About half a year ago, I started keeping a lettering journal – a creative word art diary where I sit and unwind with some art supplies and paper. You don’t need major lettering skills to do this, but if you’d like, you can check out my brush lettering tutorial to help you out. Scroll through as I share the why and the how of keeping this journal. Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.
Last year was a really hard year for me. I dealt with abnormal insomnia, received a mental health diagnosis, and went through some months of intense therapy. All that was on top of navigating my son’s food allergies diagnosis, along with some serious asthma attacks.
I learned the hard way that I need to start doing more for me.
For me, learning how to do self-care was about ensuring I eat three meals a day, go to bed on schedule, get some exercise. But I also learned that it’s not enough… I need to put a bit of me into my day, so that I can push forward.
For some people, that might mean taking five minutes to put on makeup, making half an hour for an ice cream stop on the way to carpool, or taking an hour lunch+book break in the middle of the day.
For me, it meant inserting some open-ended “don’t care how it turns out” creativity in my day.
Why I started my lettering journal:
I found myself handicapped when it came to being creative for me. Everything that I did, I wanted to record, photograph, and share on the blog. Therefore, I needed it to some out perfect. I needed to do it at a table.
And even more so, I simply didn’t have the time to add to my crafting bulk and schedule…
So I started a lettering journal because:
1. A lettering journal is stress-free.
Just write what you want, how you wanted. Who cares how it comes out? It’s like a sketch book,where you’ll have random doodles, some fails, some retries, and lots of fun just writing in it.
2. It’s therapeutic to get out what’s on your brain.
It helps me put things to paper that I need to get out. It offers me a chance to give myself encouragement. It’s allowed me to remember wise things others have told me.
I’ve pulled it out on nights I couldn’t sleep, and wondered how I was going to parent the next day.
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Anyone else feel like they can handle anything… as long as they sleep? It's 5:15 AM and I haven't fallen asleep. I didn't sleep last night either. This has happened to me before and it was brutal… I dread tomorrow (well, today…) and what it might bring. I'm off to give it one last shot and just hope and pray that no matter what I am still able to be the mother I want to be… ('Scuse the photography, I wanted to share this in the moment…)
And on days when parenting seemed endless….
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Happy Mother's Day! Wow, What a week it's been! Baby Y was sick (again) for two weeks and just a week ago, he had terrible coughing fits. I had no idea what to do, we had no idea what it was, we had already taken him to the doctor, but this seemed just… too much… Eventually, we took him back and it turns out he was having serious asthma attacks. We were this 👌🏽 close to being hospitalized, but my doctor is conservative with such things and he chose not to. We were at the doctor every morning, waking him to nebulize around the clock and THANK G-D he's pretty much back to himself, although we still have some follow-ups to confirm that. As I was trying to get my little champ to cooperate as I had my hands SO full, this came to mind. ✍🏼I'm pretty new, but practicing a lot, feel free to offer tips on my technique! Done with @Pentelofamerica Sign Brush Pen
When my toddler was in monster-mode…
And when I needed little reminders…
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📣I can scream the words "self-care" until I'm blue in the face. I can tack it on the fridge, write it on my hands, put I sticky note inside my glasses. 🙉But somehow, when things get stressful, it's the first thing that goes. Why? Why am I like this? Why are other moms like this? Why was breakfast today coffee, lunch leftover Mac 'n cheese, and supper the dessert I was prepping for the weekend? 😴I've learned so much about self care this year. I've learned to care for my mental health. I've gone through a rigorous routine of CBT for insomnia to get my circadian rhythm back on track. 🌯But I have so much more to learn in the food department, in the self-forgiveness department, and in the stopping to breathe department. I'm improving but I have a loooooonnnggg way to go. Who's going to join me on this journey? 🖋️My daily lettering diary has been a great exercise! I do it in a @moleskine notebook. This page was done with @pentelofamerica fude sign pens (a MUST for beginners) and @tombowusa dual tip brush pens. 👓Stay tuned for my brush lettering 101 series coming soon!!!
3. It helps you practice.
I didn’t necessarily want to use brush lettering practice sheets when I was learning – I felt like it was more satisfying to actually write something on my own, get creative.
4. It’s neat and quick.
I mentioned above that I didn’t have time to really do much crafting for me. So this was the perfect creativity source. I have a couple of pencil cases with different hand lettering art media that I could pull out to use. I have my daily lettering journal (more on that below). I can sit on the couch, relax, and just be creative.
So how do you keep a lettering journal?
To be honest, half the point of it is that there aren’t really rules. So really you just do you. But I’ll outline the gist of it below.
How to keep a creative “almost daily” lettering journal
Keep the stress out of it.
Right off the bat, I called my journal my almost daily lettering journal. That way I don’t feel like I have to do it every day. I need that me-time and relaxation daily, but I also don’t want it to become a source of stress and part of a rigid schedule.
Start with a dedicated notebook.
I began doing it with a Moleskine notebook. I realized I’d be better off with a guide, so instead of buying a dot pad (which has a faint-enough guide to not really disrupt the art, but is enough to help keep lines straight) I designed one.
I created the Word Art Journal for myself and decided to share it and publish it. You can get yours here!
It has dot grid pages, a beautiful glossy cover with art that I hand-lettered for it, and a space to put the date on each page – because otherwise I forget. It also has an introductory page with a guide for keeping the journal, which makes it a wonderful gift.
Set aside dedicated art supplies that are easy to transport.
While you can use any kind of hand lettering for your lettering journal, you probably have a preference. And while you may have your art supplies stored in other ways, make sure you have at least one set in a pouch that you can grab and go, that doesn’t need to be used at a desk.
The only media that doesn’t work for me for the diary are dip pens and ink, as well as watercolor paints and brushes, because I need a more organized desktop setup for those.
I have one pencil case with Winsor & Newton watercolor markers (a large brush, as well as a non-brush round tip), one with Sharpie brush pens (medium brush), and one with the drawing markers in various sizes from this kit. I also have an “odd assorted” pencil box that I use sometimes with pencils, a couple of Tombow dual brush pens, my Pentel fude pens, a metallic brush marker, a few mini Stabilo Point 88s, etc.
Choose one or have a few, but it’s definitely worth having something that you can take and go.
Store them together in a case or tote.
Once again, have it handy, and ready to pull out – your journal and your marker case(s).
I designed this art tote special for taking things like this on the go, but any reusable tote will do.
Any kind of word art works.
Brush lettering. Traditional calligraphy. Doodle lettering. Freestyle… Do whatever you want with it.
If it’s words, it works…
A favorite quote. Something someone said that made your day. A single word that defined your day. My favorite is the “note to self” reminder and self-encouragement like the one below:
It’s from the day I again didn’t sleep two nights in a row, but handled it much better. I had been well-rested to begin with, was relaxed in bed even when I wasn’t sleeping (it was after the clock changed – I’m very sensitive and it knocked my circadian rhythm off its rocker.)
The main thing is: have fun with it!
Just go ahead and do it. Relax. Do five pages at once if you want. Take it out when you can if you can’t do it daily.
The lettering journal gave me something big. It gave me those five minutes of fuel to forge ahead in my day. It gave me that touch of sanity, those few minutes to touch base with myself, those few minutes for me.
Give a Lettering Journal kit as a gift:
If you know a mom or any creative who can use a little lift – whether it’s a new mother who’s feeling blue, an overwhelmed friend who needs an outlet but can’t find one, or anyone on your gift list, you can bundle the following items for a super sweet and meaningful gift:
Do you keep a daily lettering journal? Do you plan to start? What does this hobby mean to you? Comment below!