In a world filled with blank pages and untold stories, there exists a realm where creativity reigns supreme. It is a place where imagination knows no bounds, where thoughts transform into vibrant strokes of color, and where the ordinary becomes extraordinary. It is, of course, your creative journal—and in this post, you’ll find creative journal ideas that will get your pens move, your ideas collide, and your inspiration flourish.
Let’s get right into it:
Creative journal prompts
Let’s start with some journal writing prompts: they’re a great way to unstuck your brain und overcome creative blocks. According to a 2016 study by Adobe, only 3 in 10 people feel that they’re living up to their creative potential. Whatever that may mean, but if you’re reading this, most likely you could use a writing prompt to jumpstart your creativity every now and then.
Here are some prompts for creative journaling:
- Imagine up an international holiday that’s made to commemorate your day. (Even if your day seemed like a totally dull day!) What would it be called, and how would it be celebrated?
- If you read a book or watched a movie or show today, pick one character and imagine they’d come to live and spend the day with you. Write about that.
- Write a journal entry from the perspective of your father/mother/best friend/pet/partner. What would their day have been like if they were with you today, or if they stayed at your home and just observed you there?
- What is an interesting conversation or exchange you overheard when you were outside? Write it out, and spin it into a little story.
- If the feeling you have right now would be an everyday object, what would it be? Why?
- If your day would be a shape, which shape would it be? And why would that shape represent you?
- Write an alternative ending for the day.
- Write a currently list: what you’re reading right now, what movies or shows you’re watching, what food you eat, who you’re with, what you’re working on, how you’re feeling, what you’re listening to, etc.
- Pick a past page from your journal and rewrite that journal entry.
- Imagine if everything you did today you would have done for the first time. How would you have done these things differently?
- What if your favorite things where the things you disliked the most? How would your day be different?
- Write a to-do list for a fictional character. This can be one of your own fictional characters, or one of popular culture (Jason Bourne? Winnie The Pooh? Forrest Gump? Vito Corleone? Homer Simpson?)
- What are 10 things you love? List them, and write why you love it next to each thing.
You can also check out my morning pages prompts—many of them can be used for a creative journal.
Scribbles & doodles
I hate Zoom meetings, but one of my favorite thing about Zoom meetings has always been that I could freely doodle, without anyone judging me for it, or examining my doodles and questioning my mental health.
Doodling is one of my favorite creative journal ideas because in those spontaneous, uninhibited strokes of the pen we find a sanctuary for our wandering thoughts.
There’s something fun about just filling empty pages with doodles and scribbles.
Mind mapping is a great way to explore an idea and map things out clearly. I personally love mindmaps because they help me organized my ideas and thoughts in a more structured way. The clustering, branching, and sequencing that’s involved in mindmapping helps prioritize and categorize thoughts.
There’s no right or wrong way to mind map—just do what comes easiest to you. Whether you create super pretty, tidy, colorful cute mind maps, or just messy pencil sketches—it doesn’t matter. What matters is what it means to you.
Your creative journal can serve as a dedicated space for your stories, where you can jot down short stories, ideas for existing projects, or even concepts for stories that may never come to fruition. If you’ve been yearning to write stories but haven’t known where to begin, a story journal is an excellent starting point.
How many times do you have some story idea floating around in your mind, maybe it’s just a scene, or great character, but you never do something with it, because turning it into an entire story seems like a daunting task, and you wouldn’t even know where to start?
That’s where a story journal is great: simply write down the sliver of an idea that you have on your mind, you start getting it out of your head, and take action—you actually write something down. If you do this often enough, you’ll be surprised what you can produce, and how your creative writing practice can reach new levels.
If you’ve have a particularly vivid dream, a creative journal is a great place to capture it. You can simply give it a “title” and sketch out some of the visual impressions, or write it out like a storyboard, or simply jot down what you remember of it.
[insert image of a dream we captured]
You can use your creative journal as an art journal—a place to capture your creations. Even if you painted a picture on a canvas, you could sketch that out in your creative journal, or you take a photo and glue it into your creative journal. Or if you created a song, you could jot down a few words about the song you created, the story behind it, why you created it, how you feel about it, what was easy or difficult about it.
In the quiet corner of a dusty attic, amidst forgotten treasures and discarded memories, lies a time capsule of the heart. Within its weathered pages, yellowed photographs, and meticulously placed embellishments, a story unfolds—one that tells of love, laughter, and the art of preserving moments.
One carefully crafted page at a time, you can use both capture memories and build a bridge from the realm of reality to that of imagination. Don’t limit yourself to the obvious scrapbooking materials like washi tape and patterned paper. Use whatever is part of your day: deconstruct a milk carton, cut out different pieces, and turn then into something else. Use a ticket stub. A receipt. Random ephemera. Find creative ways to integrate everyday objects into your creative journal.
Even if you don’t go full-tilt scrapbooking, photos can add so much to your creative journal. Photos are the easiest way to capture a moment a time or a place. You can get your photos developed or printed and add them to your creative journal. Then you can write a story or narrative around it.
You can also create a series of photos that tell a story and then put them next to each other like a comic book.
Remember that scene in Avatar where Jake records his video log? That’s basically a video journal. You just turn on the camera and start talking. You talk about your day. This is obviously not something you can do with a creative journal made from paper, but to me a creative journal doesn’t have to be made from paper. It can be anything. Personally, I do keep a creative journal that’s actually made from paper, but even that doesn’t mean I can’t do videos. I simply record a video, upload it privately to YouTube, and then I jot down the URL on the corresponding page in my journal. A bit weird, but hey, analog meets digital.
Social media as a creative journal
Social media absolutely can be a terrible distraction from your creative pursuit. But it can also be in the service of your creative expression.
Right now for example I’m building a habit of tweeting 10 minutes a day, inspired by this tweet from Kevin Dahlstrom:
Instagram can be an outlet for your creative journal. Twitter can be. Pinterest can be. Facebook can be. Tiktok can be. You can easily capture
Bullet journal (BuJo)
I like to mix up formats in my creative journal, and one of the easiest formats to get done is bullet journaling. It’s a quick and fast way to simply jot down a few things, keep track of things.
Really proper bullet journaling is quite structured and requires a good amount of upfront planning and preparation. If you really want to, you can watch the free bullet journal tutorial by the creator of the method. But for our purposes, I think that’s overkill. Just simplify it to whatever seems most useful to you.
If you’re looking for bullet journal ideas, here are some that I love:
- Color each day of your year to track your mood (this is a wonderful example)
- Create a habit tracker to help you stay consistent in your practice (check out this simple but pretty example)
- Keep a podcast journal where you keep track of podcast episodes you listened to and what you want to remember of them (here’s an example)
Bullet journaling can be a powerful way to organize ideas and information, and I recommend you at least play with it.
One of the things I like to do is just jot down memorable lines or dialogues from movies. You can use an entire page as a storyboard where you visually retell the story. You might find this hard to do the first couple of times (it’s surprisingly difficult to really boil a story down to the few building blocks that build the narrative), but the more often you do it, the easier it’ll get.
Take quotes from your favorite books and write them down. Or think of your favorite books and pick a moment, and rewrite it from memory. Or write your own sequel of it! There’s so much room for imagination in the world of reading—play with it. Even if you do it poorly at first, over time you’ll see that you grow into it, that you become better at it, and ultimately you might discover the joy of writing fiction.
Another creative journal idea is to log your trips. Whether you’re scrapbooking, writing short impressions from your journeys, being very methodical with it, or simply draw moments of the day that stood out in one way or another, or people you encountered, foods you’ve tasted. It goes beyond mere remembrance, and fosters self-discovery and growth.
Put stickers EVERYWHERE
Well, if you want to that is. As kids many of us have a time where we really love putting stickers into notebooks. One of the appealing things about plastering a page with stickers is that it enables you to tell a story in a very simple way—even if it’s not a straightforward narrative. But you can arrange different elements on a journal page, and they look great, and it means something to you, even if you can’t quite put it into words.
Write out affirmations. My take on affirmations has changed over the years. I used to think it’s total California-green-juice-spiritual-BS, but now I think they’re a simple tool that helps us focus the mind with greater consciousness.
The idea behind affirmations is that you simply write down your goals 15 times a day and somehow, as if by magic, coincidences start to build until you achieve your objective against all odds.
An affirmation is a simple sentence such as “I Scott Adams will become a syndicated cartoonist.” (That’s one I actually used.
Prior to my Dilbert success, I used affirmations on a string of hugely unlikely goals that all materialized in ways that seemed miraculous.
— Scott Adams
I don’t know why they work, or how they work. I don’t think it’s some supernatural secret, and I don’t think you can manifest a lambo into your garage, but I think you can use affirmations to affirm yourself. It helps you focus on your goal. That’s what I believe, but it might as well be that there are invisible affirmation unicorns living in the clouds that just wait for someone to write down affirmations so they can use their magic rainbow sprinkles to make the affirmations come true.
Here’s one thing to keep in mind: Just start your creative journal. Sit down in front of a blank page and just do something with it. Trust the process. Put on your favorite creative playlist. You’ll find that many times the ideas come out of the doing, they start flowing once you engage with the page.
You don’t need to have great ideas to get started. You just need to get started, and the ideas will follow. It’s a practice. Make it part of your daily life. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. If you can, make it a daily journal, even if some pages are just some listless scribbles and carelessly written down words. Over time, creative journal ideas will start to come easily to you, and you’ll create more freely and beautifully.