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In my opinion, the best tool a writer can have is looking at life and the world in a way that other people might not even consider. But how do you learn to do that if you don’t already know how?
Fortunately, it’s a skill like any other, and today we’re going to talk about how to learn creative writing skills with JOURNALING. If you don’t yet know how to stimulate your imagination, you’re about to find out.
If you’ve never done journaling, you might not think it’s anything but writing what you did during the day. That’s totally fine if you want to do that, but it can be so much more than just listing your activities and observations. The key is to change the way you talk about your life if you want to learn to think more creatively.
Yes, you’re going to have to GET KOOKY, but do you really think you can become more creative by doing everything the same way you’ve always done? Heck no. So let’s get started with some basics.
What do you need for journaling
Not much, really. Do you have a notebook and a pen? You’re good to go! Of course, it helps if you have something that you really enjoy writing in, and personally, I really love my pink notebook by Victoria’s Journals because I absolutely need everything in my life to be either in pastel shades or rose gold. You, however, might feel differently, and no one else can decide for you where you write best. Maybe it’s a yellow legal pad.
What about journaling digitally, is that not okay? It totally is! Writing by hand gets your brain involved in a different way than when you’re typing your words, but if writing by hand is a dealbreaker for you, then just use your phone or your computer for your journaling.
Evernote and Google Docs are very practical and easy to use, though there are numerous apps that are made for journaling specifically if you’d rather use one of those. (Just choose one quickly and don’t start procrastinating in the name of “research”!)
When you know what you want to write in, just pick a time and place where you’re free to do some creative work, and get writing.
How to see your day in a more creative way (hey that rhymes)
If you want to start off small, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, you can change the way you think and talk about your day. We often mention the things that bothered us, and obviously that can be helpful and therapeutic, but there’s something good in every single day.
If you want to write fiction, or maybe even narrative non-fiction, you have to learn to see more than just same-old same-old. You have to start by looking at your own life differently. When you’re sitting down to journal at the end of the day, consider these questions:
- What was the most surprising thing about today?
- What was totally unique about today?
- What were the three luckiest things about today?
If it feels difficult to come up with answers to those questions, GOOD, that means there’s something for you to learn and now you know how to learn it. When answering those questions becomes like second nature, you can move on to more advanced ones. (There’s no real system here, you can actually proceed as you please if it feels more creative to you.)
Unleash your feelings to learn more creative writing skills
That sounds rather fancy, doesn’t it? But it doesn’t have to be like that at all. All you have to do here is think of how you’ve been feeling and then go above and beyond to describe your feelings with the utmost detail. Preferably to an extreme. Remember we’re not trying to accurately portray our everyday lives to future generations, we’re trying to teach our brains to be more creative. Exaggeration is FINE.
As well as getting really involved with your feelings, you can imagine yourself as sort of a caricature of yourself. If you’re a stay-at-home parent whose partner works long days, write like you’re a lonely widow(er) still waiting for a letter from their mysteriously vanished spouse. If you’ve had a very boring day, write about it like you’ve been living the same day for the past 500 hours and you have personally counted every speck of dust in the house. (Although isn’t that just a regular journal entry from March 2020?)
See yourself with new eyes
How can you imagine different lives if you can’t imagine your own life through the eyes of someone else? If this feels difficult to you, you know what to do, just grab your pen and get practising.
Here are some points of view for you to consider:
- Your kitchen is viewing your everyday life very critically
- An alien is observing a regular human being, trying to understand our weird ways
- Someone who you think dislikes you is actually in love with you and is describing your life in tender detail
I’ve also written a little ebook full of fun creative journaling prompts that’ll help you get started with journaling. If you’d like to try some of the prompts right now, here’s one of my favourite pages (edited in 2023: I’ve updated this ebook so these prompts are still there but the pages look different!):
These were just a few ways you can turn your journaling practice into an exercise in creative writing. Now that you’ve finished reading this post, take your notebook and choose one of the exercises I gave you and go do it. For maximum impact, do it every day for a week, and then see how you feel about what you’ve learned about your writing skills.
If you’d like more inspiration for writing exercises, I’ve also written a post about using writing prompts to improve your writing. If you’re still finding yourself stumped, let me know in the comments what you struggle with and I can give you specific writing exercises.
I’ve also created the 30-Day Writing Challenge that gives you fun writing exercises to teach you important creative writing skills, so check that out too if you’re keen on improving yourself as a writer.