Ten Reasons Why You Need a Journal for Your Creative Projects

Ten Reasons Why You Need a Journal for Your Creative Projects
There are tons of great apps available for tracking goals and ideas, but as with everything, sometimes the old ways are the best. If you are a writer or journalist, the need for a journal is even more obvious. I consistently maintain four journals, each having a dedicated purpose, half of which I use almost daily in my photography business. Here are ten reasons why you need to pick up a journal for planning your creative projects or business goals today.

Outline Your Goals and Successes

Outlining goals on paper at different levels of succession will help them become more attainable. Figuring out how to work towards a goal can often seem harder than the tangible work required to accomplish it. For bigger projects, break down objectives in weekly, monthly, six-month, and yearly levels. As you accomplish each step, record those too. If you miss a goal, there’s an opportunity to reevaluate it and start anew. Having records of goals met and challenges overcome is super gratifying. It’s a morale booster that is more revealing and rewarding than deleting an item on a to-do list. You are much more likely to accomplish your goals if you write them down permanently and even more so if you share that list with someone you trust who will help keep you accountable.


To-do lists, books you want to read, movies you want to watch, gear you want to acquire in the longterm. When it comes to gear-wish lists specifically, I rank gear upgrades and create combinations of different costs to maximize value for the investment. Again, it can be easy to lose track of how much has changed or how much has been accomplished, especially in digital form. As a more specific example, one year I celebrated a milestone birthday working off the grid in a country where no one knew I was again celebrating 21 years. I took that as an opportunity to write out one or two sentences highlighting each year of my adult life. It has helped me keep track of events over time while providing a sense of direction and accomplishment.

You’ll Forget Less

First, the obvious: if you are planning a project or in a meeting with someone, it will be harder to forget or lose information if it’s written down. Second, and this is the big one, it eliminates second-guessing. I find great peace of mind in recapping specific details, being able to confirm information, and not worry about a mistyped or deleted line. That sets me up for success in being prepared with added confidence.

Clear Your Head

Once an idea is on paper, you don’t have to keep reminding yourself to not forget it. It’s much easier to focus when your ideas are in front of you and you’ve got a cup of coffee or an adult beverage to wash it down. This is one of my favorite ways to start a week or new project.

More Personal Meetings

When typing notes on a computer or tablet, I often feel like there’s a physical barrier between me and whomever I’m meeting. Not only is note-taking in a journal organized and professional, it looks the part. It’s a better way to record and connect without typing away mysteriously on a phone or computer, leaving others to think you are distracted with something seemingly more interesting.

Dynamic Content

The overall form factor isn’t limited to line-by-line text with the occasional graphic. Drawing a lighting setup, location scouting, mapping where electrical outlets are, or positioning vehicles for a photo shoot, there are plenty of journal formats ideal for sketching, from blank pages to graph-lined, or my personal favorite, a dot-grid format. Depending on how you chart ideas, drawing is a super useful tool.

Notification-Free Thinking

Prioritizing your goals, to-do list, planning projects, becomes a lot more focused and less urgent when it’s away from a computer. It’s so easy and frustrating to sit down at a computer to accomplish a task only to get distracted by email conversations all day long.

It’s Tangible

Sure, it’s possible to leave a journal at a cafe or bar, but with your contact information inside the cover, it’s usually easier to recover than if a cloud service goes down. You don’t have to rely on power or Wi-Fi connectivity either, which might not always be available depending on if you travel or not.

Future Reference

You can look back on your goals over time and see what planned steps were most effective, what was unexpected, challenges you found easiest, and where you needed support or guidance. Over time, you’ll have a catalog of project ideas and growth on your bookshelf that can be beneficial to review every now and again. You can even reference your journal for blog posts and how-to articles in the future.

A Different Exchange of Ideas

If you want to collaborate and share any of your project ideas with someone else at a meeting, all you have to do is pass your journal across the table and everything is right there. If you need to share it digitally, you can always snap a photo or two and send information that way. Additionally, you then have a backup.

Bonus: Get a Travel Journal

For every significant trip or adventure you take, pick up a dedicated journal to record your journey. I tape clippings, ticket stubs, and the occasional post card to make it more dynamic.
Having a dedicated journal lends itself perspective over time, revealing what you were thinking and planning at a specific time, including at present. There are a plethora of benefits to gain and you can make it your own. It will help you organize your thoughts, gain clarity, and pave the way to accomplish your focused goals. Yes, there are awesome apps out there that I too rely on daily for specific purposes, and if you prefer that route, go for it! Tools can be applied differently across a huge range of situations. What works best for you? Let us know how you keep your projects and dreams organized in the comments below.
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Casey Morton's picture

Great article! Just wondering where I can find the journal like the one in the first picture

Jordan Bush's picture

Thanks Casey, much appreciated! Hmm, that might be tough, as that one came from a shop in Mumbai. Every so often I'll see something similar at bookstores.

Stefano Chiarelli's picture

We'll have to find again the use of writing, very good article. I'll buy a journal as soon as possible. Not so cool probably ;)