Free writing and structured writing are two different approaches to journaling, each with its own benefits and purposes.

I use both free writing and structured writing within my journaling practice because both forms of journaling help me gain new insights and find different ways to express myself and increase self-awareness along the way.

About Free Writing

Free writing is a technique where you write continuously without worrying about grammar, spelling, or structure. The goal is to let your thoughts flow freely and explore your innermost feelings and ideas. It’s a form of uninhibited self-expression that allows you to tap into your subconscious mind and access deeper layers of creativity. Free writing can be helpful for brainstorming, capturing raw emotions, and overcoming writer’s block. It’s a non-judgmental process that encourages spontaneity and exploration.

A common form of free writing is the Morning Pages that Julia Cameron, author of the Artist’s Way, has been teaching for decades. With this free writing practice you fill three pages of stream of consciousness writing first thing in the morning before you do anything else.

Free writing is the type of journaling you do when you simply pick up your pen and write.

About Structured Writing

Structured writing, on the other hand, involves a more organized and planned approach to journaling. It follows a specific framework or template, such as prompts, questions, or guided exercises. This method provides a structured framework to focus your thoughts and reflections. Structured writing can be useful for goal-setting, self-reflection, gratitude practice, or specific self-improvement exercises. It helps bring clarity, intentionality, and a sense of direction to your journaling practice.

I love creating structured journal writing activities and I also love using them!  I also commonly use structured journaling tools within my transformational work with others in coaching, workshops and retreats.  I love using coaching tools, which can be used as structured journaling tools, that are created by my friend and fellow coach and journal writer, Emma-Louise Elsey, founder of The Coaching Tools Company. They are having a huge fireworks sale on now and many of their coaching tools make great structured journaling tools! You can check them out here and save 35% off (sale ends soon, July 12th!) >>

In summary, free writing is about letting your thoughts flow without constraints, while structured writing provides a framework and guidance for specific purposes. The choice between the two approaches depends on your goals, preferences, and the kind of experience you seek from your journaling practice. You can experiment and let your creative self-expression play with these various ways to journal!

Most of all, have fun and enjoy your journaling journey!

What is YOUR preference?

I would love to hear how you prefer to journal.

  • Do you typically free write?
  • Do you use structured journaling tools and activities like prompts, etc.?
  • Or a combination of both?

Please leave a comment, I would love to hear from you!  

Lynda Monk, MSW, RSW, CPCC is the Director of the International Association for Journal Writing. She is passionate about journal writing as a tool for transformation, healing and personal growth.  You can find some of the structured journaling tools she and others have created here >>