Writing things down doesn’t have to be sentimental. Journaling — in the form of writing, doodling, list-making and more — can help us process emotions, and it’s a simple way to tap into the imaginative part of our brain. With these benefits in mind, we partnered with the Paper & Packaging — How Life Unfolds ™ Campaign to explore how journaling would affect an array of B+C staffers.


The Paper and Packaging Board’s latest campaign, Letters of Peace, is all about encouraging people to express themselves creatively using paper. We were particularly curious to see how journaling with paper and pen could help us with self-reflection and creativity. Participants had one rule: They must journal 20 minutes every day for a week using a notebook and a pen. Two designers, one analyst, an editor and the President and GM of Media volunteered. We’re fascinated with the results!



Meet Marianne Koo, warmly known to her B+C pals as “Koo,” “Koo-licious,” and as a genius industrial designer with a heart of gold. Given her profession, it’s no surprise that she’s a visual thinker. We regularly catch Koo hand-lettering for our Instagram and blueprinting future company projects. For Marianne, we were particularly interested to see how carving out 20 minutes of *personal* creative time each night would affect her. Let’s find out!

What did you journal about?

“I journaled about EVERYTHING! I tried to let myself dwell a tiny bit on even the smallest thoughts. It feels like a good way to give something the time it deserves; then I can allow myself to move on. It’s something I’m trying to be better about, because I often let thoughts build up and they fuel my anxiety.”

How did you journal?

“I did a bit of lettering, writing and doodling. Sometimes it felt easier to express how I was feeling that day with a diagram, other days I felt like I really needed to articulate myself with large chunks of text.”


What time of day did you usually journal?

“Usually in the evenings after work, but some days I woke up and immediately started journaling. One morning in particular, I woke up from a dream with the most amazing textile. I dreamt that a good friend’s grandmother hand-embroidered this intricate blanket and she was showing me every detail of it. It was insane. I woke up and knew I had to sketch it out. Maybe one day I’ll recreate it.”


Did it feel like a chore? Why or why not?

Some days writing did feel like a chore, but I had to remind myself that it’s such a healthy release. Again, it’s so necessary for me to give myself the space to think about something, and then to let it go. It’s a way for me to exorcise the negative thoughts that would otherwise stress me out.

Was it easy to fill the full 20 minutes every day? Did you?

“20 minutes felt like a lot of time! Some days it felt like I had zero thoughts in my head. With my creative job, I’ve been conditioned to feel that 20 minutes is more than enough time to crank out a concept sketch or to write an email, so it was definitely challenging to spend 20 minutes on one thing strictly dedicated to my personal life.”


Did you find yourself thinking in a new or unexpected way?

“Expressing myself in diagrams is definitely an interesting way to think. I don’t think anyone naturally breaks themselves up into bits of information, so learning to do that was SO weird. Like is this percentage of me really angry? Or sad? On a scale of 1-10, how excited was I today?”


What was your overall experience with this challenge? Any big takeaways?

“The big takeaway is that it’s difficult to make time for a designated activity every day, but the payoff can be so rewarding. Ultimately, writing and drawing in a journal is dedicating time to reflect on yourself, and I think it’s a form of self-care that’s often overlooked.”


How do you think using pen and paper affected your journaling?

“Woof, have you ever considered how much your handwriting deteriorates after using a computer for X amount of years? Yikes! It was scary to think that a pen on paper felt foreign, and some days my writing was complete chicken scratch. As a visual person, that drove me crazy and made me want to practice and work on that muscle memory a bit more.”

What word/phrase comes to mind to sum up this experience?




Next up, Emily Smith! As our President and GM of Media *and* a mom of three, it’s no surprise that Emily is a very busy person. We were curious to see how designating a chunk of time to creative self-reflection would impact her week. Take a look.

How did your week with journaling go?

“Last week was completely nuts and I found it impossible to journal during the week. However, feeling bad about that, I doubled down and journaled all weekend. If I left the house, I slipped my journal into my purse so I would have it handy. It basically never left my side.”


How do you think using pen and paper affected your journaling?

“I have tried journaling in apps a few times recently, and I really enjoyed using paper instead. With apps, you end up drifting over into other digital distractions, such as email, texts, news alerts. But with paper, I found myself staying in the moment a lot more. I also liked documenting the daily details — writing in pen made the whole weekend feel more permanent and memorable.”

What did you journal about?

“I cooked a lot and entertained this weekend, so my poor journal is covered in cooking debris and smudged with dirty fingerprints. I wrote down menu plans, to-do lists, and groceries that I needed. As I cleaned up from my daughter’s earlier birthday party, I clipped samples of her gift wrap so I could remember the day. On Sunday night, I cranked out a list of all the things that happened that weekend.”


Did you find yourself thinking in a new or unexpected way?

“In some ways it was a perfectly normal weekend, but I knew it was filled with the kinds of things I would forget over time. Some mundane — my son’s soccer game got rained out; some amazing — my daughter’s friend brought over a puppy and we had a puppy play date that was about the cutest thing ever; some awful — our neighbor got robbed (in her home while she was there!) and a police officer came over to ask if we had seen anything unusual. I wrote it all down in my journal.”


Will you continue to journal now that the exercise is over?

“I will definitely keep it up!”

What word or phrase comes to mind to sum up this experience?

“It made the little things matter more.”



Jeff Kneis is quite literally analytical — his job at Brit + Co is to decipher our content analytics across the web. If you asked someone else, he’s very creative — heck, he has the most expansive knowledge of GIFs and memes I’ve ever seen, and knows the perfect moment to share the virtual gems. IMHO, that’s definitely a form of creative thinking ;) But Jeff was certain he’d have the least creative POV when it came to his journaling. Let’s see what happened.


What did you journal about?

“I journaled about different topics each day, through a mixture of drawing and writing.”

Did you find yourself thinking in a new or unexpected way?

“I did feel more creative, mostly when drawing. I found it difficult to break out of my analytical mindset and think of ideas, so I drew images inspired by other artists instead. But it definitely made me think about things in a different way. Journaling forced me to use parts of my brain that I didn’t use regularly. I think (especially with work the last few years) I have really focused on thinking analytically. I lost some of the creativity I might have had in college when I was reading and writing more often.”


Was it easy to fill the full 20 minutes every day? Did you?

“It was pretty easy to take up 20 minutes. I probably ended up journaling for more like 30 minutes a day without even realizing it.”

Did it feel like a chore?

“It did feel like a chore on the weekend and one day during the week. It was good to set some time out of the day to just relax and do something different. It only felt like a chore when I had a lot of other things going on.”


What was your overall experience with this challenge? Any big takeaways?

“I think it was a nice challenge. I always knew this would be a little harder for me than a lot of people here at Brit + Co. It’s just not something I do too often anymore. The patterns were a nice transition though. That helped me ease into it.”

What word or phrase comes to mind to sum up this experience?

“Interesting and challenging. It was harder than I thought it was going to be to break my analytical thought process.”



Disclaimer: Cortney Clift is a writer, and a good one. In fact, she’s authored more articles on Brit + Co than anyone else! With a job where she literally writes all day, we were curious to see what she’d take away from solo creative journaling. Take a peek.

What did you journal about?

“I’ve recently read about how doodling can be cathartic. Since I rarely draw on a regular basis, I decided to do different doodles of things I had done each day.”


“Actually no! By the third day I was looking forward to it. It was nice to exercise that part of my brain that I haven’t really used since art school. I think I actually journaled more than 20 minutes each night.”

Did you find yourself thinking in a new or unexpected way?

“Any time I draw, I have to think differently and kind of stretch a different creative muscle. So, yes!”


How do you think using pen and paper affected your journaling?

“For me, journaling on pen and paper is very therapeutic. It’s nice to see it actually on the page. It’s also really nice for me to purposefully spend some time away from my phone/laptop/tablet.”

What word or phrase comes to mind to sum up this experience?

“Cathartically creative!”



Next up, Marisa Bo Kumtong! She’s an incredibly skilled visual designer that’s a master of doodling and graphic design. Her whimsical illustrations can be seen all over brit.co, our Instagram and even in our coloring book. Another reason we adore this girl: She’s like, permanently wearing her dancing shoes. Let’s see how her week with journaling went!

What did you journal about? How did you journal?

“I always started off the journal with how my day went, and it would usually stem off from something that happened that day. I would start by writing, then I’d spend the last few minutes drawing either how I felt that day or just with shapes and embellishments that would help the page come to life a bit. The drawing part was a good closer to each day’s journal entry.”


What time of the day did you usually journal?

“I usually journaled about an hour before I went to bed. When I’m done with work, I’m either at the gym, watching TV or working on a project, and I liked to clear my head right before I head to bed. My mind is still going hours after the work day and I took these 20 minutes as a cool-down and a time to reflect about the whole day.”

Was it easy to fill the full 20 minutes? Did you?

“I found myself not checking on the timer too often, which was pleasantly surprising. Before I started the first entry, I didn’t think I would make it to 20 minutes every day, but I actually did and it felt like just the right amount of time to sit down, get settled, get in the mode of writing and clear almost everything out of my head.”


Did you feel creative while journaling?

“I didn’t feel creative until the drawing part that happened at the end. The writing portion was just plain writing for me, a way to dump everything from my mind onto paper. I felt creative with some of my drawings at the end because I knew there was no pressure to make it look good, because it was for my eyes only. I feel like projects that I know won’t be critiqued by others are precious; that’s when I feel the most creatively free.”

Did you find yourself thinking in a new or unexpected way?

“Journaling always helps me think in a new way. I made it a point last year to start writing out my thoughts every day before I went to sleep because that was a time when I was going through something stressful — and it was hugely helpful! Writing it out is a good way for me to get all my crazy thoughts out of my jumbled brain. I think when I see something written out, I’m able to take a step back and realize that my fears and thoughts may be exaggerated, so it helps me realize how outlandish I might be at that moment.”


How do you think using pen and paper affected your journaling?

“I actually thought about this the second day of this exercise — like would this be any different than if I were to be typing this on a computer? Maybe that’s something I’ll try in the future. My guess is that writing with a pen and paper is more thoughtful and it takes more time to write something out than to type it out, so you choose your words more wisely. Also, maybe I’d feel less connected to the journal entry if it was typed out. There’s something magical and precious about being connected to something that’s tactile and that you can hold in your hand.”

What was your overall experience with this challenge? Any big takeaways?

“The overall experience was very positive. I want to remember how good it felt to force myself to sit down for 20 minutes and have a chance every day to reflect on my day.”

Will you continue to journal now that the exercise is over?

“YES, or hoping to at least :)”

What word/phrase comes to mind to sum up this experience?

“Emotionally releasing.”


The verdict? Journaling helped every participant think creatively and reflect on his or her week. For professional creatives, it served as an outlet for personal creative thinking; for busy-bees, it was a relief to designate a period of time for self-expression. Using paper and pen bolstered the practice — compelling the participants to think visually and focus on the exercise at hand (literally). Four of the five B+C staffers are planning on making journaling a daily practice; how awesome is that? I’d say this challenge was a success!

Want to participate in the #LettersofPeace campaign? Share images of your journals and paper projects with us on Instagram so we can take a look!

Production + Styling: Maddie Bachelder

Participants: Marianne Koo, Jeff Kneis, Emily Smith, Marisa Kumtong + Cortney Clift

Photography: Brittany Griffin