Inspiration ain’t so easy to find these days. As the pandemic extends into infinity, I’ve found myself turning to my ideas journal to keep my head above water creatively.

a pile of notebooks in front of a coffee mug and a succulent with the text "Staying Inspired With My Ideas Journal"

Now, I’m not saying my ideas journals is going to save the day. In fact, it’s going to be a Band-aid at best. In dark times, we turn to what is there for us.

And while the ideas journal will never be the sort of thing that punches me in the gut with a good idea like watching a good movie or reading the perfect book might, it’s a good practice to stoke the home fires until inspiration returns.

But when you find yourself in a situation where you no longer feel inspired to create and you can’t remember why you even got into art in the first place, the ideas journal is there for you.

What’s an Ideas Journal?

To me, my ideas journal is a place where I can stockpile things that tickle my brain in a way I like my brain to be tickled.

That is to say, it’s stuff that inspires me, or makes me think. Some stuff is in there because I found it elsewhere and needed to hold onto it. Sometimes you come across a thing you want to keep forever, only that thing is more of an idea than an actual thing, so you gotta write it down, okay?

It has some ideas that just struck me and needed a place to go. My brain’s mostly a mess, and I use my ideas journal for putting my ideas in it.

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So, what exactly does this look like in practice?

What’s in My Ideas Journal?

My ideas journal is housed in an A5 size traveler’s notebook. (It’s the one I used to carry my Passion Planner back in the day.) And I’ve filled it with lined, unlined, and black notebooks, each of which serves a different purpose. Here’s what I’m using each notebook for:

001: Quotes

I used to maniacally collect quotes in a pocket-sized Moleskine back in the day. I also wrote a ton of poetry in it. It was a writer’s notebook, if ever there was one.

But now, I don’t collect them so much. For one, I don’t hear half as many as I used to, simply because I work for myself at home and the conversations I have with my dog are great, but she’s really hard to quote. (Is it spelled “bark” or “ruff?”)

But I do come across quotes in my reading or when I listen to music that I like to keep. And movies are full of them too.

Quotes can do a lot of work. They can tell you who a character is. They can be clever turns of phrase. They can have several layers of meaning. That’s why I like them.

And having a whole notebook I dedicate to them is a great way of keeping them close for analysis later, or just to enjoy when I’m feeling uninspired.

002: Lists

Sometimes I can’t remember why I decided to become a writer. Admittedly, this is happening more and more as I get older. I may/may not spend time thinking I should just get a job at a bank and never think about writing again.

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But that’s why I have these lists.

These are lists of things I love. Mostly, it’s about books and movies that have inspired me, but it’s also other stuff that I feel is important.

It’s stuff like the best kisses in movies, the most exciting fight scenes in books, the best jokes I’ve ever heard, my favorite lines from songs, the worst villains of all time…you know. Stuff like that.

It’s lists of stuff that has stuck with me, and I write it all down so I can look at it and come back to it when I need it. My brain never remembers this stuff on it’s own, so the lists are handy to have when I want to see all the stuff that has inspired me.

003: Sketches

I am not a visual person, and I’m not great at drawing. But I do have a ton of art supplies and sometimes I like to doodle in a notebook.

Black felt tip pens and charcoal pencils need a special place in this notebook. So while a ton of stuff is in the notebook because I needed to keep it, some of the stuff is in this notebook because I needed to get rid of it.

At least, I needed to get it out of my head. So that’s what the sketchbook is for.

004: Acrylic paint pen drawings

There is a particular joy one experiences when one uses paint pens on a black piece of paper. That is what this notebook is for.

I purchased a set of black notebooks from Amazon, as well as a set of acrylic paint pens. There is something about drawing on black paper with opaque paint.

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It’s so crisp. I love it. I literally only bought this just to see the colors appear on the paper. It’s been a lot of fun to use.

005: Spells

The final section in my ideas journal is a spell book. It’s where I write down intentions and the little rituals I do that will make them real.

Sometimes it’s a spell of inspiration. And to do that spell, I need to drink one cup of coffee while listening to a good record and sketching something.

Maybe I need a spell for calming down. That might look like some gentle yoga followed by lavender chamomile tea.

Whatever spell I need to create, I put it in the notebook.

Admittedly, this may just be a notebook of ways to achieve a certain result in my life. But honestly, magic is just spicy psychology. So tricking your brain into doing what you want it to do with rituals just makes sense to me.

What Do You Keep In Your Ideas Notebook?

Do you struggle to stay inspired and need some reminders? Do you have an ideas notebook? Where do you keep track of all the ideas you want to hold onto?

Are you also completely undone by the sight of a good acrylic paint pen on black paper?

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