J is for Journaling

J is for Journaling

I am a journal junkie.

But really, who can resist a beautifully bound book with a lovely cover, with or without a latch and key?

Some are piled on my bookshelf. More are stashed away in a box. And I’ve bought a dozen for my children over the years.

Some are unused. Some are full. Some were begun and abandoned.


If you’re a creative person, journaling is almost a mandatory activity. How else would you keep track of all your brilliant ideas?

Here are some ways to use a journal:

  • The first consideration is the physical book. I personally prefer one with a substantial coil binding, so the book will lie flat on my writing surface. That said, I frequently get seduced into buying lovely but unwieldy journals that I wrestle every time I use.
  • You might want several journals, for different purposes. However, there’s a drawback to utilizing a multiple book system. Two writing journals live on my desk, plain notebooks, one for ARHtistic License, and one for my other writing; sometimes I’ll also have a notebook or binder for a particular project. But when I have a hot idea that I want to remember, like a particularly brilliant turn of phrase for a work-in-progress, I might not be able to find the right journal buried among the mail and art supplies that also congregate on my desk.  I’ll often resort to writing on whatever scrap of paper is handy, and then, of course, I lose it.


  • Keeping a diary of daily events and your reflections can be helpful for maintaining your own memories, and may even prove valuable to future generations. YA author Shonna Slayton scouts out vintage diaries on eBay, which she uses for research for her historical novels.
  • Many people record their dreams upon waking. Some seek insight into what’s bothering them; others look for a message from God in their dreams; and artists often find inspiration while sleeping. My late neighbor, Gloria Jean, an expert round dancer and seamstress, designed all her dance dresses, and saw dresses in her dreams. Keeping a pad and pencil on her nightstand, when she woke (sometimes in the middle of the night) she’d sketch out her dream dresses so she could sew them.
  • From time to time I’ve kept reading journals, where I write down what I’ve read and my evaluation of it. When I reread some of my journals from the 90s, I’m amazed at the depth of my analyses. More recently, my reading journaling has been less thorough. I procrastinate the act of picking up my journal when I put down the completed book. This year I’m documenting my reading by putting it on ARHtistic License, on the Books Read page. Since I work on my blog every day, it doesn’t feel like an additional commitment, more like just an update.
  • Bible journaling is another great idea. My pastor recommends studying the Bible one chapter per day, picking one verse that particularly speaks to you, and copying it. Then, rewriting it in your own words, consider what message God has for you in that verse. How can you apply it to your own life? Compose a prayer about it. You can even buy a journaling Bible, with wide margins where you can write your thoughts, or take it one step further, like these pages on 1arthouse (click here).
  • A sketchbook makes a wonderful journal, especially if you like to draw things to help you remember. Artist Suhita Shirodkar carries her sketchbook with her at all times, and shares her musings on her blog, Sketch Away: Travels with my Sketchbook.

Blank sketchbook DeathtoStock

  • A vacation journal is a great way to record specifics about trips you’ve taken–what you saw, who you visited, what the weather was like, what you would do differently next time.
  • A food journal or an exercise journal can be very helpful if you want to kick-start or maintain healthy habits. The tricky part is making sure to record everything. I have a journal in my gym bag that I use to record my workouts–but I never write down my Tuesday night and Wednesday morning dance groups, or my two-mile walks around the neighborhood. I also keep track of my weight in it–but only on gym days.
  • In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron recommends the daily discipline of morning pages–“three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness…They might also, more ingloriously, be called brain drain, since that is one of their main functions.” In other words, getting the clutter out of your subconscious to free up your mind for creative pursuits.

What about you? Do you journal? How does it facilitate your art? Share in the comments below.

A2Z-BADGE 2016-smaller_zpslstazvib

5 responses »

  1. I love this post. It makes me want to be a more diligent journaler. I love all those beautiful, empty pages in journals and the variety of books you can buy these days. But I’ve found that I rarely use them. Instead, I’ve started my “journaling” on my blog, Parenting With a Smile. But I still feel a bit guilty for not using the paper and pen style more. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I journal, too. It’s a great way for me to work out my frustrations, as well as record ideas I have for stories. Or, if a scene pops in my head, I’ll use it to jot it down–although it comes at inopportune times.

    I used to have a two-journal system. One journal was for my daily writing; the other was for my drafts and story ideas. At some point, it became confusing, and I was mixing the two. It was hard keeping up with them, especially when I was at work. There were times when I thought I lost them; worried that someone would read them. Then my wife told me about this app called One Day. I downloaded it and it’s been helpful to getting down ideas and feelings as it happens.

    Lately, I’ve been missing having physical journals. I’m considering going back to them. There’s something about putting pen to paper that can’t be matched with an journaling app. But I really don’t want to lose the convenience of an electronic journal. So, I think I will use both.

    Journaling has helpful in sorting through emotions, putting them into perspective, and jotting down ideas as they happen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s good that you have a system that works well for you. But, yeah, that pen and paper thing is so tactile, so real in comparison to “virtual” journaling.


  3. Folks, I realize I didn’t even mention the prayer journal. I belong to a writer’s critique group of Christian women, and at the end of each weekly session, we pray for each other, recording each petition in our journals.
    I had a friend who brought a journal to church every Sunday and wrote down every request for prayer. Week after week he updated his book with answers to the prayers. Over the years he put together an excellent living history of God’s work in our congregation through prayer.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.