Do You Journal?

It seems that many people just type notes into their phones these days, but there’s something different, and dare I say, better, about keeping a journal (or notepad, or sketchbook, or whatever you want to call it.) I believe that taking the time to write something down makes it more important. I think it fuels more thought, and I think it can inspire great things. Some journals end up being works of art in themselves.

In university, I had a professor who assigned us to keep a visual journal for the semester. The assignment was introduced on the first day of class and marked on the last day; whatever we did in between was up to us. From enormous sketchbooks to tiny moleskine notepads, the results didn’t matter so much as the process of keeping track of inspiration and sourcing new ideas.

A lot of people disregard journaling as a literary outpouring of emotion (“Dear diary, today I feel sad”), which it can be, but it can also serve memory and organizational functions. Writing things down means you’re more likely to remember them, and it clears room in for new ideas without worrying about keeping track of the old ones. It doesn’t have to be a diary of your whole life, rather a tool for your art work. It can be a venue for resolving the things you’re working on.

Recording is a way to remember; be it through note taking, sketching, gluing, or shorthand symbols. If you see something in a class that relates to what you’re working on, write it down so you can google it later. If you’re at a gallery and like the show, grab an exhibition card and tuck it in your book. A polariod of a location you’d like to revisit, a stamp you liked the font on, addresses, phone numbers, whatever. They all end up together, and at least you’ll know where the collection is.

Two examples of awesome journals:

Leonardo DaVinci – The man kept tons of journals throughout his life, including sketches, notes for projects he was working on, and writings on art. (Bonus: to keep his secrets to himself, he wrote mirrored: backwards, and right to left.)

Balint Zasko – A contemporary Toronto-based artist whose journals incorporate painting, sketching, photography, text, and found image collage. The books have been exhibited internationally.


I know some people who have sets of books; one for work, one for ‘art’, one for business. I personally like to keep everything in one place, so I can carry it all with me at once. And really, go with whatever works for you.

I’m issuing a challenge: will you keep a journal for one month? A phone’s notepad app doesn’t count. An online document doesn’t count. I mean a physical book of some kind that travels with you from now until the beginning of August. I’d love to hear how it goes. Who’s in?

Image source: rachelyra


  1. I find it harder and harder to journal in the presence of various electronic tools. I used to be a devoted notebook-carrier, and everything—task lists, ideas, sketches, brain dumps, entries about my day or my feelings (don’t judge!)— came under one umbrella in my handbag-sized moleskine.

    Now I have a different tool for everything: teuxdeux for my tasks, my blog for developed ideas, twitter for random thoughts and undeveloped ideas, for my brain dumps or “morning pages”, Evernote for visual note-taking. The separation between all these, the absence of something I can use to bring it all together, and the scary lack of archiving/backing up when it’s all “in the cloud” is all kind of troubling. My inner librarian is urging me to get back to the paper journal (if only for privacy and posterity’s sake), but it has been very hard to get back in the habit. Maybe, here goes?


  2. I like this idea. I am always shy about writing things down (I have a fear of posterity biting me in the ass), but I like the way you’ve presented this. I’m in.


  3. I can’t get away from having a journal or notebook on me at all times. Personally, I just can’t get into keeping things electronically, even though I am constantly on a computer. I like the comfort of simple pens and paper. I actually usually have two in my bag; one for photographic ideas and notes/reminders for sessions and gigs and the other is a moleskine daily planner kind. I love them both; it’s satisfying to pull one out to refer to or update.
    Good idea for a challenge!


  4. I like the idea of journaling, although I’ve never done it; but why electronic journaling does not count?


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