This is a big topic for me, and one that will definitely warrant a few followup posts. But it’s something I’ve been thinking about sharing for a long time, because of all my creative habits and tools, journaling is by far, the one I value most.
And, disclaimer: this post is definitely written with my fellow artist in mind, but I really believe anyone can benefit from a journaling practice. Feel free to scavenge or discard whatever you please from this ❤
I should mention too, that I have always been a natural journal-er. I began keeping a journal in third or fourth grade, and I have kept them ever since. Journaling may not be for everyone, and there is no right or wrong way to do it.
So I’m just going to share why this has been such a valuable tool for me:
Journaling keeps you honest with yourself.
In life, it’s easy to believe that how you’re feeling now is how you’ve always felt. When feelings are up, the past is filtered through the present, and it’s hard to keep things in context. When you journal your feelings regularly, you can go back and see how long you’ve actually felt a certain way.
For me, that helps prevent a drift into artist’s block, or a feeling of hopelessness when it’s been “forever” since I’ve had a new idea. Usually, it hasn’t been forever, it’s been 3 weeks. And it’s happened before, and I survived. Context is important, and journaling helps create and maintain that context.
Here’s the shorthand I use in my journal for a “checkpoint” (old school Mario fans will appreciate it):
When I see that, I know it’s a place where I took a pause and wrote down how I’m feeling, how my relationships are doing, what music I’m listening to, how I’m feeling about my art career, etc. It’s helpful to look back and see these sometimes.
Journaling helps you build on your ideas.
Our brains are fast. How many times have you had an idea that you know was incredible, but two days later you can’t remember it?
How rad would it be if you could trust that your idea was written down somewhere, to retrieve and reexamine for later use?
For a creative person, that’s what a journal can be. A catalogue of ideas.
If you’re anything like me, you have lots of half-baked ideas all the time. You know it has potential, but it’s not complete yet. If you don’t write it down, it’ll probably be gone forever. So, write them down and come back later.
Here’s the shorthand I use in my journal to let me know later that I’ve recorded an idea I might want to play with later:
Journaling keeps you creating.
You know that feeling when you’re excited to sit down and make cool stuff, but you don’t know what? You might look around the room and see if anything catches your eye, browse the internet to see if there’s any inspiration there… and then stay on the Internet until you get hungry and give up.
While there’s no perfect cure for distraction, I’ve found that an active journaling habit helps manage my “what should I draw?” syndrome.
If you’ve been filling a journal with ideas, quick doodles of things you see, and inspiration, you will create your own personal database of inspiration.
Here’s an example from my journal:
I had a quick idea while I was riding the bus, so I jotted it down in my ugly shorthand. Then a week later, when I sat down in the mood to draw something for myself, I flipped through my journal and found this little gem.
And drew this from it:
If you’re like me, your brain won’t have the good ideas at the forefront all the time. Especially not when you need them. A journal can become your own creative database.
That’s all for now. Go forth and journal, you magnificent weirdo!