I’ve mentioned journaling a few times on Instagram and here on the blog and have received some questions about how I journal.  I know there are a lot of “journaling methods” out there and I wouldn’t say I follow any specific method, but just started writing and figured out the best way to organize it all for my brain and my creative work.

The first thing I learned is that writing everything in one notebook didn’t work.  My ideas, to-dos, thoughts, plans, and notes were like a debris field scattered across too many notebooks that I had to sift through every time I wanted to reference something I wrote down.  It would’ve been fine if my journaling was just about putting something on paper, but I journal so I can remember and revisit things.  I collect quotes, fragmented ideas, and thoughts, notes on books I read, sermons I listen to, or even movies I watch.  I read over them frequently, because what inspired me once will more than likely inspire me again.  An unused idea from a month ago might help me get unstuck today.

My other hang-up with journals is I felt like they had to fit into a specific mold.  I thought it had to be a “dear diary” sort of thing.  Here’s what I did today, here are my deepest thoughts.  When I would open the notebook to follow that line of thinking, that wasn’t what I wanted to write.  So, I didn’t write at all or I made a few half-hearted attempts that quickly fizzled out.

Earlier this year, I stepped up my reading and studying on creativity, creative business, business, art, and design and I knew I wouldn’t be able to retain everything I was reading, especially as I bounced between 2-3 books at a time.  I also discovered some notebooks that I’ve been writing in over the past few months and years and I realized they contained a lot of ideas that were forgotten, but still viable.  It took cleaning out my office to unearth them, so it was clear I needed a system to keep them handy.  These two lightbulb moments made me realize that I needed an intentional system.

Getting a notebook with inserts (THIS ONE) influenced my current journaling style more than anything.  Because I can have three inserts in the same notebook, I can segment out my journaling and keep the most useful information organized.

So, I have three sections…

one | bulleted insert | notes, ideas, quotes, and formulated thoughts

This is the section I use most.  For some reason, the bulleted paper makes me write neater, so this type of paper is perfect for this section.  My notes are tidy, legible, and fairly organized.  The dots make me feel free to doodle and draw arrows, dividing lines, and visual examples if they are needed.  It doesn’t feel as structured or formal as lines.

In this section, I take notes on the books I’m reading and things I’m learning.  When I watch a documentary that inspires me, I write a snippet about why it inspires me in this section.  If I read a quote I love, I write it down.  If I have an idea, I write it here.  I jot down song lyrics and observations about myself, others, and the world around me. This is where I dream and scheme about the future.

I’m collecting scraps that might someday be stitched together to make a quilt.

This is the section that I read over again and again.  I read it when I’m tired and unmotivated.  My words offer encouragement and ideas when I need them the most.  I read it when I’m excited and ready to work on a new project.   It’s full of hope and recklessness and possibility.

HERE’s a link to the dotted inserts.


two | blank paper | sketches & visuals

The blank insert is for journaling through sketches and visuals.  It’s not a formal sketchbook, but a collection of designs, motifs, doodles, and sketches.  It’s been so helpful to have this section paired with my notes and written ideas, so I can flip from one section to another easily.  When I’m feeling stuck during a workday, I pull out this notebook and do a quick sketch and that gets me going again.

The nice thing about these inserts is the pages are heavy enough to accept gouache (opaque watercolor).  So, I’ll use that sometimes as well as pens and graphite.

(The blank inserts come with the notebook.)


three | lined paper | creative stories, freewriting, & brain dumps

This is my wilderness.  I can wander around in here without a map or compass and it’s okay if I get lost.  Spelling, legibility, grammar, plot, and sequence are all left behind.  This is where I do battle with myself through words.  I struggle through doubts, wrestle with my anxieties, and take a stab at the unknown to try to pin it down.  I write plotless stories about whatever I’m observing at the moment.  I berate myself, feel sorry for myself, and admonish myself.  Fears and hopes alike spill onto the page.  I coax gratitude, contentment, and faith to make an appearance and show me all of the blessings and undeniable truths.  This is therapy.

And I also use this section to quiet my thoughts.  When they are racing, this is where they can run.  I empty them into this notebook, so I can focus, sleep, and be present.  This doesn’t eliminate the mental distractions, but it helps so much.

This section is completely disorganized and messy, which is okay.  I most likely will never read it again.  The act of filling it was useful.  Reading it probably won’t be.

(HERE is a link to the lined inserts.)

This one notebook is a companion through all of my workdays and I take it with me when I might have the time or inclination to write, draw, or journal.  I primarily use it at my desk in the mornings, though.  I don’t put hard and fast rules around journaling, like how often I need to do it or how many pages I need to fill.  It’s there to serve me, not to make me feel obligated.

Are you a journaler?



  1. Lori Siegel

    I want to thank you for all your inspiration. I have been enjoying your Blog for many years. I found it when I was looking for information on how to refinish furniture in a French country style. I fell in love with the refinishing process and never looked back.

    Lori Siegel

    • Marian Parsons

      Thank you, Lori!

  2. Janet

    Hi Marian,
    What a timely post! I am currently reading through my (many) old journals from the last 20 years. Each journal contains all 3 of the categories you outlined. I am ripping out old pages with “stuff” i want to save and it’s a time-consuming task to recapture them in a meaningful way. I am starting a separate file of poetry as 1 category. I am saving quotes and notes into another category – in a formal journal (hard-backed) that is inspirational. I, too, am artistic, and I have that category already separated out in a large artist’s sketch pad my studio. But your final category is where I had a lightbulb moment when you said you needed a place to write things out but would probably never read it again (or need to do so). For this I need an additional “dumping” journal that I intend to trash. This is the missing idea I’ve been struggling with. But this post really helps me move forward. Thank you!

    • Marian Parsons

      Oh, I’m so glad that helped you out! It sounds like you have a treasure trove of journals to dig through. How fun!

  3. Laura

    Any suggestions for how to get back into the habit of journaling regularly? When I was in art school, I formed a habit of journaling/sketching/note-taking, which was amazing and formed an incredibly important part of my creative process. I literally still refer back to those notebooks and can get excited and inspired all over again. But these last few years, I’ve been unable to get back into the groove! I just got a new moleskin journal, and I was hoping that would help…but I am still struggling. I feel like I don’t have the time (but I’m sure I could find it if I really tried), or when I sit down to write, I feel stuck. I am intrigued by your three part journaling strategy, but I don’t want to buy a new journal at the moment, since I just got one….

    • Chris Moore of Seattle

      This is a very good question. If you post regularly on FB, email with friends and talk on the phone and take care of yourself and your living space…I don’t think about journaling anymore. But…I would like to!

      • Marian Parsons

        For me, writing on this blog or social media isn’t therapeutic. It’s edited and filtered. When I’m writing and sketching in this notebook, it’s for me. A portion does make it out into the world for public consumption, but it doesn’t have to.

    • Marian Parsons

      Ha! I totally get it! You need to fill the one you have before buying new ones…a rule I never follow. It really helped me to remove any idea of what journaling had to be and I just started writing things that I found interesting, memorable, or inspiring and it’s developed into a habit. I try to write something every day now, even if it’s just a quote, an idea, notes on a book I’m reading, etc.

  4. Lolly

    I journal daily….it’s how I pray. I tend to figure things out by writing, and so I write my prayers. In the front of each new journal, I write a few quotes, Scriptures, and song lyrics that speak to me right then. I just add to them as I go along. And then decide which one(s) might get to go to the next journal.

    I start my days with coffee and with choosing to be thankful. So I write little snippets of what I am thankful for. Today included my daughter getting enough sleep that she was silly and sweet….and not as teenagerish. Lol. The glimpse of the sunset last night….and noticing that a pine tree has sprouted tall in the sun’s western path. Sometimes during my prayer time our donkey will bray….and then the Lab will start singing with him….and I start giggling….so I write that down. Those two are a MESS. Sometimes it’s birds singing. Or the cicadas in the summer. Or the train’s whistle. Often I thank God for the hot mug of caffeine, lol! I don’t purposefully set out to be thankful along my 5 senses….but I’m realizing that I often do write down the things I’ve been able to see, hear, taste, touch in the past 24 hrs. Maybe not as much smell, lol. After I write down a few things, then I pray about people or things going on, I wrestle with life, I cry out my hurts and pain, I share in someone else’s struggles, I pray for God’s working….just whatever. Some days I get half a page written….others, I fill up 2-3 pages. And sometimes I just sit there in the quiet and don’t write at all. I just sit and be.

    I have a little flip card ring that I write down bits and pieces of things which have helped feed my soul after we lost 3 babies to miscarriage + stillbirth. I add to it here and there. It’s mostly stuff dealing with grief….and I do look through it from time to time. Things I’ve learned, quotes that have helped me, song lyrics which held me.

    Then I keep homeschool notes here and there….I should’ve just used one journal all along….but nope. Lol.

    My kids have tons of sketchbooks they like to draw in. My son’s favorite is a small one…maybe 4×6″? He HATES to write, so he just doodles. My dd has a bazillion journals….and she doodles and draws and writes in all of them….and nothing is organized, nor does she keep similar things in like journals….it’s random and haphazard and a tornado like she is! She makes up songs, she makes up stories, she prays, and idk what all else….she does her own thing in them. 🙂

    • Marian Parsons

      Sounds wonderful! I really enjoyed your comment. 🙂

  5. Madi

    Where did you find your journal that has inserts? This is a great idea!

    • Marian Parsons

      Sorry! I didn’t realize I didn’t add the links. The link to the journal and inserts are now in the post. They are all from Wanderings on Amazon and the notebook and inserts come in different sizes.

  6. Shelly

    Im 60. I wrote in journals my whole life.
    Every year I would burn them an start fresh again January 1st.
    Now after reading your beautiful post I’m sad I did this.
    Time for a new mindset!
    60, the new 20’s.
    You learn daily an I’m ready for a new start!
    I’ve been reading your blog for years, you remind me of me, a lot of similarities.
    You are an amazing soul!
    With a multitude of talent!
    Glad your in the Midwest, hope we are treating you good!
    Your neighbor from Wisconsin!

  7. Cynthia

    I’ve tried to journal so many times but could never stick to it until I discovered junk journaling. I make my own journals which satisfies my creative side. I love the variety of papers, coffee and tea dying my paper, making the covers, and sewing in the signatures. I write about my day, add scripture, poems, quotes, doodles and sketches, and love using my colored markers and different pens. I glue in lots of things like ticket stubs, paper placemats from restaurants, brochures, postcards, armbands from the races, etc. I’m on my second journal for the year. It’s a true expression of me.

  8. Cindy in Oklahoma

    I’m sitting at my desk looking at a row of “journals” – each one designated for specific purpose – sketches, recipes, ideas, quotes and scripture, lists, family history, thoughts, hopes, etc. This cumbersome and inefficient method of mine is exactly why when I read your blog a couple of days ago I immediately ordered the leather notebook and am anxiously awaiting its arrival and am hoping it streamlines the crazy. Thank you for your inspiring idea with an affordable resource, as always….. like a pebble thrown into a pond, your blog ripples all the way to Oklahoma… and beyond!

    • Cindy in Oklahoma

      Received mine yesterday and wow, I just love it! I love the feel, the size, the journal separation, the quality of the paper, everything…. thx so much for sharing.

      • Mary Kaiser

        I seen your post on Miss Mustard Seeds journal, and that you ordered one, what size did you order? will that size you ordered easily go into a purse to go with you?

  9. Carol

    I looked up your journal on Amazon and added it to my Christmas list! I also have various journals for various quotes, Bible verses, notes from books I’ve read, etc. And I have t.o find the list that tells me what’s in each journal and then things overlap from one to another and on and on. I liked the idea of add-ons to this journal too. Thanks for all of your info and inspiration!

  10. Adrienne

    I started a gratitude journal several years ago. Put it down, picked it up and be became a bullet journal. Put it down, picked it up again and it became a daily journal that took me through a very difficult time. I’ve journaled on and off, kicked myself for not journaling every day and felt like I needed something to separate out what’s on my heart to journal. You’ve answered the question – more than one journal. And I LOVE the idea of a three-in-one. Easy to take with me, simple to change directions and no guilt if I lay it down for a time and pick it up again. Thank you for inspiring me to set aside the stack of unused journal books and find the thing that inspires and gets me to following my heart to journal again.

  11. Lisa L.

    Would you mind sharing the size of the journal you use? There are 4 options, I think. TIA

  12. Mary Kaiser

    What size did you get the journal in? I want to get one, but not sure which size to get. I kind of want to be able to throw it in my purse so I can take it with me, but not sure if the large will be to large to take easily. would love to know what size works for you!



  1. Saturday Seven 91 | Inspiration for Quilters | A Quilting Life - […] One of my goals is to do more journaling than I’ve been doing lately. Recently I found a terrific…

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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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