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Diary creative writing

Diary creative writing

On this page, you’ll find ideas for keeping a creative writing journal to use for your poetry, fiction, and dramatic writing. This is just one of many pages on this website with journal ideas and creative writing advice. At the bottom, you’ll find links to related pages on how to keep a journal.

Your creative writing journal

If you write fiction, drama, or poetry, a journal can build your writing muscles and generate ideas. It can be a laboratory, where you experiment with different approaches. It can be a source of details to add texture and crispness to your writing. And whenever you get stuck or feel uninspired, you will be able to go to your creative writing journal for fresh material.

Here are some journal ideas for creative writers:

1) People-watch. The people around you can become fictional characters or the subjects of poems. You can give them roles in your writing, or just borrow details: your neighbor’s nervous laugh, the shiny makeup that makes your mother’s friend look like she’s made out of plastic. Make notes about people you know; take your creative writing journal to a coffeehouse or a hotel lobby and describe them: their appearance, their body language, their voices, the way they relate to each other. You can go beyond mere reporting and write what you imagine as well. What do you think that woman’s name might be? Where do you think she lives? Is she having an affair with that man, or are they just business partners? What is she thinking right now? What is she hiding in that big purse? Any of this can be the beginning of a story or poem. (Caution: if you are writing about people you know, be careful where you leave your creative writing journal. You may want to change names and identifying details to protect yourself against prying eyes. But you already know that.)

2) Listen. Eavesdrop in restaurants, in stores. Listen to your own family and friends — really listen. Not just to what they’re saying, but to the words they use, the pauses, the unique rhythms of their speech. And write down pieces of speech when they are still fresh in your ears. If you wait too long, you’ll find the sentences coming out in your own voice. Learning to capture different voices on paper will help you with dialogue for stories or scripts. It can also be a source for poetry.

3) Take a walk. Describe your neighborhood. Describe the weather, the colors and textures, the light and shadow. Go beyond what you see — describe the sounds, the smells, the feeling of the air on your skin. Look for the surprising details, the ones that aren’t quite as you’d imagine, the ones you could never have made up. These details will give authenticity to your creative writing, make it feel real to the reader. Click here for tips on descriptive writing.

4) Take a field trip. Are you writing a scene in a police station? A city dump? Visit one. Write down the details that will make the setting come alive on the page. On the other hand, if you’re not in the middle of a writing project, taking a field trip can give you ideas for one. Go somewhere you would normally never go. By explaining you’re a writer, you can get permission to visit places not normally open to the public. The basement of an aquarium? The backrooms of a funeral parlor? Take notes on your observations and see what story ideas emerge.

5) Use real-life stories. The news, gossip, the experiences of your friends, and even stories from history books can be sources for creative writing. Make notes on the story, and imagine the parts you don’t know. Imagine it as if you were there. What, exactly, did people see? What were they thinking? What did it all feel like? What led up to the event; what happened next? Let your imagination fill in the gaps. Or imagine that some part of it had been different. How does that change the story?

The children’s book writer Linda Leopold Strauss used this method to write the novel novel Really, Truly, Everything’s Fine. She saw a newspaper story about a man accused of a white-collar crime, and her imagination began to work. She started to wonder if the man had a family, what conversation they would be having over their breakfast table that morning when the newspaper story came out, how the man’s child might react to the news of her father’s crime, how this would change the life of his child. And so a novel was born.

6) “Free-write.” This technique is especially useful as a warm-up for creative writing or as a cure for writer’s block. The way free-writing works is that you keep your pen moving on the page, normally during a set amount of time (try setting a timer for five minutes, for example). If you don’t have anything to say, you can write, “I don’t have anything to say,” over and over until something else occurs to you. Don’t judge or correct yourself as you are writing; don’t worry about sounding smart or even making sense. It is a way of tricking your mind into relaxing. Then interesting things often start to happen on the page.

Journal Ideas for Daily Writing and Creativity

Looking for writing inspiration? Try some of these journal ideas.

Every expert in the world thinks you should keep a journal. Physical trainers suggest keeping an exercise journal, and nutritionists recommend keeping track of your meals. Oprah insists on a gratitude journal, and business consultants promote journaling one’s career.

How much journal writing can one person do?

Journals are, first and foremost, the forté of writers. Journal writing provides a space where thoughts, ideas, stories, and poems can be recorded. We can turn to our journals when we’re inspired, and then we can turn to them again when we need inspiration.

Some journals are topical while others are a hodgepodge. You might use several different journals, each for different projects or topics, or you might use one journal for everything. There’s no right or wrong way, and there are no limits to the journal ideas you can use to inform and inspire your creative writing projects.

Journal Ideas for Writers

These journal ideas foster creative thinking and promote regular (daily) writing. Some are good for keeping track of your ideas. Others are ideal for solving problems or keeping yourself inspired and motivated to write. Try one or try them all, or just create one omni-journal for all your creative writing.

The Dream Journal

Dreamers Journal (aff link)

The subconscious is a wondrous thing. Artists and geniuses alike have attributed some of their best work to inspiration that came in a dream. A dream journal is useful for anyone who’s interested in exploring the subconscious, where creativity often lives and breathes. This type of journaling is also ideal for folks who are interested in dream interpretation or trying to achieve lucid dreaming. For writers, journals that hold dreams will provide images and concepts that the mind simply can’t drudge up during waking hours. Keep your journal near your bed and jot down your dreams as soon as you wake up, otherwise with each minute that passes, you’ll lose chunks of your nighttime imaginings.

Freewriting Journal

Moleskine notebook (aff link).

Sometimes called stream-of-consciousness writing, freewriting is a way to clear your mind of clutter and unearth creative gems. If you keep at it long enough, some pretty interesting stuff will emerge through your freewrites. If you can stop your conscious thinking and let the words flow, you’ll be amazed at the creative stew that is brewing just beneath the surface. You can do straight freewriting or try guided freewriting in which you focus on a specific word, image, or topic. It’s a great way to hash out conversations with your characters, accumulate raw material that can later be harvested for poems, and brainstorm for just about any writing project that you’re planning or working on.

Idea Journal

How many ideas have you lost? If you make it a point to note your ideas in your journal, there’s a good chance you won’t lose any at all. This is why so many writers keep a journal or notebook with them at all times. In fact many writers use miniature notebooks for this very reason — there’s nothing worse than coming up with a brilliant idea when you’re at a party, in the middle of a phone conversation, or trying to fall asleep. Keep your journal near your person at all times, and you’ll never lose an idea again. Or pick up several miniature notebooks and keep them in convenient places — your nightstand, purse, car, desk drawer at the office, even the bathroom! And if you’re ever struck with the ever-dreaded writer’s block, you can turn to your idea journal for inspiration.

Inspirational Writing Journals

What inspires you? A sunset? A day with friends and family? A mind-blowing movie or a song that makes you want to dance? Quotes from the greats? You can record all the things that inspire you in an inspiration journal, taking notes from some of the world’s most successful creators. You can even paste photos, clippings, and other memorabilia to capture moments from your life that were especially inspiring. Then when your creativity meter is running low, you can flip through your inspiration journal to grab ideas that ignite your passion (and your next writing project).

Art Journal

Field artist journal (aff link).

Even us writers have to admit that a picture is worth a thousand words. Symbols are particularly powerful and speak directly to the subconscious, which is where your muse might be hiding. Like a dream journal, an art journal is a fun and creative way to get in touch with the deeper recesses of your mind, where some of your most creative ideas are lurking. You don’t have to be a fine artist to use an art journal. Doodles and stick figures will open up your right brain too! An art journal is also perfect for sketching your characters, scenery, and maps of the worlds you’re creating for your fiction. And if you don’t want to draw, you can always use stickers, collage, and ephemera in your art journal.

Life Events or Diary

A diary is pretty straightforward — you simply record the goings-on in your life. Some people keep diaries for special times or events in their lives, such as when they’re getting married or having a baby, traveling, or moving to a new place. Diary writing is a great place to start if you’re interested in writing a memoir or autobiography. It’s also a perfect place to record the real experiences that you’ve had even if you plan on fictionalizing them later. Some of the best dialogue, descriptions, and scenes come from real life!

Reading Journal

If you want to be a writer, read. Read a lot, then read some more. You just can’t read enough. When you write about what you’ve read, you can capture what worked and what didn’t work from a writer’s perspective. You’ll pick up neat writing tricks, jot down techniques that you’ve observed other writers using effectively, and of course, as you read and get ideas for your own projects, you can include those as well. Best of all, you’ll have a place where you’ve listed everything you’ve read, and by keeping notes, you’ll retain all of it much better. As a bonus, you’ll also have a place to take notes when you’re reading books on the craft of writing!

Media Journal

Although reading is of utmost importance for any writer, we can gather creative ideas and techniques from art in its many forms. Use a media journal to capture your responses to films, music, television shows, plays, and art. Make notes about your favorite character arcs. Jot down bits of dialogue that moved you. Make miniature doodles of paintings you love. Media journals are excellent for keeping track of the art and entertainment that you’re consuming and what you have observed and learned from it, as well as how it makes you feel.

Bonus Journal Idea: Morning Pages

Probably the most famous application of journal writing comes from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way (aff link). In it, she encourages people who are trying to connect with creativity to write every single morning. “Three pages of whatever comes to your mind — that’s all there is to it.”

Writing morning pages is like boot camp for your muse. By writing every day at the same time, you train her to show up when you say it’s time to work. Cameron’s methodology also involves turning off the inner censor, that little voice that berates every sentence.

The key to morning pages is to simply let the words flow.

Morning pages have other applications. Some folks use them as a brain dump — a way to purge all the messy thoughts from their minds so they can start their day fresh and clear-headed.

Be sure to check out my GUIDE TO JOURNALING FOR WRITERS,
which has more ideas for journals that are beneficial to writers

Which of These Journal Ideas Sparks Your Imagination?

Think about it — if you write one page a day in your journal, you’ll have 365 pages at the end of a year. That’s a lot of creative material to pull ideas from.

Journals are traditionally kept in paper notebooks, but you can journal using digital tools as well (most of us find that writing by hand boosts creativity).

Experiment with different journaling supplies and try a wide range of journal ideas. Eventually you’ll find what works for you.

What types of journals have you kept? Do you think journal writing is beneficial? Did any of these journal ideas appeal to you? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.