4 kinds of journalling

This is a guest post by Alyss Thomas

The Journal Writer’s Companion

Journal writing has been proven to help develop greater purpose, clarity, focus and creative self-expression. In her book, The Journal Writer’s Companion, psychotherapist and lifelong journal writer, Alyss Thomas, explores the many types of journal writing and the role they can play in helping us to access our best creative selves.

In the following edited extract from The Journal Writer’s Companion Alyss offers an overview of four types of journaling and their uses. Writing prompts and a detailed ‘how to’ guides for each of these types of journalling are available in The Journal Writer’s Companion (Exisle Publishing, 2019).


A bullet journal is the ultimate task manager and productivity assistant. If you struggle to keep your task management, lists, schedules, reminders, random thoughts and jottings and vital information under control, the bullet journal can change your life! There are so many people who have adopted variations of this system because they are tired of having bits of information scattered across different apps and notebooks.

Bullet journalling is ideal if you want to simplify a busy life or job, or streamline lots of diverse information into something that is visual, clear, trackable, organised and efficient. You can track something such as weight loss alongside business topics, and your bullet journal treats it all the same. A bullet journal is like a personal assistant for your mind and projects, and it provides a practical method of curating, managing, pigeonholing and staying on top of your ideas and tasks, both long-term and immediate. It is an elegant and efficient way to stay on track with everything so you don’t drop the ball on one project when another takes up most of your attention. Above all, it helps you see how and where you are spending your time and energy, and it helps you focus on what most matters to you.


Many people practise the ‘morning pages’ journal, an idea made popular and successful by Julia Cameron in her worldwide books and teachings on the ‘artist’s way’. In her books and lectures, she describes in detail this form of journalling that she calls morning pages, as she recommends you do it first thing in the morning while your mind is still clear, and that you write three pages per day. Morning pages is form of journalling that has specific functions and is a form of writing known as free association writing. The focus is on your ‘stream of consciousness’ and it is a method for downloading whatever is going on in your mind rather than for capturing everything you want to attend to or do. It is almost the complete opposite of bullet journaling, and the mood is spacious and reflective rather than brief, efficient and organized.

Daily pages journal writing is ideal in the following situations:

  • When you need to write for work, business or university, or because you are a writer or need to stay in flow with your writing, keep the ideas flowing or build your confidence and momentum.
  • You have the feeling you want to keep a journal, but you are unsure about how and where to begin.
  • You feel confused, anxious or depressed and you have no idea about how to start unpacking what is on your mind; daily pages is a way of unburdening your mind.
  • You are bursting with ideas but you can’t capture them and they are elusive or keep going round in your mind, without anything happening, and you are not able to put them into action.


Art journalling is the ultimate form of personal self-expression. Art journalling is a fusion between expressive personal art and journalling, and is a form of personal creativity like no other. You can blend journal and artistic elements within an overall theme, where decoration, self-expression and meaning interweave and support each other. An art journal is both a product and a process. It’s hugely enjoyable and satisfying to create and provides a fantastic opportunity for your creativity, and at the end you also have a book that is lovely to hold and look at.

The art journal is a thing in itself that blends ideas, words and visual elements in a thematic way using mixed media.

If you have yearned to be artistic or to paint or draw, but felt you weren’t able to, art journalling will welcome you as it is a level playing field and you do not need an art education. You don’t have to be able to draw or paint, as you can use collaged or stamped images and just have fun discovering all that you can do, because anyone can join in. The qualities you need, and that you can develop further in art journalling, are curiosity, playfulness and willingness to discover where the experience will take you.


Life writing — writing about your life — is what many people think of when they think of journalling. It can also be described as keeping a diary and is a perennial form of journalling. You don’t need any instructions or guidance to simply write whatever you feel about what has been happening in your life, but you may want to emphasize certain aspects in order to leverage the most benefit from the writing.


Daily life can pass by in a blur and you will soon forget all that is vivid and fresh today. Capturing and recording some of your immediate and recent life experience brings perspective. Journalling about a trip or a relationship as you go through the experience enriches the experience, and gives you material you may be able to use later. Journalling what is going on for you on days when there are significant world events can make fascinating reading a few years on. Writing your life is a creative act in which you meet yourself on the page and choose how you respond to your circumstances.

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