How To Start a Creativity Journal

posted in: Journaling | 0

What if your journal could be a place to find and incubate new ideas? A greenhouse, a workshop, a laboratory?


My journals as a kid were essentially diaries. Gradually they expanded to include “commonplace” books or pages (copied quotes I wanted to remember), prayers, and dreams. In graduate school, they became almost entirely “daily pages”—writing out my fears and hopes and goals, especially for my work. But in 2005, I discovered the books of Gwen Diehn: The Decorated Page and The Decorated Journal.

The journals Diehn featured were full of visual art along with the words, but the sketches were not all finished and polished. Even more importantly, they were not all just ways of “expressing myself.” The pages of a jewelry designer and an inventor were full of experiments. Some pages by Diehn herself were visual decision-making. The pages of a writer included exercises and “warm-ups.” I began to see the journal as a place to grow seedlings of good ideas.

I’m still a beginner at this, and these are not the prettiest page to share here, but I’d like to give examples of the kinds of “thinking on the page” I do when I have the seed of an idea to start with. I hope these will spark ideas for you, and that you’ll share your own processes with me.

Jumbled Variations

Sometimes I start with a visual concept—on the page below it was part of that letter “g” on the right—and make one or two variations of it. Then I often start to bring in other concepts I have been thinking about—fill patterns, the ideas in the verbal fragments–and vary them on the same page, letting them play off of each other.

sweetspotSQ-2Draw, Write, Draw, Write…

Often I spin something forward by reacting in a different mode. Having thought about roots at some time previously, I started drawing roots here. Then I went to some long-hand freewriting, just writing anything that came out. One strange sentence struck me, and I pulled that out to write slowly and reflectively on the side, with a bit of illustration. Obviously, this can go on and on…eventually it has a chance of becoming something real!


Brainstorm on an Abstract Concept

If I’m starting to illustrate (or write about) something very abstract, I might list everything it makes me think of, and try to draw out some of them as I go. I’ll also think about what colors “feel” right, and sketch tiny layouts. These working pages are not too pretty (and this one’s not even finished!), but they can be very useful.


I hope you can find some seeds of ideas in these rough thoughts and pages which will become something useful and beautiful in your journal!

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