Looking for a good idea journal? When you can’t find one that’s set up the way you like, just make one yourself with this simple DIY system.
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Even in our highly clickable age, there’s still something grounding and comforting about a physical pen and paper. Virtual spaces certainly have their place, but I don’t think we’ll ever be totally free of physical copy – and I certainly hope not!
Do you remember the first day of school each year? The fresh stack of notebook paper…colorful spiral notebooks with smooth covers…pristine pencils with perfect points and clean erasers…fragrant crayons in sturdy, clean boxes?
I don’t know about you, but I loved those new supplies – and to be honest, I still adore them, and love the back-to-school shopping season.
What is an idea journal?
An idea journal is nothing more complicated than those simple supplies: a basic empty notebook and a pen is all you really need.
But you can add colored pens or pencils, scrapbook papers, post-it notes, stickers, washi tape, photographs, sharpie or marker pens, adhesive embellishments…really as much or as little as you want.
Materials can be few or many, but the purpose has as much potential as your creativity can imagine!
Why an idea journal?
There’s plenty of popular journal types out there, and even prescribed ways to “do” them. The great thing about idea journals, however, is that the “rules” are your own.
Your journal is simply a place to record, organize, and store your creative inspirations, ideas, and projects. How you do that is totally up to you.
Keeping one is much more than just a collecting place though. As you continue to add to it, you’ll not only have all your ideas in a single place, but you’ll also help yourself along as you nurture your creativity.
Making and keeping an idea journal is, in fact, a uniquely creative project within itself! Not only will you have a convenient and organized place for your ideas, but you’ll also learn a lot about your own creative style in the process.
Not sure of your creative style? Check out The Creative Design Template, the 5-step system designed to help you uncover and express your unique creative style.
Choosing your journal
There’s plenty of options for your journal. Here’s a few ideas if you need help narrowing them down and finding what best fits your needs:
- lined notebooks are great if you plan to mostly write down your ideas and records. If you think you’ll add illustrations or additional media to your journal, an unlined version may be a better option.
- sturdy hardback journals provide the best durability, but the fixed spine can sometimes make it difficult to write along the edges or add additional media. Look for versions that will lay as flat as possible.
- spiral journals have less durability, but a good-quality choice allows you to fully turn back previous pages so your journal will lay flat. This is my personal favorite, and especially helpful for those who are left-handed.
- journal size is a personal preference. If you plan to often carry it with you away from home, consider a size that will fit your purse or bag.
- paper weight is important. If you plan to use anything beyond pencils or simple ink pens, you’ll want something heavier than basic notebook paper.
- and if you can’t find exactly what you love, you can also just make your own!
How to start using your idea journal
After you settle on a journal, it’s time to set it up and get started! If you prefer to just jump in and begin recording ideas, that’s perfectly fine.
That’s how I started my crochet pages; just a list of great sites for ideas on one page,
and project lists on the other.
But if you’d like to get a little more creative, here’s some scrapbook-type ideas to get you started:
- use colored gel pens for organizing different categories of ideas.
- patterned washi tape adds visual interest and works great for mounting photos or cards to a page.
- jot a quick note on a post-it note and stick it on the page.
- add stickers or embellishments to pages for more visual interest.
- colored pencils are great for adding sketched images to your pages.
- sharpie or marker pens add striking color and emphasis to your journal notes.
- add physical photos you’ve snapped on your phone and printed, or cut from magazines to inspire your projects.
A Special Supply
One additional supply is worth an extra mention: repositionable tabs.
If you prefer an organized approach to your journal, tabs allow you to divide your entire journal into sections. This is especially helpful when you have a lot of different types of ideas you’ll be adding to your journal.
The repositionable tabs are my favorite because you can still tweak your journal while you’re first getting it set up. You can also move them later if you decide one section needs more pages and can take a few from a neighboring section. Fine-tipped sharpie pens work well for labeling.
How to organize an idea journal
Remember that your journal is your own creative expression and you can set it up any way you choose. You may enjoy going freestyle and simply add ideas and records in order as you have them.
You can also use tabs and organize it. Here’s some suggested ways:
- material type
- season or holiday
- indoor/outdoor projects
- garden projects
- multi-media projects
- thrift store projects
- time involved
How to keep your idea journal
Now that you have your journal set up, it’s time for the fun part: filling it up!
At the risk of sounding like a broken record…this is a totally free-style system that lets you dictate how it should be done.
How you use your journal will depend on the specific things you want to include and the supplies you choose to use. Go as simple as writing things down with a pen, or as complex as adding all the suggested supplies in any order or pattern you choose.
If you use sections, you can follow a pattern for each of them, or even go freestyle within those as well.
I use a similar system for my other two journals as well: a personal, and a business journal.
After a few years of trying out different versions of pre-made organizers and planners, I could never find one that perfectly fit my needs. They either had sections I didn’t use, or were missing elements I really wanted.
So I did what any DIY-er would do: I designed my own! And those DIY planners inspired the concept of this idea journal that’s just as customizable as its user.
I hope you’re inspired to design one of your own too!
If you enjoyed this post, you may also like: Organizing Your Craft Supplies.
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