5 Ways to Use a Handmade Journal

5Ways_To_Use_Handmade_JournalDuring our monthly Open Studios at Western Avenue Studios, I often hear these comments about my books:

It’s too nice to use.

I’d be afraid to write in it.

What would I do with?

Do you have this problem too? Are you afraid to use the books you make? Are the folks you gift them to scared to write in them? It makes me sad because I think all journals, especially handmade ones, are meant to be cherished and used. A journal is a place to capture notes, stories and ideas, visually and with the written word.

The next time someone says they don’t know how to use a journal (or you think it yourself), give them these 5 ideas:

1. Creativity

Allow your journal to become your creative portal where your ideas flourish. You could write poetry, short stories or non-fiction. You could sketch, paint or use any type of media that you work with. A creativity journal is a place to explore concepts and work through problems, to experiment with techniques without the pressure of creating a piece of finished work. If you need inspiration to kick-start you, some of my favorite artists who keep journals and sketchbooks are: Kelly Kilmer, Danny Gregory and Julie Fei-Fan Balzer.


2. Growth

A journal can help show the path towards personal growth and development i.e. paper therapy. I recently read a blog post written by Jackee Holder on the Psychologies magazine blog and she writes that journal keeping “…takes the edge off more toxic feelings and emotions and helps you better understand what you’re feeling, freeing up thinking space to gain clarity on what to do next.” I’ll sign up for some of that! She also writes that journaling helps to

…track your personal patterns of behaviour that help you achieve goals and respond effectively to challenges.

Under this category I would include recording dreams, tracking fitness habits, outlining objectives and other personal goals that we’re working towards.

3. Projects

Journals are a great place to keep track of detailed projects and to collate information that you’ll want to refer to again and again, such as gardening or recipes. Also, if you want to keep track of an ongoing list of items, a project journal can be your friend: think wine or beer journal or a reading journal. To find reams of inspiration, do a search on Instagram or Pinterest for the type of journal you’re planning to create. Check out this beautiful garden journal by Zoe’s Garden.

Garden Journal

4. Memory keeping

This is probably the first type of book that springs to mind for most folks. Memory books can contain photographs, words and ephemera to record special memories of a particular time or place. Some examples are travel journals, photo albums or scrapbooks. Even though many of us keep our photographs on our phones and computers, scrapbooks are still a popular way of keeping our memories safe and alive.


5. Planning

If nothing else, we need a place to record our daily to-do list (I’d like to meet that lucky person who doesn’t have one of those!) But we also need a place to keep track of other random notes – shopping lists, a Christmas card list or Billy’s mum’s phone number. And I’m an old fashioned girl and still use a paper diary to record all mine and my family’s appointments, anniversaries, birthday days and school related events.

I hope these have given you a few ideas on how to use a handmade journal. Do you have more? I bet you do – please share them in the comments!

One Thought on “5 Ways to Use a Handmade Journal

  1. lesley on October 2, 2017 at 12:10 pm said:

    Thank you for your site! I used one of your book tutorials to make my husband a gift journal – it turned into a family project. The kids and I filled the book up with messages and pictures just for him. He never got to use it, but he basically got a whole book about how love he is. The fact that it is handmade is so special- Thank you!

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