s Express
If you’re new to writing or want to explore writing as a career or hobby, then journal writing is your ticket onto the expressway to becoming a writer. You can use your journal to draft stories, sketch characters, jot down poems, or record the events of your daily life. Maybe after one year and over a thousand pages, you’ll be able to do some editing and publish your memoir.
Journaling is also great for commercial writers (technical writers, copywriters, etc.), who spend all day writing and editing copy for clients. This type of writing is a lot different from writing stories or poems; keeping a journal can help to get your head out of business and into more creative forms of writing. The creativity you cultivate will then seep into your professional writing, and it will become more vivid and engaging.
Sticking to a Schedule
Even if you don’t stick to a rigorous schedule, it’s important to write somewhat regularly to get the most out of the benefits of journaling. This helps keep ideas and language flowing and helps you build the journal writing habit. You may only be able to journal on weekends or on certain days of the week. Sticking to a schedule (preferably daily) is the best way, but it’s not always realistic.
The most important thing is that you commit to keeping a journal and then keep your journal with you or nearby at all times. You can also carry smaller notebooks or scraps of paper and either glue or tape them into your journal later.
You’ll Need a Journal
I’ve been writing a journal on and off for more years than I care to admit that I have under my belt. Throughout all those years, I’ve tried every type of journal under the sun, and finally, I found my favorite for journal writing.
Technically, the Watson-Guptill Sketchbook is just that, a sketchbook. The pages are blank instead of lined, so you can doodle and write sideways, and I love adding color with Crayola Markers, too!
Some writers can journal using anything — composition books, legal pads, napkins. I can do that too, but I don’t feel the same connection to it as when I have my own sacred space especially for journal writing.
Recently, I’ve got it into my head that I’ll start journaling on the computer. But it’s just not the same as having that pen and paper in my hand. It’s almost like I’m closer to my creativity or my subconscious when I’m using a pen. I’m not sure if that’s true or even possible, but it sure feels that way, making the tactile experience of working with pen and paper yet another benefit of journaling.
Have you ever kept a journal? Do you keep one now? Let’s talk about how journal writing has impacted our writing or even our lives. What type of notebook or paper do you use for your journal, or do you use a computer? Is your blog your journal? What benefits of journaling have you experienced?
We’ve all read books, articles, and poems that we completely forgot about once we were done. But some written works linger. They haunt us or stimulate our thoughts. They provoke our emotions.
That kind of writing is special.
When you create an emotional connection between your writing and your readers, there’s a lasting impression. That’s what happens when you write with passion.
Those two works, along with dozens of others, became threads in the tapestry of my world. That’s the power of writing that slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart, as Maya Angelou described. This kind of writing affects people, influences them, and shapes their lives because it’s imbued with passion.
Maybe your readers will enjoy your work but get back to their lives as soon as they’ve closed the cover on your story. Or maybe you’ll make a difference. Maybe you’ll change lives and make some small (or great) change in the world. There’s no right or wrong way, but when you write with passion, you certainly increases the chance that your work will stick with people.
Quotes on writing: source
Each writer has a distinct style. We repeat certain words, phrases, and expressions; there are patterns in how we arrange words in sentences and paragraphs, and our writing often carries a recognizable tone.
The term for an author’s distinct writing style is voice.
Wikipedia defines a writer’s voice as “a combination of their common usage of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works).”
In college literature courses, we would be given a long list of quotes, and we had to identify the author of each one. The professors didn’t expect us to memorize the entire literary canon; we were to have studied these authors’ works enough to be able to identify the quotes by each author’s voice.
Imagine someone reading a snippet of text and knowing that you wrote it! That’s style. Read More