Choosing your journal is both really important and not at all important, depending on what type of person you are. I’ve known people who journal in any old notebook – simple lined school exercise books that are only a dollar each. But that’s not me. I love nice stationery, beautiful books, luxurious covers and papers. I want to be able to line my journals up nicely when I’m finished with them; a gorgeous volume of my life.
Having a journal that feels a bit more special than any old notebook makes my journaling practice feel like a sacred act.
Having said that, I don’t spend a fortune on my journals. I used to buy lovely Paperchase and Paperblanks notebooks for about $40 each, but that was when I was only journaling occasionally and they would last me several years. As I now journal every day, I go through a journal about every six weeks – two months, and I don’t want to feel like the journal is too expensive to use too quickly. It needs to be something that feels lovely to write in, but that I can happily fill knowing I can get another one easily and cheaply enough.
For me, that’s a Moleskine. Initially I thought they were really expensive (my first one cost me $42 from a boutique art supply store – don’t forget I live in New Zealand where everything is twice the price!) but then I started buying them from here. It takes a few weeks for them to be delivered, but the price is so reasonable (and shipping is free). I just make sure I order my next one early enough.
A Moleskine is actually reasonably plain, compared to the Paperchase journals I used to buy, but it feels quite nice, and I use a lot of washi tape, stickers and stamps in my journal entries to brighten it up (we will cover this a bit later).
Something else to think about is how thick you want the paper, depending on what type of pen(s) you will use. Moleskines are pretty thin so my stamps often bleed through the paper, which is annoying. I’ve also heard from other people that they can be a bit thin for pens like Sharpies or ink/fountain pens. They work fine for my gelly pens, though (more about pens tomorrow).
Think about whether you want a hard cover or soft cover. This could be influenced by where you plan to journal. I like to journal in bed or curled up in a chair, so a hard covered book works best for me. A friend of mine prefers the soft covered Moleskine because she likes to bend the pages around to write. If you plan to sit at the table and write then a soft cover may be better. Or perhaps you want a spiral notebook so it can be folded over and sit flat?
Another thing to consider is if you want your journal lined or unlined. This really comes down to personal preference. I have used lined journals for years, but lately as I have expanded my journaling practice I tend to choose unlined journals because I feel like there is a bit more freedom. It means that I can do mindmaps and lists, as well as writing standard journal entries. I still manage to write straight enough without the lines, so I’m happy.
I like having the freedom to write however I’m feeling that day – messy and big, or small and neat, maybe making some words bigger, practising handwritten typography with quotes I want to record, or just doing a mindmap of something that’s bothering me. It also means that I can put washi tape wherever I like – to create a heading or a border, for example – and put my stamps wherever I want to decorate my pages.
Having an unlined journal means there is a little more artistic freedom for me to explore and get creative.
This works for me, but it won’t work for everyone. A friend of mine has found a good solution: she has a lined Moleskine to write her daily journal entries where she just does a ‘brain dump’ of whatever is on her mind – the lines allow her to write quickly and easily without worrying about anything else. She then has another blank Moleskine that she uses for more creative journaling – including prompts, mindmaps, lists and so on. You could use a system like this, if you prefer to keep these things separate.
I use my one unlined Moleskine for both kinds of journaling – daily morning ‘brain dumps’ and creative journaling with prompts etc.
I like to have one place to focus all of my personal journal writing.
This series is specifically focused on getting you started with a daily journaling practice, so you may not need to think about creative journaling and prompts just yet. Get started on the daily practice with a notebook you like and see how you feel after a while. It can take a bit of trial and error.
Think about how much you are prepared to spend, and if you are happy to spend that much again when you fill your journal – which, with daily practice, will be soon! Whatever you do, don’t let the act of choosing your journal become an act in procrastination. It doesn’t have to be the perfect notebook, so don’t spend hours in bookstores and browsing online (I’m prone to over-researching and then being paralysed by indecision). Choose a notebook so we can get on with it!