Get Started With Illustrated Journaling

Get Started With Illustrated Journaling

"I'm saving that for when I retire."  A friend said that to me recently.  We were talking about illustrated journaling, which is something I used to do many years ago, before knitting and working freelance (i.e. every waking minute) consumed my life.

She said that she had always wanted to try illustrated journaling, but couldn't find the time.  Thus she had put it on her "to do" list for retirement.

"That's silly," I told her.  "You could die before you retire, and then how dumb would you feel?"  Maybe not the most sensitive of responses, but she laughed.  And it's true - we're always putting things off for tomorrow, next week, next year, after retirement.

I have noticed that the things which end up on that "some day" list tend to be Big Projects.  Creating an illustrated journal is a great example; it's not terribly complicated, but it involves a lot of little parts:


  • You have to buy a notebook (the right notebook - is this the right notebook?  How about this one?  You may find yourself giving up and deciding to make your own, which is a whole 'nother project).  
  • And art supplies; pens, pencils, brushes, paints, and which ones of each?  
  • Getting familiar with the tools.  How the heck do I mix the paints/clean the brushes/hold the pens?  Do I want to use the #1 or the #3?  HB or 2H?  What's a deckle?  Watercolor or sketching paper?
  • Finally, setting aside the time to sit down and do it.
  • The Inner Critic now speaks up.  That's not good enough!  That muffin is insufficiently important!  Did you spell that right?  I think that line is crooked.

It's exhausting just thinking about it!  But it doesn't have to be.

The obvious solution is to break it down into little parts, and tackle them one at a time.  However, be on the alert for when this just sends you down the rabbit hole.  For example, you can literally spend weeks researching pens, buying various pens, testing pens, and poring over the results.  

If that turns your crank, then so be it.  But sometimes it's best to just grab what you've got at hand and go for it.

That is, in fact, the advice I give most often in the artistic realm.  Just take what you have right now and start.  It may only be a blue Bic pen that you've chewed at the far end, and a handful of copy paper from the ream beside the printer.  That's fine!  At least you have started!

I have a real tendency to get bogged down in details, myself.  Sometimes I have to self-administer a stern kick to the butt and remind myself: just go with what you've got.  Illustrated journaling is all about recording your life and communicating with an audience.  It's not about whether you use Staedler or Micron pens!  

Take the time to examine what's on your When I Retire list.  Ask yourself, what's keeping me from doing it right now?  And what is the real essence of the project?  In the case of something like starting an illustrated journal, you may find that what's keeping you from starting is completely irrelevant to the purpose of starting it in the first place!

Photo credit: Flickr/ghbrett