How To Write a Creative Journal in 6 Steps

This post is for all of the perfectionists who want to start creative journaling, but are afraid of doing it ‘wrong.’ I promise it’s not difficult! Let’s talk about exactly how to write a creative journal so you can let go of those fears and start exploring your creativity.

There are many creative ways to journal, and not all of them involve writing. However, today we’re going to discuss the more ‘classic’ style of writing in a journal… but with a creative slant.

Text steps to write a creative journal on white background over image of woman doing creative journaling at white table next to teapot, teacup, and succulent plant.

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What are the rules for a creative journal?

Okay, let’s address this first, because the answer is always simple and always the same when it comes to ANY kind of journaling:

THERE ARE NO RULES.

It really doesn’t matter when, where, or how you get your ideas or thoughts out of your head. What matters is that you find a way that works the best FOR YOU and makes you WANT to continue journaling.

With a creative journal, the things you write will PROBABLY look different than what you would usually write in a gratitude journal or in response to personal self-discovery prompts. That’s because the purpose of a creative journal is for you to expand a specific thing… your creative process.

That said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with crossing the lines when you journal. Everything you write serves to get your brain working and your thoughts flowing, so it’s all good.

How To Write a Creative Journal Entry

Writing a creative journal entry is very similar to writing any other journal. Let’s break down how to start a journal entry and each step of the process, which will be helpful if you’ve never written any type of journal as an adult.

1. Gather inspiration

Most people don’t just wake up one morning, say ‘I’m going to start a creative journal today,’ and then proceed to write the most amazing journal ever without any time to think or prepare. Sure, there are probably a few people who could do that, but overthinkers like us? Not very likely. 😉 

The first thing you want to do is assemble a list of inspirational ideas like these creative things to write in a journal and these creative journal topics.

If you have ideas swirling in your head, write down a list. You can expand on these ideas during your journaling sessions. 

Really, you can be inspired by anything. Don’t ever say ‘I don’t know what to write’ or ‘I’m not creative.’ Anyone can write a journal, and everyone is creative in some way. 

Along with the ‘swirling ideas,’ keep a running list in your journal of conversation snippets, thoughts, words, and anything else that makes you think ‘that would make a great [whatever].’

Your creative journal is where you can transform those things into the ‘whatever.’

2. Find your ‘perfect for now’ journal

I’ll let you in on a little secret… journalers are ALWAYS on the lookout for the ‘perfect’ journal. So don’t stress over finding the absolutely ‘perfect forever’ journal. Instead, go with ‘perfect for now.’

Any of these best journals for writing are excellent choices for creative journals. 

My current personal favorite is this refillable leather journal with an elastic closure. It holds 4 separate notebooks, so you can separate your journal entries into topics or styles to keep everything kind of logical. Plus, with separate notebooks, there is no fear of ‘messing up’ an entire journal — just switch out a single notebook if you absolutely need to.

Woman doing creative journaling at white table next to teapot, teacup, and plants.

3. Choose your writing instrument

One of the pleasures of journaling by hand (vs. typing or voice-to-text) is using a smooth-writing pen. 

Sometimes I like a bold, dark line, so I’ll use a pen like the .7mm Pilot G2 — just be cautious, because this pen does tend to smear a bit if you don’t give it a little time to dry. 

For times when I want to write quickly and have a lot to say, I like a thinner, lighter line. I usually reach for a Paper Mate InkJoy ballpoint pen or a Pentel RSVP ballpoint pen — I do tend to prefer the shape and balanced feel of the RSVP. 

You can always use a pencil if you like, but having to sharpen it 387 times while writing a journal entry irritates me too much. LOL. 

4. Decide where and when you’ll write

Creative journaling works best when you can let your mind run free, so set the mood. If possible, make your ‘creativity time’ a bit of a ritual.

Find your writing place… In bed? Lounging on a comfortable couch? Sitting at a table or special writing desk? Near a window?

Will you light candles? Do you want complete silence? Will you wear earpods with a specific playlist? Or will you write in a busy coffee shop?

Is your creative time in the morning or evening? I’ve found that ‘not-quite-awake’ is a great time to write 500 words.

Will you use a timer? Or just write until the words run out?

Remember, you’re not setting rules here. You’re looking for ways to improve your writing experience and get the most out of each journaling session. You can ALWAYS experiment to find what works best for you!

5. Stop worrying and just write

How do you start a creative journal entry? Write the date. 😉 For real, this is probably the only ‘rule’ I recommend. You’ll be surprised at how often you go back and refer to entries from particular dates or time periods.

If you’re writing a response to a prompt, mull over the prompt for a moment and then set pen to paper.

After you first think about your prompt or know what idea you’ll be writing about, write quickly and continuously. Don’t spend your entire journaling time doodling or thinking. Even if your first words don’t seem to relate to the topic, you’ll either bring it back around OR find yourself writing on an interesting — and creative! — tangent.

Once again — YOU CAN’T MESS THIS UP!

This helps to develop your writing skills, especially if your line of work is ‘writing on demand’ — blog posts, novels, articles, etc. By extension, it also increases your creative skills — taking ‘nothing’ and turning it into ‘something’ — even if you don’t know where it will all end up.

Louis L'Amour 'start writing' quote on torn-paper background over image of journals and candle on white desk.

6. Write until you’re done 

… or until your timer goes off. 😉 

If you feel like you’ve been writing and writing, and now your journal entry has come to a natural conclusion, don’t force yourself to keep writing. If you have time, review what you wrote. Are there any follow-up ideas you would like to explore? Add them to your inspiration list.

If you’re keeping something like a story journal and you don’t have time to finish what you wanted to write for the day, it’s okay! Make some notes for the next session, and then leave it without feeling guilty.

More Journaling Ideas and Resources

Everyone needs plenty of prompts for writing and journaling! Here are more than 1064 journal writing prompts.

Some of my favorite creative journaling sessions begin with single-word prompts. My 365 One-Word Daily Writing Prompts Collection is designed to spark your own creativity with a single word every day.

Are you still too intimidated to write your own creative journal? You can always start with a journal like Prompt Me: Creative Writing Journal & Workbook by Robin Woods. 

Here are some ways to overcome your fear of journaling for when your brain refuses to cooperate with your journaling efforts.

Still stuck for ideas on what to write? Try Bryn Donovan’s book 5,000 WRITING PROMPTS: A Master List of Plot Ideas, Creative Exercises, and More.

What to Expect During Your Next Journaling Sessions

Now that you know how to write a creative journal and you’ve written your first entry, use it as a jumping-off point for the next day. Begin each session by reviewing what you wrote the day before. It will get your brain in the best ‘writing mood.’ 

This little ‘kick-start’ works especially well if you’re writing related creative journal entries every day. They begin to flow into each other almost seamlessly.

As you write more consistently, you’ll find your fear of ‘messing up’ receding and your creativity increasing. Of course, some days will be better than others… but, as always… 

You’ve got this!


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