Practical Considerations for Journal Writing, Second in Series

Yesterday, in a post titled, Journaling, One Path to Writing Abundance, I began a series about, you Notebook_agenda_schedule_260757_l guessed it, journaling.  I wrote a bit about why I think journaling is valuable for a writing practice and how indispensable my journal is to me.

Today, before we go any further in this series, I want to talk about some journaling practicalities.

Don't let that word, "practicality," scare you, because this is actually the fun stuff, all about choosing the correct journal and pen with which to write.   You might, at this point, be balking just as much over the word, "correct," as you did over the word, "practicality." All of us creative types hate concepts like correct, and structure, and organization.

But in this case, I mean the correct journal for you.  The correct journal is the one that you fall in love with on the shelves of the store.  It is the one that makes you feel good every time you pick it up.  The journal it makes you happy to open.  The one that you love so much you will actually fill it with words.  

What works for me might not work for you at all.  What I love in a journal may be what you hate, or vice versa.  So take some time and try some different options out and see what you like best.  If you've tried journaling in the past and not taken to it, there's a chance that you weren't using the correct journal.  Honestly, it is that important.  Besides, whiling away the afternoon in an office supply store is almost as good as whiling away the afternoon at a bookstore.  Or, you could do both and pretend you are Christmas shopping.**

Here are my guidelines, the qualities that work for me:

  1. Lined paper.  I don't know, maybe I like structure more than I think.  The unlined pages are almost overwhelming to me.  Plus, they make me feel like I should be adding delicate sketches or artful doodles and I'm just not good at that.  So my journals are lined.
  2.  Spiral or soft binding.  I carry my journal with me everywhere and could as easily be perched by a stream (okay I made that up, because I'm not generally that outdoorsy) writing as near a table.  I need a journal I can balance on my knee and still write on easily.  Up until recently, I was an adamant defender of the cause that all journals should be spiral bound.  But then I became the last person on the planet to discover the Moleskine journal.  Its soft cover doubles back on itself easily and works fine to write on in various situations.  Another type of notebook that falls into this category is the good old composition book you can buy cheaply at any office supply store or stationery department.  They'll have lots of good spirals, too.  I still love me those spirals.
  3.  Size does matter.  I prefer the 5 by 8ish size, which is easy to stash in my purse or carry along.  Some of you may prefer a pocket size, which I find a bit confining, or the big desk size.  It is all about what works for you.
  4.  Um, I guess I don't have a fourth guideline.  Except to repeat what I said earlier: find what works best for you.  Experiment, play with the process.  Find a journal that makes you long to stop everything, open it up, and write!

Besides the journal itself, there is the matter of the pen, which is nearly as important.  Again, while some may prefer a bold tip, others may always go for the fine.  I went through a long phase of preferring a medium point but am not back to an obsession with the fine point.  Then there's color…while I have a long-standing preference for blue, it is harder to find than black.  Plus these days there are all those great sets of multi-colored pens you can buy.  When you find a pen you fall in love with, stock up on it immediately because, A. manufacturers stop making them for no reason I can tell, and B. pens are like socks and Legos, they disappear.

So that's it for journaling practicality.  Feel free to share what your favorite journal and pen are in the comments.  And stay tuned for the next installment (which, with luck, will be tomorrow) on journaling.

**Speaking of Christmas shopping, don't forget my free holiday gift to you this season–I'm giving away coaching sessions!  Totally and completely free, they are, with no strings of any kind attached.  Head on over here and check out the details.

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5 Responses to Practical Considerations for Journal Writing, Second in Series

  1. Jessica 12/16/2009 at 03:13 #

    Over the past couple of years Paperblanks journals have started appearing in Australia. They use such beautiful and inspiring artwork. Some of their journals also come with hand stitched binding. Just gorgeous. Makes me want to buy a journal every time I see one.

    My favourite pen is a Uniball 207 Premier. It has the softest cushion grip I’ve ever tried, and has done wonders for my writer’s callus. I’ve found a website that sells refills and I’m stocked up for the next couple of years. Usually I like blue, but it depends on the writing project I’m working on at the time. If it’s a period piece, I often only write in black. I’ve also got a fine purple Uniball pen which I have become very dependant on. It’s great for marking up manuscripts. Stands out, but doesn’t look like you’re back in school.

    Great advice about stocking up on the pen you love. I’ve experienced the disappointment of having the perfect pen and then never being able to reproduce the ‘magic.’

  2. Charlotte Dixon 12/16/2009 at 13:33 #

    Hi Jessica,

    I’m not familiar with the Paperblanks journals, but they sound wonderful. I think one of the marks of a true journaler is coveting of journals!

    My current favorite pen is the Pilot Precise V5, though it is difficult to find in blue. It is a very fine tip, as I said this is a new obsession for me.

    Thanks for writing, I hope everything is going well in Australia!


  3. Jessica 12/16/2009 at 16:50 #

    Paperblanks have a beautiful website where you can view their products.

    Sounds like a really nice pen. I think I’ve seen it but I haven’t tried writing with it…yet. One can never have too many pens, right? We’re writers. Pens are like spanners and screwdrivers. You need to have a variety so you always have exactly what you need. At least that’s my excuse.

  4. Julie Isaac 12/19/2009 at 01:05 #

    I go to Aaron Bros. Art Mart and buy sketch pads in several sizes. Unlike you, I find lines too confining. I need wide open spaces.

    I’m not as picky about my pens. Whatever’s handy works for me.

  5. Charlotte Dixon 12/19/2009 at 08:00 #

    Jessica, I will go check out that website for the Paperblanks journals, thanks!

    Julie, I love your comment because it just speaks to how each of us has our own favorite type of journal that we like to use!

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