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?