Growing up poor, at a young age I learned to become a magpie: I collected and kept bits of nothing because I didn’t have anything.  Once I began collecting memories on paper as well as the small mementos I kept in my pockets and bags, it seemed to be a natural progression to incorporate the two. Thus began my life of visual journaling and a way of keeping not only written descriptions of my thoughts and actions, but also a visual reminder to help spark a memory for the future me —should she ever decide to revisit the past.

visual journaling

What Is Visual Journaling?

Visual journaling (also known as art journaling, which can include scrapbooking and smashbooking) has become an integral part of my daily journaling over the years.  Not only do my journals give me a place to mull over my emotions but they also give me a place to be creative, with wild and reckless abandon.

Unknown-1I can be unapologetic with colors and imagery, and it is the one place I can be entirely me — society be damned, these are my emotions and this is me.

Some days a journal entry may be pages of stream of conscious thoughts with a color washed background to aid or complement my thoughts.  Other days I may start with words cut from a magazine and glued to my paper for a jumping off point.

Some days are more methodical with a carefully planned magpie piece, and words written elegantly around it to draw attention.  The point is that I am free to do as I wish between my journal pages.  There are no restrictions and that is a personal freedom I look forward to at the end of each day.

Creating Visual Journaling

To get started visual journaling, you really don’t need much at all.

The basic supplies are a journal, a pen, a glue stick or tape and whatever ephemera you wish to keep: a ticket stub, a photograph or a receipt are all good places to start.

If you wish to get fancier you can pick up some tools to color with, stickers for decoration or washi tape (decorative masking tape) to stick your ephemera down with.  There are no restrictions; if it fits, it sticks.

If you have your supplies and you’re still not sure how to get started, put something on the page besides words and start from there.  Or do the exact opposite.

[Tweet “With visual journaling, there are no laws for creativity, no rules to your journal. Be free!”]

Visual Journal Prompts

If you need a little bit more inspiration, check out the prompts below to see if any of them help lead your journey of visual journaling.

  1. Staple in a movie ticket stub and write about your experience at the cinema and/or a review of the movie that you saw.

2. Draw a picture of your childhood bedroom, in as much detail as you can remember.  Write about some of your favorite memories in that room.
3. Write a bucket list or collage a bucket list: cut out pictures from magazines and from the Internet of things you would like to do and places you would like to travel in your lifetime.
4. Write down all the things you dislike about yourself or the world, all the negative things in your head and paint over it.  Paint something beautiful.

5. Use words cut from magazines to write a poem.  It’s like magnetic poetry but it’s glued in place so you can keep it forever.

I think the most important thing is to not be too critical of what you do in your journal. As Bob Ross so famously said, we don’t make mistakes, we have happy accidents.

[Tweet “We don’t make mistakes, we have happy accidents. –Bob Ross”]

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About The Author

headshotErica truly believes that every life is worth documenting in a way that gets your hands dirty.  When her fingers aren’t glued together she enjoys spending time with her husband and dogs, making memories worth writing about.  You can find her online at and YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.