Pondering with Purpose: An Introduction to Journaling | Matt Tommey

Engage Art | Artist to Artist, Faith, Reflection & Growth | March 15, 2023

Have you ever thought about starting a journal but didn’t know where to start or even if it's worth your time? Well, the one practice in my life that has made the most significant difference in my relationship with the Lord and my ability to grow artistically, it has been journaling. 

Today, I’ll crack open my journals to help you get started as I reveal how this simple practice can revolutionize your creative and spiritual journey. 

I talk a lot about journaling. It’s true. Journaling has been a big part of my spiritual and artistic life since I became a believer as a teenager. Many people have asked me about journaling over the years, but most recently, Myra, one of my podcast listeners, reached out to me, looking for guidance as she embarks on her journaling journey. 

What is a Journal, and why should I have one?

Unlike a mere diary, which is usually a record of events, a journal is a powerful tool for exploring new ideas that are still taking shape. It’s the physical manifestation of your creative headspace. It’s where your next big idea will be born, grow, and be played with before it makes the leap off the page and onto your workbench or canvas.

It’s also a safe place. A judgment-free zone where you can push the boundaries of your creative process before committing your time and resources to flesh it out. For visual artists, this may be sketches; for poets, prose lines; for songwriters, lyrics. Not all the ideas and notions committed to your journal will see the light of day, but that’s not the point.

Finally, for many creatives, an art journal is a vault for stewarding creative ideas. The concepts you’re exploring in your journal today are the seeds of inspiration that will bear fruit in the days, weeks, months, and even years to come.

What do I put in my journal?

The easy answer is “Whatever you want.” After all, it’s your journal, your tool for doodling with intent. I started journaling as a part of my spiritual processing with the Lord. It started with me writing and recording my prayers and the dreams I felt came from God. That quickly evolved to include inspiring ideas, scripture verses, prophetic words, and quotes that meant a lot to me.

I realized quickly that the only rule of journaling is that there are no rules. Today, my journal lets me capture the creative interactions between my spirit and the Holy Spirit during my quiet time with the Lord in the mornings and sometimes before I go to bed. 

Over the years, I started dating every entry to track how these ideas, inspirations, and promises from God played out over time. A couple years ago, I reached a major membership milestone inside my Created to Thrive Artist Mentoring Program. We were in the middle of a membership launch when I realized that one of these God-given dreams had just come to pass.

Click Here to Learn More about Matt Tommey's Created to Thrive Artist Mentoring Program - https://matttommeymentoring.mykajabi.com/CTTMentoring

Back in January of 2017, while spending time with the Lord, dreaming His dreams, and receiving His vision for the Mentoring Program, I wrote down the following divinely inspired goal:

How a journal entry can build your faith when a promise from God and a goal come to pass. https://matttommeymentoring.mykajabi.com/CTTMentoring

Now while it took a few years longer for that original vision to come to pass, the point is it did! We’ve linked arms with over 2,000 Kingdom-minded artists from around the world, and we’ve been blessed with the tools and the team that made this dream a reality. And having the ability to pull an old journal off the shelf and see the faithfulness of God in action was an affirming faith-building moment I’ll never forget. 

Do I need separate journals for my creative and spiritual journeys? 

What a great question; in the end, the answer is just a matter of personal preference. I actually keep two journals at any given time. I have a journal that stays with me in the studio. This volume is more of a traditional artist’s sketchbook where I work through ideas, concepts, colors, sizes, and connections for my current and future projects.

At home, I keep what I would call a prayer journal. I continue the regular practice of recording the prayers, dreams, ideas, and visions I feel come from the Lord in this book. I’ve even developed my own set of marker codes to help me quickly find the goals I’ve set for myself and remember the inspired gems the Lord speaks to me in those early morning hours. It’s not anything fancy, just some rudimentary lines, scratches, and dots that help the important things stand out to me. 

Now without fail, I’m sitting at home in the morning with my prayer journal when artistic inspiration strikes. Instead of regretting that my sketchbook is at the studio, I simply record that initial Holy Spirit-inspired stream of consciousness at home and transfer it later when I’m back in the studio. That seems to be the most natural process for me and allows me to get the thought out and record it when the inspiration strikes. 

I’m ready to begin my journaling journey. How do I start?

I’m serious when I say there is one practice in my life that has made the biggest difference in my relationship with the Lord and my ability to stay moving forward, and it has been journaling. And now that you are ready to embark upon your own journaling odyssey, I encourage you to go out and get a notebook.

A journal can be as simple as a $1 composition book from an office supply store or as fancy as a leather-bound journal from your local art store. I have a local artist fashion me a few hand-made journals each year. I love them because they are beautiful and they all match. At $60 to $70 a piece, these journals may seem like an indulgent splurge to some. But in reality, I see them as an annual investment in something that yields immense returns in my creative and spiritual life. 

I sure hope this has been helpful. So if you are a long-time journaler or just starting on this journey, I’d love to see what your journal looks like. Post a picture on Instagram, and tag me @TheThrivingChristianArtist and Engage Art at @EngageArtContest.

Here is one of my amazing hand made journals from one of my favorite local artists, Alyssa Sacora of the Patchwork Underground. Alyssa Sacora is based out of Fairview Nc (right outside of Asheville , NC) https://www.thepatchworkunderground.com/


This article was originally published by Matt Tommey in 2020 and is adapted with his permission from https://www.matttommeymentoring.com/. Matt Tommey is an artist, internationally-known Christian speaker, and the author of 7 books who is passionate about helping artists thrive spiritually, artistically and in business. He is a mentor to artists around the world through his Created to Thrive Artist Mentoring Program and also hosts The Thriving Christian Artist Podcast. Find more resources from Matt at https://www.matttommeymentoring.com/.

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