December 8, 2020

Journaling

Joy of Journaling – Getting started.

“I am enamored of my journal”

Sir Walter Scott 

Choosing a Journal

Choosing a journal will be a process you’ll wander through, but be sure you try several styles so you’ll know which type is best for you.

I’ve been using a journal for over 40 years, and there’s only one style I use for my mental health, business brainstorming and quotes.  For travel I use a different style and I have a supply of cheap or freebies with tear-out pages (mostly spiral bound) by my chair to record things as they come up. Yes, I’m a paper journalist, and proud of it.

Sitting quietly and putting thoughts on paper is therapy for me, but travel writing is probably the most fun.  Choosing a journal for travel writing is important because your journal will become your travel companion.  Whether you decide to record events, places, menus, etc. as you experience them, take notes and write later or reflect once a day on your experience, you’ll need to choose the right companion.

Journal Characteristics – size and style

You’ll want to start with the size and feel of the journal.  Visit several stores and get them into your hands.  As you’re touching them and deciding here’s some questions to ask yourself.

  • Does the size fit how and where you’ll carry it?  You don’t want an 8.5” x 11” for a small carryall or backpack. Conversely, you want the pages large enough to hold at least one great experience.
  • Does it inspire you?  Is the cover plain or busy?  Will that interfere with your writing?
  • Will it move you to create a keepsake?  Because that’s what your journals will become, a keepsake.
  • Will it feel safe and familiar?  A safe place to record your thoughts, dreams, wants, and fears – a familiar friend to talk with?
  • Will it invite you back every day or week?  For travel writing, you should be writing daily.  For other journals you may only write weekly to explore and share your week.

The principle feature of a good travel journal is durability.  Be sure you find a size, shape, binding that is durable. 

Journal Characteristics - Paper Style

Next, quality of your travel journal choice is whether you will use lined – unlined – bullet.

Unlined Journal -

An unlined journal gives you the freedom to “plaster the page with chaos” as travel journalist Lavinia Spalding talks about in her book Writing Away.  It gives her the freedom to doodle, sketch, add photos, flowers or fliers.  It allows your imagination to take over. 

Bullet Journal –

According to Wikipedia, “A bullet journal is a method of personal organization developed by designer Ryder Carroll. The system organizes scheduling, reminders, to-do lists, brainstorming, and other organizational tasks into a single notebook. The name "bullet journal" comes from the use of abbreviated bullet points to log information, but it also partially comes from the use of dot journals, which are gridded using dots rather than lines. First shared with the public in 2013.”

I’ve never used a bullet journal, but if you are interested in it you should visit Little Coffee Fox.com  for the article “The Ultimate Bullet Journal Guide for Beginners and Beyond”.

Lined Journal –

~ My personal choice.  Since my joy comes from the written word I use lined journals.  They provide a basic structure that I can keep to or can “color outside the lines” if I so choose.

I record my thoughts, notes, draw arrows to other thoughts, scribble in the margins and ignore the lines, then return to the structure of lines.  It fits me!

Choose the journal style that fits you!

Journal Structure –

My first travel journals were ruled Journalist  notepads with the wire spiral binding at the top. Long and narrow, they worked well for note taking, but the pages went fast for longer writings and the cardboard backing was too flimsy for telling a story.

I moved to small, left-side spiral notebooks for a while, but they too were too flimsy for storytelling.  I acquired a small clipboard that holds 5”x7” yellow lined pads.  I hated the yellow so changed to white or sometimes I could get them in a light pastel color.  They had removeable pages that worked well for taking notes and then discarding when the story was told, but that didn’t feel private or safe.  At this point I went back to the journalist top wire-bound notepads for note taking and hardbound journals for writing and story telling.

The hardbound journals I have chosen are lined, 7.5”x10.25” and are reasonable in price.  When I want to create a special journal I purchase a Moleskine Pro Notebook 7.5”x9.75”.  Both have an elastic closure and feel safe. 

I treat both as new books and break in the spines using a technique I learned working in a school library.  This allows the spine to expand and relax so the journal will open and lie flat.  A journal that lies flat will improve the flow of your writing and keep from bumping into the spine wire or other problems with the way the journal is constructed.

Journal Paper –

The last item to consider is the quality of the paper in the journal. 

Color of the paper can impact your writing.  Some journals come with lovely background images that interfere with the writing. Others use colors that are hard on the eyes.  They may match the theme of the journal but make it difficult to write. 

Choose a paper color that is mostly neutral.  White is too bright, and off-white or crème is best.  It's fun to have a special journal for a special trip or event, but remember that journaling is the focus.

Weight of the paper is another consideration. The paper should be heavy enough to keep the ink from bleeding through.   Some beautiful journals contain coated, silky paper that’s wonderful to the touch, but impossible to write on or the ink feathers out so bad you can’t read it.  You need uncoated paper.

Hand-made paper journals are wonderful, but require a special gel pen to work, and some still cause the ink to feather.  Beginning in March, 2021, we will offer a special hand-made paper journal for special use and provide a gel pen with purchase.  We’ll post the link when they arrive.

Summary –

Whether you’re going to use a spiral-bound, three-ring binder, sketchbook, Moleskines, hand-made or hard-bound work horses, you’ll find no shortage of options.  Just write, because #Journal Writing Matters.


“Even now, at this late day, a blank sheet of paper holds the greatest excitement there is for me –

More promising than a silver cloud, and prettier than a little red wagon.”  

E.B. White

About the author 

Jana Hassett

Jana is at the core of Jana’s Journals – writer, editor and resident Elevator Pitch promoter – her chief responsibility is content creation. When she’s not crafting helpful content for the What Do You Do? Blog, she’s serving as an Ambassador for her local Chamber of Commerce, or (through the local Women’s Business Center) teaching small business owners how to write and give their Elevator Pitch to promote their business in order to accomplish her goal of “Passing It On”.

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