How to Journal: The Artist’s Way

artists wayWhile Expressive Journaling is deeply personal, there are times when we need a bit of help discovering a topic or emotion to unravel. There are three books I have used extensively to help develop writing prompts for just this purpose: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron; Life is a Verb by Patti Digh; and The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown.

Over the next three weeks I will illustrate how I develop personal writing prompts from these three sources. Hopefully these will help you create your own writing prompts from special books in your personal library.

There are three tenets to Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way method that reconnects us to our authentic, creative selves:

  • Morning Pages – first thing upon waking up (or in my case, after the first cup of coffee), write three stream-of-consciousness-pages. The author suggests writing these by hand, but I use the website – 750 words – to quickly dump my morning thoughts. The idea of morning pages is to remove the clutter from our minds which in turn makes room for creative thought.
  • Artist Date – once a week take yourself on a date. Whatever excites you and connects you with the creative life of your past… do it. This could be window shopping (quilters love to visit fabric shops; scrapbookers can’t get enough paper or stickers);  or a visit to a museum or zoo or arboretum; or perhaps a special coffee shop where you can relax and color without interruption. Whatever fills the well – GO!
  • Weekly Walk – this is not a calisthenic workout walk, but rather a long leisurely stroll through the neighborhood or community park. Don’t worry so much about distance, but about time spent in constant movement while you observe the world around you. As we stretch our legs, we stretch our minds and souls. It moves us past the “what” of life and into the “why”

Prompt: Give some thought as to what Artist Dates you might enjoy. Challenge yourself to come up with one date from now until the end of the year (10) Consider all parts of your creative self that could use a good watering.

Book Overview:

The book is divided into twelve chapters, each focusing on a different aspect involved in recovering our creative self. Here is a brief outline of the book, and a few simple prompts from each chapter.

Sense of Safety

  • Write an affirmation — I, __________ am a brilliant and prolific ____________.
  • Write it ten times in a row. 
  • Listen for the inner censor to object. Write down those objections

Sense of Identity

  • List 20 things you enjoy doing. 
  • When was the last time you allowed yourself to do those things?
  • From this list – write down 2 that you could actually do this week.
  • Stop looking for big windows of time – small windows are just as valuable.

Sense of Power – In order to restore the person you have abandoned, do a bit of detective work:

  • My favorite childhood toy was
  • My favorite childhood game was
  • The best movie I ever saw as a kid was
  • I don’t do it much but I enjoy
  • If I could lighten up a little, I’d let myself
  • If it weren’t too late, I’d
  • If I weren’t so stingy with my artist, I’d buy him/her
  • Taking time out for myself is
  • I am afraid that if I start dreaming
  • If it didn’t sound so crazy, I’d write or make a
  • My most cheer me up music is
  • My favorite way to dress is

Sense of Integrity – Buried Dreams

  • Lists 5 hobbies that sound like fun
  • List five classes that sound fun.
  • List 5 things you personally would never do that sound fun
  • List five skills that would be fun to have
  • List five things you used to enjoy doing
  • List five silly things you would like to try once

Sense of Possibility

  • List ten ways in which you are mean to yourself. While positive affirmations help bring about good change, acknowledging the negative will help eliminate it.

Sense of Abundance

  • For a solid week track how you spend your money. BE non-judgmental and just keep track.
  • It is interesting to note if your spending differs from your real values.

Sense of Connection

  • Deadly duo: artistic anorexia and prideful perfectionism
  • Artistic Anorexia: yearning to be creative yet refusing to feed that desire.
  • Prideful Perfectionism:   belief that should do it perfectly the first time – no practice needed
  • Make a list of 20 things that you would try if you didn’t have to do it perfectly:

Sense of Strength – Goals and Dreams

  • Name your dream. Write it down. “In a perfect world, I would be a____”
  • Name one concrete goal that signals to you its accomplishment.
  • In a perfect world, where would you like to be in five years in relation to your dream and true north?
  • In the world we inhabit now, what action can you take this year, to move you closer?
  • What action can you take this month? This week? This day? Right now?

Sense of Compassion

  • What creative dreams are lurching toward possibility? Admit that they frighten you.

Sense of Self-Protection

  • Tell the truth. What habit gets in the way of your creativity?
  • Tell the truth. What do you think might be a problem? It is.
  • What do you plan to do about the habit or problem.
  • What is your payoff in holding on to this block.

Sense of Autonomy

  • List five ways in which you plan to nurture yourself in the next six months. Courses you will take – supplies you will allow yourself, artist dates and vacations just for you.
  • Take out a piece of paper and plan one week’s nurturing for yourself.   This means one concrete, loving action every single day for one week. BINGE!

Sense of Faith

  • Honestly – what would you most like to create?
  • Open-minded, what oddball paths would you dare to try.
  • Willing, what appearances are you willing to shed to pursue your dream?


I hope this overview gives you some journaling ideas. I strongly urge you to obtain a copy of the book however, and read through it yourself.



4 thoughts on “How to Journal: The Artist’s Way

  1. Pingback: How to Journal: Introduction | Revising Life after 50

  2. Pingback: How to Journal: The Gifts of Imperfection | Revising Life after 50

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