Practicing creativity can be difficult, but keeping a journal is a great way to make creativity a daily habit.
As a writer and graphic designer, it’s a skill I consider integral to my work. Every day, I’m asked to create something that will inspire others to take action. If I’m not creating something, I’m not accomplishing anything.
If you’re not a writer or designer, don’t worry! Creativity is integral to your work as well. Beyond the world of artists, writers and musicians, creativity is solving problems, identifying patterns, and using information in new and unique ways. The most successful people I know are highly creative thinkers. These people also know that creativity takes practice.
Practicing creativity, however, is difficult. Often we’re expected to be creative and given no time to practice. This is where journaling can come in handy. I have found that when I keep a record of my thoughts, ideas, and experiences, I am more likely to apply my creative skills to my daily tasks.
Here are five ways keeping a journal has helped me improve my creativity:
1. Record your best ideas
“Keep in mind that ideas are generally fleeting and must be captured as they arise. Some will hang around and let you mull them over, but most are like a flash of lightning and need instant attention.” –Bill West, The Imagineering Workout
I know—this one seems obvious. What else are journals for? However, I’ve found huge creative value in keeping a record of things I’m thinking and doing. Often my best ideas come when I’m not able to act on them. There have been countless moments when I have sat down to write something and wasted most of my time trying to remember the idea I had in the shower that morning. Writing down inspiration when it strikes is the fastest way to build a library of your best ideas.
2. Practice thinking freely
“The best way to become a producer is to sit down every day and create. If you do that enough, you’ll consistently open yourself up to creating awe-inspiring work.” –Blake Powell
If creativity is the process of making connections and solving problems, a creative person should be used to thinking freely. Journaling is a great way to let your ideas flow unhindered. Whether that involves a daily dump of the day’s accomplishments, jotting down your dreams in the morning, or an evening creativity exercise, giving yourself time every day to think freely without any fear of judgement will improve your ability to generate ideas freely on a regular basis.
And, as a bonus, you might be able to add to your library of best ideas.
3. Refine your best ideas
“Just (make) something. It might be something crummy or awkward or not ready for prime time. If you make something, you are creative.” –Sonia Simone
Sometimes it’s easier to create ideas than it is to act on them. During my freshman year of college, I began writing recaps of college football games. These recaps were crude at best, but more than anything else, this weekly exercise in critiquing helped me learn how I write. I learned how to research a topic quickly, the importance of letting my thoughts collect, and the art of editing my writing. I found my writing voice by consistently expanding on one of my best ideas.
Like the exercise of letting your ideas flow, a journal can be a great place to practice a specific creative goal. Take one of your best ideas and flesh it out. Start setting goals to help you bring that idea to fruition. Recording your progress on a regular basis is a great way to remind yourself that you are a creative person.
4. Trigger your best ideas
“Creative refers to every single aspect of life, not only what you do, but how you do it, and how you think about the world.” –MK Haley, The Imagineering Workout
The greatest enemy of creativity is the dreaded rut. It’s very easy to get into a routine and forget the benefits of free thinking. Keeping a journal is incredibly useful when I’ve encountered these ruts. By keeping a log of what I do on a regular basis, I have a record of what might have gotten me into that rut. I also have a record of where I was and what I was doing when some of my best ideas arrived. I can analyze my routines and discover what got me into a particular rut or I can recreate a specific creative environment. Journaling helps me make creativity a process instead of a checklist.
5. Refill the tank
“The brain is like a muscle — sometimes it needs to be relaxed.”
Creative thinking is hard work. Often, when I’m in a creative rut, I’ve found it’s because I need to take a break. You can only create something if you have the resources to make it. Just like a journal is useful for recording your best ideas, a journal is also useful for relaxing. Meditate on your experiences. Pick up a new hobby and document your progress. Take a vacation and keep a travelogue. The best creative thinkers know when to take a break. Keeping track of those breaks in your journal will make them more memorable and effective.
Creativity is waiting
These five tips are just a few ways that keeping a journal can improve your creative abilities. The most important piece of creativity is regular practice, and keeping a journal is a great way to ensure that practice happens. Start journaling, and make creativity a habit instead of a talent.