The Virtues of Journaling

Obviously writing is a big part of my life. And I’ve taken steps in the past year to help other people bring more writing into their lives too. The workshops that I’ve been teaching so far are mostly about overcoming your internal barriers that are keeping you from writing, and the focus is generally on writing that you one day intend to share with others.

But recent conversations have led to a new series that will focus on writing just for you.

Since I can remember, I’ve kept a journal. Most of these were real, physical, paper journals. There were also years and years where I journaled on computers, and sadly most of these years were lost. There is one particular summer of fervent journaling in an attic of my first real home away from home; I was 19, and I journaled each and every day. I think about these journals often, and am so sad that I didn’t make more of an effort to preserve them permanently.

Journaling is a lost art. But I think that it’s making a comeback. Journaling might at first conjure images of a pre-teen girl scribbling , “Dear Diary…” in a flower covered book with a tiny gold lock on the cover. And this is a 100% valuable experience for that girl, which should in no way be diminished. But journaling is also a whole lot more – from helping with creative thought, to mental health issues, there isn’t a lot that journaling can’t help with.

If you dig back in time, you’ll find that most, if not all, great writers, inventors, runners, academics, and dreamers kept journals. Albert Einstein kept a journal. Virginia Woolf kept a journal. Earnest Hemingway kept a journal. Obviously and famously, Anne Frank kept a journal. Google “famous people who kept journals” and you will find list upon list of famous journals, and words of wisdom from famous journalers on the virtues of journaling.

A journal is a way of documenting the present, but it is also a tool for reflection. It’s a tool for working through the backlogs of your subconscious mind, but consciously and on paper. It’s a way of sifting through the fog of your dream state and turning it into something real.

“’There is physicality in reading,’ says developmental psychologist and cognitive scientist Maryanne Wolf of Tufts University” (via Scientific American). And so, there is to writing as well. I’ve tried different journals over the years, of varying size, and level of fanciness, but my go to favourite is a 5 dollar hard cover 5 ½”x 8” sketchbook that you can find at pretty much any art supplies store. It allows for writing, or doodling, or whatever. There is no imposed format. It’s big enough to write a full page, but not so large that it’s cumbersome. My go-to pens are the Classic Poppin Ballpoint and the Staedler Triplus Fineliner. There is nothing worse (ok, there are a lot of things worse, but whateveeeeeeeer) than trying to write with a pen that you hate, or in a book that you have no desire to keep writing in because it’s not quite right. Find writing implements that you love. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend hundreds of dollars on a custom, monogrammed, leather-bound journal, but don’t feel like you need to use a Field Notes or MoleSkine journal because they are “cool” even though you don’t derive joy from them (full disclosure – while I don’t write in Field Notes, I DO use the Field Notes Original Plain Memo Books for my every day ongoing to-do lists, and they are great).

ANYWAYS. If you’re stuck on an idea at work, or in a creative project that you’re working on in your own time; if you are going through something personally and need somewhere to vent; if you’re trying out writing again for the first time in years and years, and you feel rusty as all hell and just want to practice; if you’re planning out your dream trip/project/life, and need somewhere to document your thoughts on how to make it happen – give journaling a try.

Even if it feels awkward at first, keep at it; after a time, you just might find that you love it.






Creative Licence


Coming in October… this girl’s attempt to get over her dumb insecurity about making art without being an ‘artist’.

I have noticed a sad thing in the past year, and that sad thing is this… in 2012, almost all of the photos that I have taken so far, reside on my iphone. That’s right. My iphone. It’s not even a GOOD iphone (I have a 3Gs), so the camera leaves something to be desired. It actually leaves a whole hell of a lot to be desired. I’ve been looking through old photos lately, and also having conversations with various friends about creativity and what not, and decided that it’s time. Time for what?


If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s pretty simple. Take one photo of yourself every day for an entire year. Sounds easy. In reality, not so much. It’s easy to forget, but also, if you want it to be even remotely interesting, or to be somewhat of a creative endeavor, it’s actually quite a bit of work.

So why do this again? Well, for one, I did it a few years ago, and I always find it incredibly satisfying to go back to that year and be able to look at each photo and to know not only what I looked like that day, but also what I was thinking and feeling. It’s by far the most well documented year of my life, and it’s so interesting to me to see the progression over that year.

The other reason? I’m going through a bit of a creative slump at the moment… but the creative slump isn’t the only problem in and of itself. I also have a creative chip on my shoulder. And it’s a chip that I’m itching to get rid of. What is this chip, you might ask? It’s the chip that, whenever I work on anything creative, whispers into my thoughts, ‘who do you think you’re kidding, and what do you think you’re doing? you’re not an artist, and what you make is not art, so just stop embarrassing yourself’.

I have so many deeply creative friends, and I guess that part of me just thinks that I’m ‘behind’, or that because I have not been in a billion group shows that I might as well not even try. It might be a bit bigger than a chip… let’s say the chip on my shoulder has turned into more of a shoulder that is entirely missing. No shoulder. The chip has taken my shoulder and run for the hills, where they will stay nested up until I somehow beckon them back to me.

So here we go. Time to jumpstart myself back into being creative and wonderful with photography, and time to work away just a little at that chip.

October 1st, I will be embarking on round 3 (I had one failed attempt many many years ago) of 365 photos. Wish me luck!!

(also, if you’re curious about my progress as the year goes by, feel free to check out my flickr page)