An "End of Year" Creative Journaling Process: Look Back & Dream Forward! | by Lynda Monk MSW, RSW, CPCC

Creative Journaling shown by girl pondering and writing

I love this time of year! It's great for both looking back at our learning and accomplishments of the past year, and taking time to dream forward into the new year that lies ahead. And Creative Journaling is a fabulous way to do this!

Every December I book two dates in my schedule. One to do a year in review process, the other to do my goal-setting for the coming year. Reflecting back helps me to dream forward! I usually allow 2-3 hours to look back over the year and 2-3 hours to dream forward into the next year.

You can choose whether to do this creative journaling exercise in one day - taking a pause or lunch break between Step 2 and Step 3, or whether to book two separate dates as I do.

Prepare for "Looking Back, Dreaming Forward" Creative Journaling Exercise

1) Schedule your creative journaling looking back & dreaming forward dates

Booking this time makes it real, and honours the time you will devote to this activity.

2) Gather your creative, sensory and inspirational supplies

Creative Journaling is a way to bring more than just words to the page - it invites all of our senses into the experience. And it's fun to gather everything together - preparation is the first step in action.

For my creative supplies: I include my journal, coloured markers, 18 x 24 pieces of paper, Post-it notes, my daytimer so I can look back on the year for highlights, magazines for vision boarding forward.

For my sensory supplies: I bring candles, essential oils and my diffuser, Spotify with a playlist ready for inspiration, tea, water and snacks!

Using the 5 senses: The essential oils are for my sense of smell, music for my sense of hearing and snacks and herbal tea for my sense of taste. To nourish my sense of sight, I work at my desk that looks out to the ocean and my office surrounds me with books and art, plus symbols, images and quotes that are meaningful to me.

How can you engage your senses in your own looking back and dreaming forward process?

3) Arrive to your creative journaling time with mindful, present moment awareness

When the body becomes still, the mind can also become quieter. This stillness invites us into greater creative potential within ourselves.

I always begin by getting grounded and centered with a few intentional mindful moments. My favourite mindfulness exercise involves noticing my breath as it enters and leaves my body - giving me life. During this time I also draw my attention to my hands and feet, and sitting still.

Now you're ready to engage in your own creative journaling!

Here is how I "Look Back and Dream Forward"

You can respond to the prompts below with a written journal entry, collage, drawing, anything at all that helps you capture - in a creative and meaningful way to you - the essence of your response and reflections. Other options include sketching, collage, using mixed media, recording yourself with a voice app then transcribing to your journal or meeting with a friend or a fellow coach. If you meet up with someone, one great idea is to verbally share your answers to the prompts with each other before writing them down.

Art and language help us to constantly re-invent ourselves - and stay connected to limitless possibilities. Lynda Monk

Step 1: Creative Journaling - Begin with Mindfulness

As coaches, we know the power of being fully present in the now. I like to start my looking back and dreaming forward with a journaling exercise to get me fully 'in the now'.

Mindfulness Journaling exercise: For the next 10 minutes, write about the present moment. What do you Feel? Hear? See? Smell? Sense? Notice?

Once you're fully in the moment, it's time to "look back".

Step 2: Look Back Over the Last Year

Below are some prompts to help you look back. There are many creative ways to journal, so answer these prompts in any way that appeals to you.

Creative Journaling prompts to look back over the last year:

  • What are five things you want to remember?
  • What were your peak experiences this year?
  • What successes or accomplishments do you want to celebrate and acknowledge?
  • What is one of your biggest lessons learned?

Step 3: Dream Forward to the Coming Year

Before dreaming forward you may want to get yourself fully back into the present again. If so, complete the mindful journaling exercise from Step 1 again.

Now, as for your "looking back" exercise, respond to the journal prompts below in any creative way that seems right to you.

Creative Journaling prompts to dream forward to the coming year:

  • How do you want to feel in the year ahead? What helps you feel that way?
  • What core values do you want to honour most in your daily life?
  • In what ways will you live aligned with your highest sense of purpose?
  • What do you absolutely need to stop doing to live your best year ever?
  • What do you absolutely need to start doing to live your best year ever?

Step 4: Choose 5 Inspirational Quotes to Wrap-up this Creative Journaling Experience

"Words unravel every emotion." John Koenig

One great way to wrap-up this "Look Back and Dream Forward" creative journaling exercise is to find 5 quotes that you want to inspire you in the coming year. Type them up, paint them, pen them in calligraphy, add photos, and turn them into art journal entries or vision boards for your office wall.

As you explore and record the 5 quotes, allow yourself to be deeply touched by the words.

Final Thoughts

What creative rituals and routines would you like to commit to in the year ahead? When do you feel most alive? How can you do more of that in the new year?

And remember that your creative journaling can be art! Journaling allows me expanded feelings of clarity, inspiration and balance. I love to free fall creatively onto the page. I let my emotions, thoughts and creative self-expression take over and see where they might lead me. I hope creative journaling can support you to manifest your biggest dreams for the coming year!

"Combining the importance of the remembered and written story, with the limitless opportunity of art gives way to my creative dream." Lori Spilker

BONUS: For more tips and best practices on how to integrate journaling into coaching, check out Lynda's "Write Your Path!" article.pdf recently published in choice Magazine.

If you liked this article on Creative Journaling, you may also like:

Lynda Monk Headshot

Contributing Author:

Lynda Monk, MSW, RSW, CPCC is the Director of the International Association for Journal Writing. Lynda regularly writes, speaks, and teaches about the transformational and healing power of writing. She is the co-author of Writing Alone Together: Journalling in a Circle of Women for Creativity, Compassion and Connection (2014), and co-editor of Transformational Journaling for Coaches, Therapists, and Clients: A Complete Guide to the Benefits of Personal Writing (2021). Lynda is also co-editor of The Great Book of Journaling (2022). You can find her FREE gift for coaches here: Gratitude Journaling for Coaches & Clients Workbook.

Learn more about Lynda & see all their articles here >>

Image of Child pondering and ready to create art by Kaikoro via Shutterstock

One Comment

  1. Lynda Monk

    Hi Emma, thanks for having me as a guest author within TCTC! You always help make articles become better with your graphics, editing and styling, thank you! Happy writing and reflecting to all...


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.