New Journal Setup & Creativity Blocks

Any time I receive a new journal, I have to spend a few hours days setting it up exactly how I like it. Every journal seems to have it’s own purpose and personality.

Sometimes I’ll find a beautiful sketchbook, be too intimidated by it and it will remain blank. Confession: I have bookshelves full of journals that I haven’t used. Yet, I continue to buy more journals. It’s a problem, I know. But when you get a beautiful book, you simply don’t want to spoil its pages with sub-par content. That was the case with this lovely item.

Paperworks Journal

Just look at this beauty! The paper is a soft buttery ivory with thick enough pages to hold up to a fountain pen and light watercolor wash. The cover and sewn bindings are nicely detailed and secure. The size is a mini-format at 140mm by 95mm, which perfectly fits in your hand and is super portable. I picked mine up from the Getty Museum, but you can find a similar one from my this Amazon list.

Journal Setup Details

Ok, on to the nitty-gritty. For simple sketchbooks, my setup process is pretty straightforward. One page of pen or watercolor swatches and in the handbag it goes. For more focused art journals or diaries, I like to organize the chaos a bit more. It makes things easier when I need to reference things later. In this case, my new journal will be a personal creativity reference and idea repository, so I used an adapted bullet journal setup.

Here are the steps I use to setup a new bullet journal:

  1. index page
  2. pen swatch section
  3. notes section
  4. pocket goodies
  5. page marker or writing board

A Little Show and Tell

Here is what all this looks like for my “Creativity Block” journal.

Journal Index Page

Journal Pen and Color Swatches

Journal Topic Sections

Washi tape has been added to the border of some pages to mark off sections. This makes them easier to reference.

I avoid adding too much to the journal pocket, so there is little bulk. A thin stencil and a few masking tape stickers are all I put in this book.

Inside folder of Journal

Lastly, you will notice the back pages lined with washi tape strips. This is my method to store/carry extra tape. Simple cover the inside of the journal with packing tape. This provides a smooth glossy surface to stick extra tapes.

Washi tape storage

This journal came with a ribbon bookmark, and I did not need anything additional. However, sometimes I opt for a Shitajiki (pencil board) to use as my page marker.

I’m very careful not to add too much extra in the pages or pockets during setup. It’s better to reduce bulk and the chances of breaking the bookbinding. For journals that are used at home, i’d skip the washi and stencil storage altogether. But this particular journal has more fluff than usual.  That’s because I intend it to be a daily carry.

A Word About Creative Block

My intention is to use this journal when I am running low on inspiration and need ideas. Creative Block was a huge problem for me when I first began journalling. This is my plan to get out of the rut!

A tool is only useful if you have it on hand. So this little book will go everywhere. I can write down all the little “sparks”—a word, color combination, art technique, or specific topic to expand on later. It will be a fun little repository.  Just consult the portable reference and then pull out the main sketchbook. I find this method to be more effective than browsing social media for inspiration. Without clear direction, you can easily get stuck online. I’ve spent hours browsing other peoples pages instead of working on my own stuff. Big no-no. There is a time to browse and there is a time to create! When I really want to create, I have to limit the digital surfing and go analog.

Final Notes & Social Plugs

My Instagram story is what inspired this post. If you have not already, please visit @hellodesertdoll to find a journal highlight video on the topic.

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