I talk a lot about journaling. It’s true. Journaling has been a big part of my spiritual life and my artistic life for years. Many people have asked me about journaling over the years, but most recently, Myra, one of my podcast listeners, reached out to me, looking for some guidance as she embarks on her own journaling journey.
What is a Journal, and why should I have one?
Unlike a mere diary, which is usually a record of events that have happened, a journal is a powerful tool for exploring new ideas that are still taking shape. It’s the physical manifestation of your creative headspace. It’s where your next big idea will be born, grow, and played with before it makes the leap off the page and onto your workbench or canvas.
It’s also a safe place. A judgment-free zone where you can push the boundaries of your creative process before committing your time and resources to flesh it out. For visual artists, this may be sketches, for poets, prose lines, for songwriters, lyrics. Not all of the ideas and notions committed to your journal will see the light of day, but that’s not the point.
Finally, for so many creatives, an art journal is a vault for stewarding creative ideas. The concepts you’re exploring in your journal today are the seeds of inspiration that will bear fruit in the days, weeks, months, and even years to come.
What do I put in my journal?
The easy answer is “Whatever you want.” After all, it’s your journal, your tool for doodling with intent. I started journaling as a part of my spiritual processing with the Lord. It started with me writing and recording my prayers, and the dreams I felt came from God. That quickly evolved to include inspiring ideas, scripture verses, prophetic words, and quotes that meant a lot to me.
I realized pretty quickly that the only rule of journaling is that there are no rules. Today, my journal lets me capture the creative interactions that take place between my spirit and the Holy Spirit during my quiet time with the Lord in the mornings and sometimes before I go to bed.
Over the years, I got into the habit of dating every entry to track how these ideas, inspirations, and promises from God played out over time. Just this past month, I reached a major membership milestone inside my Created to Thrive Artist Mentoring Program. We were in the middle of our latest membership launch when I realized that one of these God-given dreams had just come to pass.
Back in January of 2017, while spending time with the Lord, dreaming His dreams, and receiving His vision for the Mentoring Program, I wrote down the following divinely inspired goal…
Now while it took a few years longer for that original vision to come to pass, the point is it did! We’ve linked arms with over 2000 Kingdom-minded artists from all around the world, and we’ve been blessed with the tools and the team that made this dream a reality. And having the ability to pull an old journal off the shelf and see the faithfulness of God in action was an affirming faith-building moment I’ll always remember.
Do I need separate journals for my creative and spiritual journeys?
This is a great question, and in the end, the answer is just a matter of personal preference. I actually keep two journals at any given time. I have a journal that stays with me in the studio. This volume is more of a traditional artist’s sketchbook where I work through ideas, concepts, colors, sizes, and connections for my current and future projects.
At home, I keep what I would call a prayer journal. I continue the regular practice of recording the prayers, dreams, ideas, and visions I feel come from the Lord in this book. I’ve even developed my own set of marker codes to help me quickly find the goals I’ve set for myself and remember the inspired gems the Lord speaks to me in those early morning hours. It’s not anything fancy, just some rudimentary lines, scratches, and dots that help the important things stand out to me.
Now without fail, I’m sitting at home in the morning with my prayer journal when artistic inspiration strikes. Instead of regretting that my sketchbook is at the studio, I simply record that initial Holy Spirit inspired stream of consciousness there at home and transfer it later when I’m back in the studio. That seems to be the most natural process for me and allows me to get the thought out and record it when the inspiration strikes.
I’m ready to begin my journaling journey. How do I start?
Listen, if there is one practice in my life that has made the biggest difference in my relationship with the Lord and my ability to stay moving forward, it has been journaling. And now that you are ready to embark upon your own journaling odyssey, I encourage you to go out and get a great one.
A journal can be as simple as a $1 composition book from an office supply store or as fancy as a leather-bound journal from your local art store. I have a local artist fashion me a few hand-made journals each year. I love them because they are beautiful and they all match. At $60 to $70 a piece, these journals may seem like an indulgent splurge to some. But in reality, I see them as an annual investment in something that yields immense returns in my creative and spiritual life.
I sure hope this has been helpful. So if you are a long-time journaler or just starting on this journey, I’d love to see what your journal looks like. Post a picture of your journal, or journals, on Instagram, and tag me @TheThrivingChristianArtist.
Thanks for reading.
Matt Tommey is an artist, author and mentor who is passionate about empowering artists to thrive spiritually, artistically and in business.