For many it can be terrifying working in a sketchbook or "journal." Let's say you've spent hours on creating a hand sewn journal and then feel it being so precious, you don't want to make any mistakes or messing any of the pages up. Same if you've spent good money on a nice manufactured journal.
I've been there and still find myself on occasions feeling that way. I'm a perfectionist at heart and it's taking a lot for me to learn to relax and enjoy the process rather than being too focused on results. If I can focus on enjoying what I'm doing, I'm often surprised with results I actually like. When I stress over making mistakes........I normally don't like the outcome because they normally turn out over-worked or worse.
Your journal IS precious but it's OK if every page is not perfect. No one else has to see it if you so choose not to share with anyone.
For me the journal is a visual diary of my life. My likes, my dislikes, what I'm feeling, places I've been, art supplies I like or use, color charts, and exercises to include those subjects I'm not real comfortable doing. It's still a part of who I am...........flaws and all. I'm not perfect so I remind myself my journals don't have to be either ;-)
I treasure even the mishaps and I never throw anything away nor do I tear out pages in my books. They are lessons learned I can refer back to. And on those less than desirable pages, I will write notes pointing out what I feel went wrong and possible reasons. Maybe I just wasn't in the proper mood or frame of mind to do any art that day. Maybe it was just an off day.
The following are tips that help me from time to time..........some of which I've picked up by other people and some that I have thought of on my own and personally use.
1) One of the biggest and most helpful tips I've read from another artist is............just jump in. Plain and simple. Don't sit there and stress over making mistakes or messing up a page. Just do something even if nothing more than making pencil/pen/paint brush strokes on the page. By doing that, it helps remove that fear that's keeping you from using your journal. Your journal is no longer that 24 k gold treasure you handle with knit gloves or keep tucked away for special occasions because you are terrified will get damaged. Instead it becomes a 10 k gold treasure that is usable on a day to day basis with the occasional bump and scratch that comes with age and usage. At least this is how I compare it........lol.
2) Use a page just scribbling and then go back at some point and see if you can find interesting shapes you can color in. (Haven't tried this one)
3) Play with blind contour sketches. I always laugh at the results I end up with and that helps me to relax and make my journaling fun. Any page I work after something like this look great to my eyes........mistakes and all. :-)
3) Use a page here and there to make your own color charts you can refer back to. Line charts like hatching and crosshatching if you draw in pencil or pen. Comparison charts with different pencil grades or even pen nibs sizes or points.
4) When staring at a white blank page, play with color. Draw some simple outline shapes of any subject you like (people, animals, buildings, etc.) and just play wet in wet within the shapes and let the colors mingle. Play with techniques like sprinkling salt or drops of water or alcohol for various neat effects.
This was drawing a simple outline and lightly using a pencil segmenting as you see here. Then using different colors and techniques in each created segment.
6) Use a pencil lightly knowing you can erase if you're not happy with how things are going. If using ink or paint, you can always work on a separate sheet and glue over top of a page you just can't stand to look at. Maybe only a section is messed up........just redo that section on another sheet of paper and glue over the specific area you don't care for. Me personally........I chalk it up to an experience and lesson learned and maybe do it again on another page.
7) Some artists have shared that they always have a "junk" journal where they feel free to play and not worry at all about the results. A warm up in a sense before working in another journal they hope contains more presentable illustrations and paintings. (Me personally...........I just keep it all together. Some pages may end up with nice results and some may end up as junk)
8) Use the back page of the journal as a scrap page for testing brush with color before taking it to the paint sketch you may be working on.
I'm sure there are several other suggestions artists would share but these are the ones that come to mind for me to use when needed.
The most important .............. learn to have fun and enjoy what you are doing regardless of results. Learn to be accepting of the less than desirable results that happen to everyone including the professional artists out there. Use those boo boos as experiences and lessons and move on. No matter what, your journal will be something that is meaningful and a true treasure to be proud of.