Journal Your Way to Better Stories

Journaling for GLR 5
courtesy of

By: Laura Hay

Do you dream of being a published writer? Do you want to improve the writing you do, or come up with better ideas for stories? Then creative journaling can help you get there! A lot of people keep journals during their life; recording their thoughts, feelings and the events of their lives in blank books or notebooks. This simple act has, in recent years taken on a new life and become creative. Creative techniques have always existed, but now it’s becoming a popular pastime, with blogs and Pinterest boards devoted to it, making it an art form. There are so many fun styles to adopt, but three primary ones are Creative Journaling, Smash Booking and Art Journaling.

The first, Creative Journaling is the umbrella term for all forms of imaginative journaling. The great part about it is that anything goes! You can do simple things like use colored pens when you write in it, make a list of things you like, or your life goals; you can glue in photos you like, or photos from your life and then write little blurbs about them, or you can get really creative and cut out shapes from colored paper or use decorative tapes.

Smash Books might be the most interesting of the three types. This style is a lot of fun, but doesn’t involve a ton of writing, but instead is based in the ideas of recording events and feelings, personal items and the self and ‘smashing’ them together as a record of your life and your soul. Smash books are half scrap book and half journal. They can either be purchased or homemade. The idea is to put something different on each page. Sometimes the pages of the premade versions even have directions for what to put on the page, like find a leaf from a tree you love, or paste a picture of you and your best friend. It’s all about capturing you and your life.

If either of these aren’t to your taste, you can try art journaling, which melds skilled artwork and writing of various forms. Art journaling is popular with people who have a fair amount of artistic skill. The journal of someone practicing this type of record keeping might have pages painted in water colors, drawings in ink, or colored pencil intermixed with whatever the person wants to write.

I myself am very familiar with journaling, in the traditional method and the styles described above. I’ve kept yearly journals since I was about eight or nine years old and now teach creative journaling classes to kids and adults. I love teaching it and helping people discover its benefits. It’s good for everyone, especially writers and aspiring writers! Maria Popova says famous author Virginia Woolfe felt strongly about it and “speaks to the value of journaling in granting us unfiltered access to the rough gems of our own minds, ordinarily dismissed by the self-censorship of “formal” writing.” She goes on to quote Woolf as saying, “The habit of writing thus for my own eye only is good practice. It loosens the ligaments. Never mind the misses and the stumbles.” A number of famous authors kept journals and recommended it for those also hoping to break into the field.  Anais Nin, W.H. Auden, and Henry David Thoreau along with Ms. Wolfe all kept personal diaries and found them to be of huge benefit not only to themselves, but to their writing as well. They all agree that journaling was a key aspect of successful writing.

For me, as a creative and journalistic writer, journaling helps me keep my powers of observation sharp and my creativity flowing, which is critical in any kind of writing. The writing helps me maintain my skills, and the creative techniques help me develop my imaginative thought process, improving the quality of writing I do and the ideas I use when doing it. And then there are the words that famous writer Madeline L’Engle offered to aspirering writers: “You want to write, you need to keep an honest, unpublishable journal that nobody reads, nobody but you.” So get writing- and make it creative!


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