Beyond the morning pages

I journal. There are all kinds of journals out there: travel, food, spiritual, gardening, dream, gratitude, and more. My knitting/crafting blog probably fits the definition of a journal; my accounts on LibraryThing and Goodreads are my versions of reading journals. But what I think of as my journal is the book I write in daily, usually first thing in the morning. No specific topic or anything, just a recording of whatever thoughts happen to be going through my head while the pen is in my hand. It took me the longest time to realize that I’d slipped back into the habit of morning pages. I’d done morning pages years ago after reading The Artist’s Way, but I’d let the practice go after a while and hadn’t expected to pick it up again. Still, something in the back of my mind remembered it, and when I got back into the habit of journaling regularly, morning pages it was.

Morning pages are supposed to stimulate your creativity. I’m not sure whether they’re doing that for me generally—I knitted a lot both when I was and wasn’t journaling—but I think they’ve been nudging me to get more creative with my journaling. Years before I read The Artist’s Way, I read The New Diary. It showed me that journals could be much more than a log of the events of your day. Between it and The Journal Wheel Guide Book, I learned that your journal entries could also be more than just paragraphs of first-person prose. You could dialogue with something or someone in your life.  Or make lists: things you want to do, your favorite books, the five things that scare you the most. Pour your heart out to people in letters that will never be mailed. Write about yourself in third person to get some perspective on your issues.

fountain pen and journal
photo credit: JoelMontes via photopin cc

I also want to try some of those other kinds of journals. Okay, not a travel journal—those work much better if you actually travel. But perhaps committing to keep a dream journal would motivate me to go to bed early and try to get enough sleep so that I could remember my dreams in the first place (because wanting to get enough sleep for its own sake obviously isn’t working). And spiritual journaling sounds intriguing as all get-out. I read books like Life’s Companion and Journal Keeping, and think that maybe this is a spiritual practice that I’d actually keep up. I mean, I journal now, so I’m already in the habit; it would be more a matter of journaling differently.

But what will happen to the morning pages if I try these other approaches? I only have so much writing time and energy, and I think that’s what’s kept me from putting energy into these other kinds of journaling up until now. If I write morning pages, there goes the journaling energy for the day. If I write out a dialogue, I’m betting no brain dumping will get done that day. Do other kinds of journaling stimulate your creativity or are they better for other things like maintaining your emotional balance or spiritual development? I’m worried that if I throw myself into non-morning pages journaling, I will cut off the creativity that’s leading me to try those other forms in the first place. But even the most productive freewriting feels limiting when it’s the only thing you do, and that’s hardly creative. Won’t know unless I try, I guess.

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Books I mentioned

The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron (1992)

Journal Keeping: Exploring a Great Spiritual Practice by Carl J. Koch (2003)

The Journal Wheel Guide Book: Set the Wheel in Motion for Positive Changes in Your Life by Deborah Bouziden (2001)

Life’s Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Practice by Christina Baldwin (1990, 2007)

The New Diary: How to Use a Journal for Self-Guidance and Expanded Creativity by Tristine Rainer (1978, 2004)