Updated: Apr 11
Busy, busy, busy. That’s what our lives are nowadays. From the time we get up in the morning to the time we go to bed at night, we are bombarded with a seemingly infinite amount of things that need our attention. And with modern technology ever present, we are expected to be available at all times to whoever may need our attention. If we’re not careful to guard ourselves, the world can sap all of our creative energies right into its constant rush.
It’s important to take some time out of all that busyness. And I know something that will actually help you to relax and get stuff done at the same time. Something that will also help you restore your energy for whatever project you are working on.
Journaling. If you aren’t doing it, you should be. Past and present, the world’s most successful people have journaled. Past famous journalists include Leonardo da Vinci, John Adams, and Albert Einstein. Present day journalists include Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and Jennifer Aniston. Everyone can benefit from journaling. And I would even argue that you shouldn’t be doing any creative project without it.
When you journal, you can write about the events of your day, write about an issue that is weighing on your mind, keep lists, sketch, paint, write about nature, keep a gratitude journal, etc. It is your blank page to fill in any way that you want. That’s what makes it so special. Here are seven of the awesome benefits that you get in return for a few minutes of your time:
1. You can let it all out.
When things bother me, I have a bad habit of obsessing over them. Maybe you do too. Sometimes my mind will be so hard at work trying to process an emotion that it is impossible for me to fully apply myself to my daily tasks. That’s when it is time to take a 30 minute break and journal. It’s just like downloading something off your computer in order to have more space. When the words are on paper, I feel a sense of release and I can get back to work. It’s a very human thing, this “brain dump.” We are inherently emotional, and we have an instinctive need to express our emotions. But you can’t always call your best friends and you wouldn’t want to wear them out anyway. And sometimes the emotions that you feel aren’t appropriate or ready for sharing. So dump them into a journal.
2. Discover something about yourself.
While you’ve been doing this brain dump onto your paper, you’ve unknowingly also been doing something very significant and very beneficial. You’ve been organizing your emotions into a logical series of words. Why is this important? Because that is the key to emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence means being able to identify your emotions and to manage them. It is an essential ingredient to a happy life and has been proven to increase your likelihood for success. When you write, you are forced to take a jumble of raw thoughts and emotions and weave them into an insight that is intelligible to you. You are forced to discover something about yourself. You become more self-aware and therefore more confident because you know exactly who you are.
3. Increase your memory.
Studies have found that when you write something, you are telling your brain to remember it. It is the complex interaction of the verbal and spatial parts of our brain that triggers your brain to store information. And the more you exercise your memory, the better it gets. If you are a note taker, you’ve probably noticed that a lot of times you never even have to look back at your notes. Just by writing them, you were studying them, and now it’s likely that you remember the material way better than you would have if you didn’t take the notes. If you do go back, you usually recall everything with just a quick read-through. That is not because of your listening skills, it is because of your writing skills, and it works with all types of writing. So yes, writing helps you remember things because you can go back and look at what you wrote, but it also enhances memory skills in other aspects of your life. And that’s a pretty important skill for anyone to have.
4. Jump start your goals.
Have you ever had a great idea but you can’t remember it later? We all have. Snippets of tunes, a bit of a storyline, a color combination. Ideas are constantly popping up in your brain, so it’s hard to hold on to the really good ones. You might remember them if you write them down. And in the process of writing it down, you will be fleshing it out. The fleshing out of ideas is what gives those ideas a structure. The structure leads you to the goals that you’ll need to accomplish in order to make that idea into a reality. And now that you have the fleshed-out idea and the goals written down, you have them in front of you everyday, reminding you to accomplish them. See how that works?
5. Discover new ideas.
Insight leads to ideas. Ideas in turn lead to more ideas. So by journaling, you have started a snowball effect and you are rolling in your own creative juices. And you thought that you didn’t have time to journal. Ha! You’re actually getting more done when you’re journaling.
6. Become a more creative person.
Creativity is not really something a creative artist can turn off. But sometimes we get stuck. If you are having trouble knowing what step to take next, try journaling. Just let your mind wander, pouring out a stream of conscience. Chances are you will jump start your creative brain. Sometimes you’ll find a solution for your issue and sometimes you may end up going in a completely different direction. Either way, you are moving forward.
7. Leave something behind.
Once you have a journal, you have a record of who you are at a given time. You can use this to connect to your past self and use your own history to prepare for your future.
Your journals also have benefits for others. Even if you never share your journal during your lifetime, someone may be interested in it after you’re gone. Great minds in the past who have left journals have given the world one of the greatest gifts - a starting point. Einstein left modern scientists a treasure trove of theoretical ideas in his journals. Virginia Woolf left a personal diary that provided a very poignant account of mental illness to future psychologists.
Your journal could also be a way for you to connect to your descendants long after you’ve left this world. As my family’s official historian, I have often wished that I knew more about the personalities of my ancestors. I hope that the future genealogists of my family will know more of me through my journals and be able to make a connection that I haven’t been able to make with the family that came before me.
I keep several journals, writing in different ones according to what feels right on a particular day. In addition to my personal diary, I have a journal in which I do 10-minute object writing, a type of writing described in Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison. I also keep a writing prompt journal, a Bible journal, and a creative journal for making lists, recording ideas and inspirations, and collecting mementos of my daily life. I occasionally contribute to a gratitude journal and when I travel, I take a travel journal with me. I am currently planning to start an art journal, after watching Rachel Rose’s video about Mindful Art Journaling. I carry a journal with me everywhere, using my favorite traveler’s notebook so I can keep a separate type of journal in each insert.
So take a tip from me and start the journaling habit. You’ll find that it will boost your creativity, help you succeed, and even save you time in the long run. Good luck and have fun!
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