Creative Chronicles: Simplifying Starting an Art Journal

Have you been wondering how to start journaling? It’s an excellent way to unleash your creativity. Plus, it can help you to develop a mindfulness practice in your daily life. 

But even so, getting started with journaling can feel a little intimidating. (But it doesn’t have to!) I’ve found journaling to be such a helpful practice in my own life. So, I’ve put together this guide to journaling for beginners.

I know how difficult it can be to develop a daily art journaling habit. You might have tried a few times, and it hasn’t stuck – or you don’t even know where to start. If so, then read on. 

I’ll share my best journaling tips for getting started and making it a regular habit. With these tips, journaling should go from scary and overwhelming to enjoyable. Then, it will soon become part of your daily routine.

It’s important to remember that you can make your art journaling practice your own. It doesn’t need to look like anything you’ve seen on Pinterest or Instagram. So, let’s dive into how to start journaling and make it work for you.

10 Compelling Reasons to Start Journaling

Journaling is a great practice for both your self-care and creativity. Here are a few reasons to start journaling (but there are many others beyond these benefits of journaling!)

how to journal
  1. Journaling is a way to cultivate your creativity.
  2. It’s a form of self-care and mindfulness, improving your wellbeing. 
  3. It can help you think through your choices so you can live more meaningfully.
  4. Journaling allows you to process your emotions. 
  5. As a result, you can react more intentionally and make more informed decisions.
  6. You’ll come to understand yourself better and become more self-aware.
  7. Journaling can help you improve your relationships with others. 
  8. You may find you become more resilient to life’s challenges.
  9. Journaling can lead you to feel more gratitude and positivity,
  10. It’s also the perfect way to develop a drawing or writing habit (so it’s helpful for aspiring artists and writers). 
10 reasons to start journaling

As you can see, there are loads of different reasons why you should start journaling. But getting started can feel intimidating, or you might worry that you’re not doing it right. 

The good news is that there isn’t one right way to journal – it looks different for everyone. 

Now, let’s move on to how to begin journaling. I’ll share my favorite journaling tips and journaling ideas for beginners. You’ll find them helpful as you can start this simple but powerful practice.

14 Art Journal Ideas for Beginners

1. You can keep a paper or digital journal (or both!)

You’ve probably seen those beautiful journals on Instagram. The ones covered in beautiful cursive writing or decorated with gorgeous illustrations. 

But I’ll let you in on a secret: your journaling practice doesn’t need to look like anyone else’s. You don’t have to copy what someone on Instagram does or try to live up to their example.

journaling tips for beginners

Journaling is intensely personal, and it needs to work for you. So, that means you can use a paper journal if you prefer to write with a pen and paper. 

But it’s perfectly acceptable to journal on your laptop if that suits you better. You can even jot down notes on your phone if you find that less intimidating or more accessible! 

You may find that you draw or type a lot quicker than you write by hand, and it reduces hand strain. Your thoughts flow more smoothly, and it feels less hard work. Typing can also stop you from overthinking what you’re writing or feeling self-conscious.

paper or digital journal

For example, you might spend more time worrying about your handwriting than writing. In that case, pull out your laptop and see if the digital format works better for you. 

It also has other advantages, as you won’t need to worry about losing your physical journal. You’ll always have a digital copy if you save it in your Google Drive or Dropbox. 

Remember that there’s no one way to journal – you get to choose what works best for you! 

2. Experiment with the time of day

You may have heard that the best time of day to journaling is first thing in the morning. 

Writing three pages every morning or sketching something is one of the most well-known journaling practices out there. Author Julia Cameron came up with this Morning Pages technique in her book, The Artist’s Way. It works for many people, but it’s not for everyone.

journaling for beginners

So, if you don’t enjoy journaling in the morning, that’s fine. You might prefer to spend your morning doing yoga, getting out for a run, or reading a book. Or maybe you prefer to jump straight into your work so you can finish earlier in the day. And that’s okay! 

For some people, journaling is the perfect start to their day. It allows them to collect their thoughts and plan out their to-do’s for the day. 

But your journaling practice is for you alone. So, if that’s not working for you, then mix it up. 

You could try journaling before bed to help you process the day and let go of any worries or thoughts. It could lead to a better night’s sleep.  

Or you could spend 5-10 minutes journaling at the end of your workday. That way, you develop a habit that helps you transition from work to your free time. 

You can journal whenever you like! But my tip is to set aside a regular time for journaling, so you don’t even need to think about it. You know that when you journal every day, it becomes easier to make it a regular practice.

And if you ever miss a day, that’s okay too. Don’t be too harsh on yourself- life happens. Just pick it up again the next day.

3. Make journaling a habit

Now, you’ve worked out when is the perfect time to journal each day. So, let’s look at ways you can make it a habit that you can stick to every day.

One helpful practice is habit stacking. That means you pair up journaling with a regular habit you already have. 

art journaling

It could be something as simple as journaling while you drink your first cup of coffee in the morning. Or you could keep your journal on your bedside table. Then, you know to spend 10 minutes journaling each night when you get into bed.

When you habit stack, it becomes easier to remember to journal each day. Your regular habit will act as a reminder to pick up your journal. So, you’ll soon get to the point where you start journaling without even thinking about it.

If that doesn’t work for you, don’t worry. Instead, you could try setting up a regular reminder in your calendar. Then, you’ll get a notification when it’s time to journal.

These techniques are all about making it easier for you to journal consistently. And the more often you do it, the sooner you’ll find it becomes a habit for you. 

4. Don’t overthink it

Here’s one thing that will ease your worries or self-consciousness about your journal. It doesn’t need to look perfect!

Your art journal is for you, so you don’t need to worry about what it looks like (or what you’re writing). Don’t try to edit or assess it as you go. And don’t worry about your handwriting or any typos you make, either.

How to start journaling

Instead, aim to let your thoughts flow freely (even if you don’t like everything you write). 

The general advice is that you shouldn’t ever try to edit the first draft while you write. It will inhibit your creativity and flow, as you can start overthinking every word you write. 

You should also remember that your journal isn’t for show or for anyone else. Instead, it’s a way for you to process your emotions, express yourself, and release your creativity.

So, you shouldn’t feel the need to live up to expectations when journaling – your own or anyone else’s. 

5. Start small 

One surefire way to set yourself up for failure is by having too high expectations from the get-go. 

When you start journaling, you don’t have to churn out pages or draw 10 sketches every day. You can start small and slowly build on your journaling practice. 

Quality is better than quantity. And that means digging deep, exploring your imagination, and your feelings. 

how to start journaling daily

Don’t measure yourself by your word count. Even on your best days, you may only jot down a few sentences or scribble a few lines.

But if you are struggling with writer’s block, read on. I have a few suggestions for journaling techniques to get your writing flowing again. 

6. Try gratitude journaling

If you don’t know how to start art journaling, consider giving a gratitude journal a go. It’s a very simple yet meaningful practice.

All you need to do is write down or sketch three things you’re grateful for each day. It can take just a couple of minutes, but it’s well worth the effort. 

how to begin journaling

First of all, it helps to develop a regular and accessible journaling practice. 

But even more importantly, gratitude has been shown to make us happier and healthier.

It goes to show that journaling doesn’t have to be long and complicated. If you start gratitude journaling, you may become more positive and appreciative. It could even help you face up life’s challenges with greater resilience. 

7. Got a Creativity Block? Jot down some lists

Another great technique for starting journaling is to create lists. If you struggle to look at the blank page, then make a list or a bullet journal! It’s a lot less intimidating than exploring your deepest thoughts and feelings.

when is the best time to journal

8. Give art journaling a go!

If you’re creative, then you might love art journaling. (But even if you don’t think of yourself as an arty person, you should still give it a try!) 

Art journaling is an excellent way to express yourself visually. It normally involves using a mixture of words and drawings. 

You can convey your emotions and release pent-up feelings through doodles or illustrations. It’s especially useful if you struggle to express yourself through the written word. 

how to start write diary

But your art journaling doesn’t need to be a work of art. No one is judging it, so don’t worry about being accurate or making mistakes. Just put pen (or pencil) to paper and let it all out. 

You can also try digital art journaling using a tablet and a digital stylus

9. Use journaling prompts to explore new topics

When you’re running out of ideas for what to write about, it’s good to have some journaling prompts to fall back on. The best journaling prompts will inspire you and get you thinking.

If you struggle with writer’s block, a journaling prompt can help you get unstuck. And you might find yourself diving into a topic that never would have occurred to you otherwise.

journaling prompts

So, keep a list of journaling prompts handy. Then, you can sprinkle them into your journaling practice. It’s a fantastic way to keep things fresh and get some outside inspiration. 

10. Journaling is a great way to reflect on your emotions

Journaling isn’t just about becoming a more confident writer. It’s also a way to get to know yourself better and become more mindful. 

creative mindful journaling

Regular journaling allows you to observe your emotions and discover your triggers. You may come to understand why you react in a certain way. And as a result, you could become more intentional in your actions. You might even find that you improve your relationship with those around you.

11. Manage your stress levels or mental health through journaling

Through regular journaling, you can track your emotions, stress levels, and mood swings. 

If you struggle with stress, anxiety, or mental health, you may find journaling helps you. Studies have shown it to have a significant positive effect.

Journaling daily allows you to develop a deeper understanding of yourself. Your journal could become an outlet for any bottled-up worries, so you can process them. 

It may also help you pick up on any first symptoms and manage them sooner. Then, you can prevent them from worsening or access the support you need.

12. Use a habit tracker for your journaling

If you want to ensure you journal every day, using a habit tracker is a great idea. It will give you an overview of how many days you’ve been journaling. 

It can also act as an extra incentive to keep up your practice and not skip a day. That can come in handy if you get busy or don’t feel like it. 

mindfulness writing

There are many ways to track your habits. For example, you could print off a free habit tracker and tick off each day as you go. 

Or there are some useful habit-tracking apps out there if you prefer a more advanced option.

13. Journal on the go

Imagine this: you’re on your commute when inspiration hits. But you don’t have anywhere to write your idea or thought. And so inevitably, you forget it before you get home. 

That’s why I always recommend carrying a journal with you wherever you go! It allows you to make notes whenever you think of something. 

creative journaling techniques

Plus, it’s a fantastic way to wean yourself off endless scrolling on social media. Instead, you can become productive, rather than just a passive consumer of content. 

You can buy a small, lightweight notebook to pop into your bag. Or, you could even use your notes app or a Google Doc to jot down a few quick sentences on the go.

It’s a better use of the spend you’d spend in a waiting room or on your lunch break. You can let go of your worries or get out a quick rant about something that’s bothering you. 

Make it a habit to carry a journal or have a digital backup. That way, you can journal no matter where you are!

14. Make it an enjoyable experience

My final journaling tip is to make it fun and enjoyable, so you start to look forward to journaling every day. 

For example, you could treat yourself to a beautiful journal, a luxury pen, or some fun gel pens. Or you could make it a ritual by lighting a candle or preparing your favorite drink. 

best meditation journal

Whatever you do will be individual to you, but it will make journaling seem like a treat. You don’t want it to feel like one more thing to check off your to-do list. 

how to start an art journal?

The Wrap Up

Now, you have all the tips you need for how to journal. You’re all set to start journaling and make it a regular, successful, and enjoyable practice.

Journaling is a powerful tool for mindfulness, creativity, and intentional living. Let me know how it goes for you in the comments! 

Then, make sure to follow me on Pinterest! I’ll keep you up to date with all the best creative resources, tips, and reviews.


Outmane is the founder of Proactive Creative. He is an artist/designer.

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