1. Just start
I start pages with a fancy little underline; not because I think it looks good but it gets my pen on the paper and keeps me from the inspiration draining gravity of a blank white page. As I start to write or doodle or sketch it loosens up my creativity and from there the real content comes out.
2. Use one notebook for everything
Combine the mundane and the artful. A grocery list is almost as interesting as your musings when viewed ten or a hundred years later. I personally find that I like looking back on my shopping lists just as much as I like to see my spiritual musings. If you give up on your notebook being a precious document where you chronicle important things then you have the freedom to really use it as a practical tool.
3. Take time to doodle and diagram
Anything that breaks up the page automatically indexes your journal and makes everything easier to navigate. Some of the quick sketches that I hated the most as I did them in the field actually capture the moment the best in hindsight.
4. Stop and draw a picture
On trips where I don’t have a camera with me for whatever reason, I seem to remember more vividly. Especially if I take a moment out of my day to stop and draw a picture of a scene. To really get serious I bring a set of travel watercolor paints and I sit and do a pencil sketch that I paint over after. This takes more time which is exactly the point. Slow your routine as you travel, sometimes by doing less, you can see more.
See our interview with Dana Greechan for more on this.
5. Make a quick Bulleted List
Write a header such as “things that happened today” or “Reasons not to get drunk in Hong Kong” and fill out some bullet points underneath.
To fight writer’s block, start your day’s entry by creating a heading and a few blank bullets.
Things that are better in the tropics:
6. Rough Draft your Correspondences
If you have an email you need to write or a postcard you want to send work out the first draft in your journal. This will help you when you go to write the real thing and makes for a great record that is nice to look at back at.
7. Write Daily
Set a few minutes out of each day to record at least the basics. Creating space for yourself to write will add to your joy of the joys adventure if it’s been good and help you decompress on the stressful days. If you miss a day don’t beat yourself up about it.