Journaling is not about perfection

Journaling is not about perfection

Journals don’t have to be perfect. This applies to all types of journals, studio journals, written journals, art journals or what I call observational journals. A quest for perfection is a curse.  They do not have to hand crafted pages of mini masterpieces on each opening. Something that really puzzles me is someone saying they have a collection of empty notebooks that they do not use because they might “spoil” them. Using them is what makes a notebook better. An empty notebook is just paper but put some ideas down or some doodles it takes on a life and becomes something interesting!

There are no rules in journaling. I have gathered together some You Tube videos of studio journals. I have featured them because they are from people who work in creative industries. They make their living from noticing, harnessing and working their creative ideas into something that will provide an income.  These visual/studio journals and sketchbooks are used to capture ideas. They are not finished artworks they are part of the creative process. Note the word part, often they are the start of something not the end of something. You will notice when you see these videos that you do not have to know how to draw. You can practice sketching in a journal – in fact it is one of the advantages of keeping a journal. It is a safe place to experiment, try out new ideas and develop your skills. The aim is to express yourself, and catch your ideas so that you can use them later.

Approaching your journal with the expectation of creating something beautiful is self defeating. The idea is to not feed an internal critic, causing all sorts of doubts and anxieties with a notion of what a perfect studio/art journal or sketchbook is. The idea is to get on with it, to stop thinking about some notion of perfection or creating a beautiful thing and actually do it. Journalling is verb its not an object in other words this is process and part of larger activity of living a creative life. It is not a noun, an object of beauty in its own right.  This process of journalling does produce something in the end but it is side effect of the process and when we start we don’t know how it might turn out!

Instead of thinking about a perfect thing, think about fun and allow yourself to be creative. A notebook is just paper. It has absolutely no worth as anything at all, until you have done something in it. Toss an empty notebook on a fire and you have lost nothing, toss a journal on a fire and you have lost a record of your experience.

Here is Zandra Rhodes at home in her studio as she shares her sketchbooks. She explains how that are the start of her highly original work. Everything about her makes me smile as it is all such a celebration of what she sees. I love the way that she tells us if you make a bad drawing – just live with it. I was also amazed at how thin the paper that she chooses to use is.

Suzette Morrow of is an artist and art educator, shares her ideas about Sketchbooks and Journals in this short 5 minute video she made

Stephen Harpster of Harptoons points out that Sketchbooks don’t have to be perfect the main thing is to use them – they were made to be used.

I hope seeing these journals has been useful and helps with the self doubts as journals are very powerful creative tool. Let me know what you think in the comments.

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  1. I like Zandra Rhodes advice that when you draw something you can edit the image. How many times have I taken a photo of something that struck me, then when I look at the photo later I think, “but that’s not what it was like!”

  2. Hi Sharon, This morning I actually sketched some leaves. I’ve just now read this blog and without seeing any of the videos yet, have decided to take your advice and ignore my own criticism and have a bit of fun.
    No doubt the videos will make me enthusiastic. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the videos.

    1. Great to hear that you gave it go and kept the internal critic at bay – just remember no one every has to see it that thought usually keeps things in perspective.

      Sharon B
  3. Steven Harpster started with a really bad example for the point he was making: that sketchbook was brilliant! There was barely a squiggle out of place or a half baked idea there.
    It seemed like the sketchbooks became ideas book or workbooks as they got bigger though.

    David Smith
  4. I have kept a sketch book,journal since my teens and have watched the journal industry grow from something that supported the timid ,to being a intimidating business run industry.
    My books as I call them are the classic Scribbly ones where a idea/thought grabs my attention and I explore it in drawings and words.
    I am enjoying your posts and get what you are doing just remember you are up against a multi dollar making industry. Cheers Faye

    1. Hi Faye I know what you mean about the industry but I am not worried about the commercial aspects – my aim with this blog is to encourage people to be creative on their own terms by keeping a journal

      Sharon B

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