Why Journaling Helps My Creativity (and can help yours!)

I think it's safe to say that everyone has a "thing" they love to do on the daily. Whether it a dream job or a hobby or trying to finish watching the entire Gilmore Girls series for the fifth time, I'm positive that everyone has a hidden desire to fulfill a particular task. For me, that's journaling.

You see, I've always been OBSESSED with notebooks. When I was younger I owned a small Hello Kitty diary that I won at my elementary school winter carnival. It came with stickers and pens and had a bow that tied it all together, which at the time I figured had the magic power to keep my brothers away. It didn't. So once Mike, my older brother, announced to my entire family at dinner one night that I had a crush on Nick in my fourth grade class, it was time to search for a diary with a lock and key. During that search I realized how much I loved collecting notebooks. I think it was the promise of taking these journals on grand adventures and filling them with such rich and intriguing stories. Although I tend to buy journals faster than I can fill them (to this day I still have a collection of empty notebooks on my shelf), I started to get serious about documenting the special moments of my life when I left for college. 

Now with a total of 21 journals, starting from my Hello Kitty diary to the beautiful Italian journal in the photograph that my grandmother gave me, I have discovered the reason to why journals have such a special place in my heart: It's because journals give you the opportunity to be MESSY. Journals don't share your secrets or struggles with anyone. Journals don't care about how scratchy your handwriting looks or crappy your drawings may be. Journals don't judge or tug at you to produce or perform. Instead, journals give you a safe space to process, to practice, and to even pray. Journals don't ask for anything in return; they just let you be you.

I wish I could say that my journals are as beautiful as some of the ones sprinkled around Pinterest these days, but it really isn't. My handwriting is messy, I scratch through sentences when writing stories, and my lines are never even (right now my journal isn't ruled). And you know what? I don't care! My journal is a safe place to be messy and reflect. I especially love to look back on my journals and see the growth I've experienced throughout my life. Keeping a journal requires discipline, yes, but it is worth it to look back and see those huge changes, both creatively and personally.

Are you a creative person who thinks this may be exactly what you need? If so, I wanted to leave you with a few reasons to why journaling is so life giving for your spirit, and how to get started:

You can get real

For a while I was so scared to write all of my thoughts and feelings on paper because, to be honest, I was scared someone would read them and share that yes, I once did have a crush on Nick in the fourth grade (thanks Mike). It was actually around the time that I started dating Oliver that I couldn't take faking it anymore and just poured out all of my emotions on the subject. At that time I could not believe how freeing that felt.

It helps you process the struggles and anxieties that come with your life, and even your work

When things feel complicated or hard, or I feel stuck, I tend to just write out all of my thoughts. Usually the sentences never make sense, but at the end of my processing time I have either figured out solutions, thought of a friend to process more with, or find that a struggle I'm experiencing actually goes deeper than I thought. If you're like me and get creative anxiety, I would recommend processing with pen and paper.

Find a journal that you love.

If you spend time with this journal every day, then it should be something that you find lovely and life giving. I love to look around Paper Source, Anthropologie, or Kate Spade.

Force yourself to do 15 minutes a day.

One of the most valuable lessons I took away from my high school English classes is the creative healing that comes from free writing. If you haven't heard of it, free writes are a way to force writers to get writing. To do it, take a timer for 15 minutes and just write. The trick is, you must always have ink on paper and you can't stop at all. NO JOKE. That means no editing or second guessing sentences or structure or even grammar. It means write and don't stop. Sure your ideas will be messy (I mean you should have seen the first draft of this entry in my journal), but it means getting the heart and soul of your ideas out there and tweaking them later. Afterwards I typically take a highlighter and extract those meaty parts of my free write and take more time adding on to those ideas.

Again, write DAILY.

Let's get real, doing that creative project "some day" actually means "never." So doing a free write or keeping a journal some day could mean it just never gets done. As a creative I think discipline is the most important thing for your work. I easily get creatively stuck on ideas because "what if it fails" or "people may not like it," and I get afraid to just try writing out ideas and seeing what comes from them. I'm pretty sure I lost some serious chances for success in my work because of the "some day" syndrome. Discipline seems hard in a creative world, but it's incredibly important. If you don't sit yourself down and try to create/hash out ideas, you'll never actually see your creativity come to light.

Oliver once had a professor at school who said this at the beginning of his music composition class that, "I'm not teaching you how to get inspired, I'm teaching you how to write music." So start writing the music, people.