Aarathi Selvan on Creative Journaling for Writers

“You want to write, you need to keep an honest, unpublishable journal that nobody reads, nobody but you” -Madeleine L’Engle in her advice to aspiring writers.

You know how, when you are in the shower, or out on a walk in nature, a brilliant idea strikes at you and you feel the beginning of a new project or a great twist to the project you are already working on?  Would you like that to happen more often in your life?

If you said yes, creative journaling is your answer.

Creative journaling is the art of using words, colors, and collage to step into our natural flow, our spontaneity and creativity. The goal of creative journaling is similar to the goal of taking a break, going for a walk. You are breaking free from the judgemental, logically tuned mind. You are instead immersing in creating, you are soaking up in process and are alive in the present moment. That is what leads to the generation of spontaneous brilliant ideas. With creative journaling you uncover unusual gems of your own mind in an intentionally manner.

Creative Journaling teaches one to step away from the writer’s block, embrace that nagging inner critic that says we are not good enough, and connect with our inner wisdom that generates stories, narratives and poetry that becomes the fertile ground for the writer.

Creative Journaling takes the practice of keeping a diary several notches higher with the use of different media such as collage, paints and words.

Anais Nin who kept a diary since the age of 11 said “It was while writing a Diary that I discovered how to capture the living moments.”

Here are three different ways you can begin to journal, helping you step out of your logical, judgemental mind and connect to an intuitive, creative presence within, for the purpose of joy if nothing else.

  1. Dump it: Julia Cameron the writer of “Artists way” recommends a practice called the Morning Pages where the first thing you do after you get out of bed is to write three pages of long hand, stream of consciousness writing. This is just writing whatever enters your mind, write it without censoring, judging or even bothering to correct grammar or spellings. You write it as a way to clear your mind, align your day and eventually provide intention for the way you want to live. She says that the Morning pages are not even “writing”. In my experience of doing the morning pages, I have found that they are soothing, clarifying and grounding and every now and then I find ideas spill over, nuggests of wisdom I want to pursue. They are basically the dumping grounds for negative, finicky thoughts, thoughts that come in the way of creating. Once they are down in those three pages (or once I have written for 30 minutes), I resume my day. Sometimes my morning pages happen in the afternoon, or the night depending on when I have time. But it is something I have consistently done to connect to a deeper consciousness within.
  2. Prompt writing: I love collecting quotes that inspire me, make me think and act mindfully. Begin to collect quotes that resonate with you. And when you need a break, need perspective, pull out a quote that calls to you and write about it. Ask yourself questions like “Why did this quote call out to me?”, “What message does this quote have for me?”, “What can I learn from this person’s experience that is true for my own life?”  If you feel like doing this now, here’s one of my favourite quotes ““Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional.”(Leonard Cohen) Think about why this quote resonates with you, what are the imperfect, impermanent and incomplete things in your life that are beautiful. Think about the unconventional things in your life that are beautiful. See what magic this prompt writing uncovers.
  3. Intentional living questions: Everyday for a week, I gently urge you to experiment with two questions at the start of the day, ask yourself “How do I want to feel today?” and “What can I do to feel this way?” and write without censoring or over-thinking. These are questions that connect you with your deeper calling, your ability to build the life you want. How you answer them gently nudges you to connect with the truth within everyday and as a writer, this is the kind of commitment you would like to have with your work, right?

When you can dip into the recess of your inner life you start to uncover not only the gifts that you can use as a writer but you also are present with your own life, this kind of an examined life helps us embrace the fluidity present in our days making living a spiritual experience.

What practice in creative journaling interests you? What might you take up and experiment with this week?



Aarathi Selvan is a clinical psychologist, Mindfulness guide and a Contemplative artist. She sees clients in her private practice and leads workshops online and in-person and writes ebooks on mindfulness and creative journaling. This April (17-19th) she is leading a workshop on Mindfulness for Intentional Living at Hyderabad. Check out the event details here.

You can reach out to her at: Website: www.aarathiselvan.com and www.pauseforperspective.com; FB Page:www.facebook.com/betweenlifesdoings