Bucking the digital domination, paper journals have been making a strong comeback. A scroll through Pinterest features awe-inspiring journal photos that can discourage the amateur (or anyone who doesn’t have 2 hours each day to devote solely to journaling). Want to jump in to journaling but aren’t sure where to begin? Try these easy ideas to start a journal today:
Use a Good Notebook
You don’t have to spend big money on a swanky journal from the get-go. In fact, some of my favorites have been from the discount bin at bookstores or TJ Maxx. The point is to use it, not stare at the cover, so looks are secondary to function. Some people even use the cheap spiral notebooks for sale for 20 cents during back to school specials, while others swear that investing a little more cash will ensure that you don’t let it collect dust on your nightstand. Whatever works for you is the right notebook. A word of caution, here, though: if you want to be able to go back and read your entries for years to come, you need to get a good enough notebook to last. It doesn’t have to be archival quality, but do look for one with acid-free paper. My grandmother’s journal is difficult to read in places due to the quality of the materials. You may have a nosy granddaughter like me one day, so use the best paper you can afford to hold your words for a long time. I am currently using the uber-popular (for good reason!) Leuchtturm 1917.
**Update:** This post has become so popular, I designed some everyday journals and notebooks for you to use to keep track of your thoughts, insights, and daily gratitudes and moments. Click here to find them, or on any of the images below:
Use the Right Pen
Now, pens, on the other hand, are crucial. I started out using a Pentel Energel (Hard to find at the moment. If someone asks to borrow a pen and it’s the only one I’m carrying, I quickly change the subject.) but when I switched to the Leuchtturm I had more bleed-through than I wanted. Then Mr. Smith surprised me with a fountain pen one Christmas, and it’s my go-to for daily entries. If I need to do any grid lining or spread set-up, I have a cheap set of sharpie pens to handle to utilitarian jobs. All of these have acid-free ink. That’s critical. If you can look without being intimidated, then check out the amazing things Kara Benz and Tiny Ray of Sunshine are doing with more specialized pens and inks. Incredible!
Use a Template
This is what will allow you to keep the habit going. You need to quickly jot down an entry in under five minutes. No guesswork when you open the notebook, just the ability to rapidly record info. In next week’s post, I’ll list some of the most popular types of journals and some templates that are unique to each type. But for now, decide what your goal is for journaling in the first place. Is it to record daily events? Maybe a simple list is the best format for you. Is it to leave the gift of your wisdom to your grandchildren? Try to use a prompt (and a timer!) each day. If you want to improve your productivity, jot down your daily goal and a motivational quote. Try a different method each week until you find a template that you really enjoy and that awakens your inner scribe!
You’re going to miss some days. Forgive yourself now, at the beginning, and give yourself permission to pick up where you’re at, instead of where you left off. I know. The perfectionism gets anxious. It tells us we’re literally throwing days away! Take a deep breath, call out perfectionism for the troll it is, and put down a couple of lines for today. Remember your purpose for starting a journal. Was that purpose to be subjected to guilt-trips for missing days? Then don’t let it get there. Keeping a written record has many benefits, and you may soon find yourself looking forward to the ritual. If you’re not sure how to begin, use grace and jump in where you are right now. It’s never too late to start a journal. Do you already have a journal? What are your favorite notebooks and pens?
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I have been a Pilot user since age 14. I started with the G2-07’s in high school and switched to the 05 when I started college. (The finer the print, the more notes you can fit on one page! Ha!) I even collected pens from people who knew my love for Pilot’s: friends, nurses, boyfriends. Somewhere during the middle of my Junior year of university I had to borrow a pen from my brother-in-law, a Uniball Signo Ultra Micro 207. This was the day my world changed. For about 3 weeks, every time I reached for my Uniball I felt a pang of guilt at passing up my old and faithful. Now I’ve reached a comfortable balance, using (and still keeping… yes, I know…) my Pilot’s and my new love for both work and journaling.
Great post! It inspires me to keep mine going, despite the overwhelming urge to binge watch Seinfeld and eat tubs of yogurt after work. 🙂
I know there’s an ideal balance, there, somewhere, with Seinfeld, yogurt, and stationery..! Did you ever try the bottled ink? The colors are so lush, but I haven’t taken the plunge! <–I made that pun on purpose 🙂
No, I haven’t tried bottled ink! May have to be my next shopping run. The pun was appreciated. 🙂
These are great thoughts, Cole. I love the suggestion to pay attention to paper. I never would’ve thought of that. But yeah, in a few decades, someone may be interested in what we say today and if the paper eats our ink, they won’t be able to.
I’m looking forward to seeing what you mean by “templates.” See you next week for that.