Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom): an understanding that “creativity” is not a talent; it is a way of operating. [The coolest thing is anybody can do it.]

I guess it’s a cliché now.  One way to enhance your creativity, they tell us, is to keep a journal.  Snuggle up with your thoughts and illuminate your feelings, write down your dreams and hunches, collect quotes from the famous and the notorious.

Spend time in your own head.  Be your own psychotherapist.  Be your own guru.  At the very least, you can be your own pen-pal.


Journalizing your life is part of a long, long tradition.  In Enlightenment-era Europe, during the “Age of Reason” (which most people say runs from around 1685 to 1815), it was all the rage.

The smarty pants and wise guys then all kept what they called “commonplace books.”  These were personalized encyclopedias of quotes as well as thoughts and aspirations and other bits of their own writings that scholars, amateur scientists and aspiring men of letters put together.

commonplace book detail
“Commonplace book detail” by vlasta2 via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Some folks transcribed whole gobs of books they found interesting in their commonplace books.  (One guy cobbled together parts of the Bible that made sense to him, leaving out the parts that didn’t.  This was not well-received in some circles.)

One of the leading lights of the Enlightenment movement was John Locke.  He was a systems guy and from an early age he was busy devising new systems and new ways of looking at things.

Locke developed a version of the commonplace book in 1652 (during his first year at Oxford) that was a cause for excitement among the geeks and nerds of the day.  Locke put together an elaborate system for indexing his commonplace book’s contents which made it easy for him to find passages and ideas that he wanted to revisit, review, and use.  Others followed his example.


Nowadays journals come in all shapes and sizes, fancy and plain.  They’re mostly blank books that you fill in your own self.  Some are peppered with other people’s thoughts, all ready for you to use.  They’ve come to be one of the default gifts you want to give to people who are Makers (or who want to be).

You can write in them and you can turn them into sketchbooks or artsy work notepads and such.  You can even turn them into works of art.

The things are ubiquitous.  Everybody gets one at some point or other.  There are magazines, how-to videos, courses and guidebooks for making your own as well.

If you’re not particularly into deep thinking, if writing is boring for you, or if you are insecure about your art skills, receiving one of those things can precipitate a minor crisis of sorts.  (It becomes one more thing to hide under your bed or tuck behind other stuff on the shelves and ignore.)

For the people who have never been able to “finish” one of those ready-made journals, guerilla-artist, author and illustrator Keri Smith put together the first WRECK THIS JOURNAL.  It was published in 2007.  Ten years later, after turning on people to the joyous abandon of doing a wreck-journal, she came up with an even cooler version:  WRECK THIS JOURNAL:  Now In Color.

Her fans and disciples were very happy.

Over the years, Keri Smith has made an astonishing array of books about creativity and getting your art on.  Her books include bestselling concept books like:

The last one is a start at a collaborative effort where you get to be the author.

My favorite Smith YouTube video is this one that was uploaded by Lucky Treehouse in 2014.  The quirky film was produced by Mick Schwartz and is an exploration of Smith’s thoughts about the value of bricolage (an art that builds worlds using diverse stuff that’s available all around you).  Bricolage remains among my own favorite art forms.

For many years Smith also maintained a popular website, Wish Jar, that is a beautifully constructed on-line journal of sorts.  It doesn’t seem to be active these days, but the site is lovely to explore anyway.


And that’s the other thing:  Computers can be turned into journaling tools, if that’s your bent.   You, too, can put together a digital archive.

You can fill it with all kinds of stuff:  quotes, research on specific projects, passages transcribed from articles and books, web page clippings, and random discoveries, hunches and intuitions of your own.

Some folks call clunkier, more workaday versions of these things “swipe files.”  (That term gets my back up.  It sounds like an invitation to thievery or something.)

I prefer to think of the things as a stewpot simmering away over a bunson burner or a hot plate. (Or maybe it’s a cute personal crockpot, if you’re not into minimalism.)  You can get some really good writing or art-making “stock” out of that stuff…even from the yawn-inducing junk.


I am a writer and a poet.  For me thoughts and ideas are building blocks and ingredients that can be cooked together in a variety of ways.  The thoughts you add to your archive (whether digital or paper) can add savor and flavor to your own efforts at writing or art.

Even if you fish out all the bits of meat and vegetables in a long-cooking stew, the broth holds the flavor anyhow.

Here’s a poem:



This is what they’re for:

I wander through the pages,

Poring over the

Old maps I have drawn of

The counties of my mind.


I stop here and there,

Remembering the stances

I have tried that now

Lie crumpled like improbable fashion

Statements that didn’t quite work.

That mix that didn’t match…


Ooh!  This one’s embarrassing!

Old revelations sparkle

In the pile of dither

And the tarnished dross of

Plated costume-jewelry thoughts.


I see the spirals that I dance,

Around, around, around

And I have to laugh at all

The silly detours and digressions

That lead me straight back to

The core that stands there still,


by Netta Kanoho

Header Photo credit:  “Reflections of Maui” by Mark Faviell via Flickr [CC BY-ND-NC 2.0]



(Click on each of the post titles below and see where it takes you…)


Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

[This post was updated on July 12, 2023. — nk]

16 thoughts on “JOURNALIZE YOUR LIFE

  1. I am a deep thinker and became amazed when I started learning about enlightenment. I didn’t know that there was a world of people who thought about the same things I do. Knowing this really encouraged and inspired me.

    I am really into dreaming, so I already keep a dream journal, but have never really thought about keeping a journal of my waking life. I tried this as a child but never followed through with it.

    Now, knowing what I know, I think it would be an amazing time to start keeping a journal of my life. Thanks for the amazing article and for giving me a great idea!

    1. Hey Josie: 

      Thanks for your visit and your comment.  I do hope you will try journaling your waking hours as well as the Dream-Time.  You may amaze yourself!  That’s a good thing!

      Please do come again….

  2. ValerieJoy says:

    Netta, I really enjoyed reading your post. It brought back memories of journals I’ve started but never completed. On the other hand, some journals do not have an ending. Rather, they go on for a lifetime.

    Recently, I was reading a journal from about 10 years ago. I completely amazed myself by some of the writing. Things I had forgotten, such as my future book; a meeting that changed my life. Unfortunately, I can’t recall all the detail. No doubt that is the result of an unfinished journal.

    Your post has inspired me to start a new journal with daily entries whatever the value as it appears now. In the future, those entries will at least help to recall my life in this period of time.

    With best wishes.

    1. Hey Valerie Joy:

      Thanks again for visiting.  That’s wonderful news!  It is fun re-reading the old journals.  Sometimes you amaze yourself.  Sometimes, of course, they makes you blush….

      Please do come again!

  3. Hi Netta,Thank you for the beautiful post.

    I prefer to express myself through writing and find that it always helps me sort my thoughts out best. I used to keep a journal but sadly, I just got away from the habit. I remember picking it up a year or so later and couldn’t believe that I barely remembered many of the things I journaled about.

    It was really eye opening as they seemed like such big issues at the time. I think it’s important to keep track of where we have been and where we are going.

    After reading this post, I feel motivated to pick up the habit of journaling again. I am upset that I ever stopped. I loved the beautiful poem at the end as well! 

    1. Dan, I do thank you for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  

      It is a truth, that.  When you go back over your old thoughts you get the idea that very often the things that were so important and urgent are hardly worth remembering at a later date.  

      The journaling does tend to help you wrestle with the things that really matter to you.

      I’m glad you’ve decided to try it again….

      Please do come again.

  4. Hey thanks for the awesome post!  I really like the poem at the end, it’s beautifully written!  I do like using computers for journaling,  I have an app on my phone that is also on my computer, so that if I’m out and something happens, I can journal it on my phone, and when I get home I can tweek it.

    1. Jessie, thanks for the visit and for sharing your story.  I like your idea of using your phone to get your thoughts down.  

      Please do come again….

  5. Hello
    I enjoyed this post. I have been a writer since I was young. I am always jotting down my thoughts, poems, and short stories.
    I am also a list maker of things I need to do, grocery list, etc.

    My problem is I can not keep up with them. In my lifetime, I have probably lost hundreds of notebooks.
    I then started putting my writing on floppy disks; guess what I lost those too lol.

    I was not familiar with Keri Smith, but her wreck the notebook concept is fascinating.

    1. T.K., thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  Your problem with losing notebooks (and floppy disks) does resonate!  It made me smile, remembering the trail of journals I’ve left like breadcrumbs behind me.  (Sigh!)  

      Art journals are exceptionally cool if you’re bent that way.  

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      Please do come again.

  6. LineCowley says:

    I was given a journal as a birthday present several years ago, but never used it until very recently. I do find that it helps me to put my thoughts down on paper, specially when I am going through stages where I feel I am spending too much time in my own head. 

    It also puts things into a different perspective for me and makes me feel better about situations that might be getting me down. 

    I plan on keeping a journal next time I travel, as it is a great way to share your journey with others. 

    1. Thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts, LineCowley.  I am pleased that your own experience at journaling has been so good.  I think getting your thoughts down on paper makes them more “real” somehow.

      It does seem to make you more aware of the story you are in the process of creating and that is a very good thing.

      Please do come again….

  7. Hey there, I was totally caught off guard by the first paragraph in this article; the writing was very clean but very proficient and carrying that feeling of continuous wonder that sparkles above the rest of the post.  

    I’ve been having a real shit week and I forget that sometimes you can be your own greatest advocate, soothsayer, mystic, and champion.  When I feel the way I’ve been feeling this week, I am at some point, inevitably reminded to go back and read my journals about the last time I felt like a total failure and that is usually all I need to lift me back up….even just ever so slightly.

    And rad, about the multimedia prompt journals..sometimes, you just need a little inspiration and it can feel forced when you are new to journaling. You feel like EVERY entry should be something awe-inspiring or at least noteworthy instead of letting the words speak for themselves,  

    When you follow the guidelines in the prompted journals, it’s possible to see your life in a completely random, even irrelevant way that can be fun as hell to run around with for a while.  

    Thank you for your post. I truly needed it.  I’m very sorry if I rambled a little there at the ends…

    1. Rene, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts….I love ramblings!  Ramble on all ya like!

      It is a truth that mining old journals can help remind you of the stuff you already know about the world and about yourself.  It’s all good….

      Please do come again….

  8. Just wow!

    I loved your poem. 

    This write-up gives me pleasure, adds essence to my living. I write, keep swipe files but not always.  I like to synthesize things in my mind but I get bored to write.

    Journaling life adds creativity to living. It teaches you how to move forward looking at your past.

    Your post inspires me to build something with sincerity. Thank you. 

    1. Welcome back, Anusuya.  I like your take on journaling.  “Moving forward looking at your past” is a most Hawaiian mindset, it seems to me.

      I’m glad you found value in the post.

      Please do come again.

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