Journaling to Create Wisdom 

by | May 26, 2023 | creativity & joy

How to extract wisdom from your past and bring it into the present. 

I’ve journaled over the years to acknowledge what I am going through, to calm and treat myself with care. I have journaled to tell myself that I matter, that I am here, present, and to not abandon myself. 

The journaling that I have been doing over the years has been valuable because I’ve written to witness myself during challenging times – but I didn’t know that it has also been journaling to create wisdom.

The idea of extracting the wisdom from my journal is new to me, which is CRAzY because I have been journaling for decades! So what in the world have I been doing? Why has this idea of journaling to create wisdom escaped me? 

I think there are a couple reasons:

1) I have hated the review process for as long as I can remember. Going back over something – whether that be a report that I wrote for school, or my journal became an exercise in seeing flaws, missteps and screw-ups. Measuring what I had created against what I should have created: some perfectionist ideal. I was never good at reviewing because I felt crappy about not getting things perfect the first time. 

2) Reviewing a journal of just words, is well – kind of BORING. And visual journals are just more YUMMY to look at. 

Reviewing my visual journal in a methodical way to reflect upon it, and extract, harvest, cultivate, see, notice, and appreciate is a valuable process I am just now undertaking.

When I review and APPRECIATE what I’ve created in my journal, the value of what’s in my journal increases. 

I’ve noticed two things that relate to gaining greater appreciation, heightened value, and wisdom from my journals.  

1) One of the ways that I extract wisdom is through writing these blog posts. Recently, I was working on a blog post about how I move through fear. As I was freewriting about this topic, I remembered that I’d written about fear in my journal while doing the 7 Creative Powers workshop with Lisa Sonora.

I picked up my visual journal and was paging through it, and there was quite a lot of work that I’d done writing and thinking about this topic of fear. I typed up what was in my journal and added it to the post. This process blew me away because I had forgotten that I’d done all that writing about fear already.

2) There’s another way that the wisdom from my journal is showing up. During one of our live journaling sessions, Lisa Sonora led us through a process of reviewing our pages, and then noticing which ones we found most satisfying and which ones we did not.

During that process, I went back and identified a page that was really bugging me because I hadn’t treated the words with the love that I wanted to show them. The page spread wasn’t beautiful to me. Looking at the page reminded me that I had just rushed through it, to get it done. You can see the first version below. 

I covered up that version with black paint, and pearl paint so that I could go back and create something that did satisfy me. I collaged, I used typed words, and I took. My. Time. To really savor the poem, and the creation process. 

In this second example (shown below) the wisdom that emerged had to do with learning to tune in to and respect what I found dissatisfying, asking myself questions about why that was so, and then taking my time to make a change that yielded a more satisfying page spread.

And so what is the wisdom? It’s realizing that the feeling of being satisfied is something to tune into – something to actively engage with. 

I don’t think I understood how to practice being satisfied. This insight connects to a negative, destructive thought that I often find myself caught up in – which is the feeling of being deprived or denied. This exercise of noticing what is satisfying, or not satisfying, in my journal pages led me to the realization that feeling satisfied is an antidote to the feeling of being deprived.  What does it take to be satisfied? Well, I am still learning.

So I’m seeing that extracting wisdom from my journal is taking place on two levels:

1) There is something that I wrote in my journal and maybe forgot I wrote. Going back to the journal gives me the information – I just transcribe it and work with it a bit. Voila. Thank you Journal! 


2) This learning about who I am and what matters to me – this is much trickier. I don’t quite understand it. But definitely, I am learning about satisfaction and that I can consciously pause to notice – am I satisfied? Why or why not? I’m looking forward to seeing how this insight and awareness will show up in other areas of my life.  


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