Journal Writing

cartoon of an owl reading a book illustrating an article about journal writingAre you thinking about keeping a journal – or struggling with deciding how to go about it?

There are many books about creative journal writing out there. The approaches vary wildly.

Some advice is quite rigid with rules hurled at the reader from every page.

Some writers believe that writing down their free-flowing thoughts each morning when they wake up, increases their creativity.

I have tried it and to be honest I soon realized that writing down the inevitable jumble of thoughts I wake up with is a waste of my valuable writing time.


Why would I spend so much of my precious time scribbling random thoughts on a page when I could be writing something constructive: the beginning of a story, a character, an ending, an idea.

In other words I prefer to spend my time writing something I can use rather than wading through a jumble of scribble.

Now, I am not saying that this approach is useless. Perhaps you don’t mind wading through your random morning thoughts to find something interesting and it may work for you.

However, if it doesn’t work for you, then don’t worry, there are lots of ways you can try.


You could try a practical approach to creative journal writing. With a little planning you can challenge yourself to write about something different every time you open your journal.


Take your diary and choose five days. It doesn’t matter which days, you may prefer to keep your weekends free or maybe not!

On the days you have chosen – write the following sentences in your diary.

DAY 1 – Write about the worst person you have ever met in your life – hold nothing back – be honest!

DAY 2 – Again, write about the worst person from your life – but this time find at least one redeeming feature and write about that.

DAY 3 – Write about a specific incident in this character’s life that made them who they were.

DAY 4 – Write about the worst incident that happened between you and this character.

DAY 5 – Write a piece of dialogue that occurs when you and this character meet up again.


Each day set an alarm clock for half an hour or an hour if you wish, and complete each of the day’s exercises as written in your diary.  Write quickly and DO NOT STOP TO EDIT OR CORRECT!

When you have finished, reset the clock for ten minutes and use this time to change enough of each person’s characteristics to make them unrecognizable to you or anyone who knows them.

If you complete this exercise – in just one week you will have created:

  • two well-rounded characters (worst person and you)
  • you will have created ideas for the incidents that occur in a potential story
  • you have practiced making these characters talk.

To continue your journal try mixing up and changing the characters you created. Find situations to put them in and see how they react.

If you do this every day your creative writing journal will soon become a treasure chest of ideas and you will find that among these ideas are the seeds for stories that you can develop.

How will you choose from all your ideas? Easy – pick the ones that intrigue you and make you really want to write more.

sunlit narrow lane illustrating an article about journal writingIf you enjoyed this post on journal writing you might also like to try – creative writing exercises.

If you like a little less detail then I suggest you take a look at these abstract creative writing exercises.

I also have lots of suggestions for fun stuff you can do to get your mind feeling fresh on my creative writing activities page.

Best of luck with your writing.


P.S. All the information and exercises on the site are free to you. All I ask is that you like, plus, or share. If have any questions or comments, just write in the comments box below. I love hearing from other writers and I do my best to answer every one.




Join over 3.000 visitors who are receiving our newsletter and get your free creative writing tracker.
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

, , , ,

4 Responses to Journal Writing

  1. Michael Short September 4, 2014 at 7:46 pm #

    Hi Grace,

    Thanks for this post. I have always thought journal writing was a bit of a waste of time, like you said writing down random thoughts just doesn’t work for me. After reading this i’ve decided to give it ago. 🙂

    • Grace September 4, 2014 at 8:47 pm #

      Thanks for your comments, Michael, it’s great to try new things in writing. If one thing doesn’t work something else always will. Let me know how it goes for you.
      Best of luck

  2. Aimen October 27, 2016 at 9:46 am #

    Hello! This website has been really helpful and ‘Journal Writing’ has really helped me – I haven’t written anything in a long while as my creative thinking has ‘gone’ but now I hope and am sure it is coming back again!

    Slowly but surely!


    • Grace October 28, 2016 at 2:36 pm #

      HI great to hear from. Journal writing is a great way back into writing and I’m sure your creative thinking will return once you get into writing regularly.
      Best wishes

Leave a Reply