Chaos Journaling Tutorial

So I think I finally came up with a name to call the journaling technique I’ve mentioned a few times on Reddit and a previous blog: Chaos journaling! The Chaos part fits perfectly. What do you think? Nobody else has showed any real interest in it but I figured I’d post about it anyway, just in case…


I figured I’d detail the materials and process a little more this time, with examples of things I’ve written. I haven’t seen anybody else do this kind of thing. They probably are and they’re keeping it a secret from the world. I don’t exactly blame them. My book can resemble something a cop would find hidden under the rotting mattress of a creepy serial killer in a cliche movie*.

This will be a super wordy post but I want you to have a good understanding of what Chaos writing is so you can jump right into it, no questions asked. Although I totally don’t mind if you ask!

What’s the point?

  • It’s kind of fun and a bit meditative to look back through past writings. It can be a bit hard emotionally (sometimes you find you relate to something later, but you didn’t at the time) but you can also get some good laughs.
  • It’s good for people who just really enjoy writing (the physical act of writing is so magical), but maybe they have writers block, or they can’t carry a laptop or proper writing project with them.
  • You can look back and grab inspiration for other projects. I have grabbed snippets to write onto canvas art projects and poetry.
  • It’s really cheap, easy therapy** and cathartic sometimes.
  • I’ve sort of bonded with my book. It gone almost everywhere with me for about 6 years now. I’ve been through a dozen or so moves and yet I still have it. It feels good, and you know what I say about stuff feeling good.***

So you can do this as cheaply or as expensively as you want or need to.


Things you’ll need:

  • A blank, unlined book.
  • Some pens or markers.
  • Optional: a case (pencil box, fancy velvet bag, etc) to keep it all in.

For my book I’m using a small, hardcover Pentalic book. I wanted a nice, cramped little space.

For pens, I started off with a pack of Prismacolor Multiliner markers. On a few occasions during the first 6 months or so I wrote with a Pentel Arts Hybrid Technica pen (which is the best pen ever, btw). I gave the Prismacolors away to an artist friend and bought myself a set of Micron pens. The ink seems darker, so I’m really happy with the choice. Dark ink and zero bleed through are important to me, especially for this sort of project.


Writing Ideas:

  • Random little phrases you overheard. I usually put them in quotes.
  • Random words or phrases that pop up in your head for no good reason.
  • A brief description of something you experienced. This is best written in a not-so-coherent way or from a perspective not your own.
  • A little reactionary rant (I did one on a girl who was raped at a party), though this dives a little too close to structure. Ew.
  • Something funny or clever I said or wanted to say in a situation.
  • Something a bit silly (e.g. something you misread or misheard), or meta (e.g. .
  • Leave a little message to yourself to react to at some later time.
  • Stream of consciousness is a wonderful thing.
  • Things that you don’t think, or believe, have ever or will ever say because it doesn’t suit your personality e.g. something a stereotypical valley girl or redneck might say? Or take on a different political or religious view?
  • Write a little “response” right next to something else you wrote at another time.

Well that should give you an idea of what to write, but what about how? Half of the fun of Chaos writing is it doesn’t matter what you write but how you write it.


The How:

  • Pick your pens at random when you go to write something.
  • Try to write on a different page for every entry.
  • Write upside down, next to something else, in the spine, on a curve, barely hanging onto the edge…
  • Try to have a variety of sizes, styles, etc that you write in on the same page.
  • Write in italics, bold, all caps…

Ideas, tips, tricks:

  • Force an entry.
  • Don’t force an entry.
  • If it’s something I overheard/misheard I try to remember to “put it in quotes”.
  • Refrain from doodling or structured writing.
  • Give yourself permission to write anything and don’t worry.
  • Just continue writing through misspellings and grammar mistakes..
  • This may feel like a rather strange combo of personal and impersonal. It’s full of random, chaotic nonsense but you will find some truths as well.

I think that mostly wraps it up. I tried to keep it as concise and interesting sounding as possible. It’s fun, I swear! Let me know what you think of this, if you already do this, if you plan on trying it!


*I am not a serial killer.

**If you need actual therapy, please see a professional.

***If it feels good, do it!