On Journaling, and Crowd Sourcing Some Help With That

Nanami Paper The Writer Journal compared to Rhodia Webnotebook

I am struck by how many Fountain Pen Follies readers know a lot about journals. You guys are the experts. You own them! You use them! Apparently for more than two months in a row, unlike me.

So, can you help me with this? I’ve already gotten some great comments over the previous posts. But I really welcome any and all additional help. You could post in the comments below, or if you don’t feel like commenting there, you could use the “contact me” link, or use my email, which is my name at the blog name, or laura at the blog’s full name, including the dot and what follows.

Here are some questions. What journals do you like for fountain pen use? Does it have to be a fancy journal? Does it have to be large in size? Would a regular spiral bound cheapy notebook work? Do you feel more inspired when you have a nice notebook and nice fountain pen?

Mead 70 Sheet Spiral Notebook

I would never even try to journal my “deep thoughts” if all I had to use for it was a kid’s leftover spiral notebook or school composition book.  I already have to push myself to write in the journal in the first place. A nice notebook is necessary motivation for me.

Of the journals that people here seem to like, so far a lot of people like the Nanami journals. I also like the Rhodia Webnotebook. I’ve also had mentions of Taroko paper and the Quo Vadis Habana. And I’ll check those out. Any more suggestions?

As for size, I find A5 a good enough size, although someone mentioned A4 or even A3. Those are larger, which would be great. What brands make those?

Also, do you journal as a way to use your fountain pen more? That’s why I started to journal a few years ago. Then I got a job that required constant writing, and left me very little free time, so that reason went away. Actually, I’ve met a few people who started as avid journal writers, who took up fountain pens to have something nice to use in their journals. I like that idea.

pen cups

Can you tell me a little about the “how” of journaling? How are newbies or journal failures like me supposed to start, or keep at, journaling? What things do you put in a journal? Any tips for keeping at it, or for making the journal more fun or useful?

When I have journaled, I’ve just used the journal to recap some things about the day — “We went to such and such kid’s orchestra concert today” — that kind of fascinating nugget.

Then I saw a neat suggestion somewhere, like in a magazine at the dentist. It suggested that each of us try to write down things we are grateful for or want to remember. I did take that up, and I liked the idea, and still do. I’m very into the whole “power of positive thinking.”  Like on Thursday at noon, when the temperature outside climbed to 12 degrees Fahrenheit, I was able to say to myself, “it feels so much warmer than the -1 degree Fahrenheit this morning.”  I better go write that happy thought down in my journal right now.

But still, writing down the events of the day, even with the prompt to think happy thoughts was mostly deadly dull for me. I just don’t care that much about little things I do from day to day. That’s probably what made it hard to keep up with the journaling. It didn’t help that I’m more a “talk to others” than “talk to a page” person. I just have a bad journaling personality.

Is that obstacle insuperable? Are some of us just never going to be journal writers? Can we overcome? Can we improve?

Because, I do find, that when I journal, I occasionally turn up a nugget of gold, which I never expected. Sometimes when I write a journal entry, it’s all effort and nothing interesting comes of it. But then, sometimes, I’ll find myself expressing thoughts I didn’t know I had. Or I’ll reach a conclusion that’s actually concrete and helpful.

In other words, sometimes when I use a journal, it helps me process things or guides me to an insight I’d never otherwise have found.

It’s because journaling forces reflection, and makes a person set aside time for that pursuit. What is journaling but making time to reflect? When I force myself to do that, the results can be clarifying. It can feel like a mental break, and sometimes a breakthrough.

That’s when I’m using my “journal journal.” I also have a more practical, special-purpose journal, which I use to jot down notes when I do pen repair. I love having a reference and memory refresher like that. Kelly wrote in the comments yesterday about using  one journal to write down medical information, which is similar, I think.

Curnow Bookbinding Tomoe River Journal Chicago Pen Show 2016

I like those practical journals, but I really hadn’t thought of that as “journaling” before. But I’m taking credit for mine, now. It is very useful and I do use it to take notes and keep track of my experiences in pen repair. True, I’m not sure an actual journal would be necessary for mine. Any notebook probably would work for a pen repair journal. I just use a journal because it makes the process more appealing.

I personally won’t count my Bullet Journal as a “journal,” for me, because mine is just a messy, on-the-fly calendar and to-do list. I find it very useful for task management, and for me that’s all it is.

Clearly, the notions of pleasure or aesthetic appeal play into the appeal of journals for me. I don’t think that is the case for all of us, though. Does a nicer journal make us more likely to journal? Or less? Because I read in some of the comments about the Seven Seas journal that for some people it feels almost too nice to use. As if one should have better thoughts or more interesting things to put down in a journal that splendid. Would the leftover school notebook be better for some of us, after all?

I guess I mostly wonder why we journal, in the end. What motivates and encourages? Having a more reflective personality? Wanting to buy and use the nice notebooks? Or to use our fountain pens? To preserve, and later reread, our thoughts and feelings? To remember our kids’ childhood? Or to fend off the demands of the kids, and spend some alone time? To write down ideas for a novel?

Conversely, why don’t so many of us journal?  Is there anything that would make us want to journal? Or be better about it? Are there prompts, or topics? Hidden tricks?

8 thoughts on “On Journaling, and Crowd Sourcing Some Help With That

  1. Despite the fact that I successfully kept a journal throughout highschool, the me of middle age is also very bad at it. I guess it’s because the angst quotient of my life is substantially less these days, and, like you, I find writing out what I did that day to be unbearably dull. “But I know this already!” my brain objects, heedless of the truth that I will eventually forget it. Anyway, what I am trying for 2017 is a Hobonichi Techo. It’s small, which is a plus, with one page per day. And it’s fountain-pen friendly. And on each page I will write three good things that happened that day. And that’s it. I suspect it will be somewhat of a challenge to find these things, and might often be some form of “the kitties snuggled and it was cute” but that’s okay.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jon, I like your reply. I especially liked the last part. If I waited on something profound to say, I would not need a journal at all. I do have a Black N Red notebook that I write quotes in though, that speak to me. That was my first journal, but it is mostly hen scratch. I had planned to do a journal in the future about my thoughts about my kids, and life in general. But it is on the back burner at this time. The nuggets from my past have been passed on verbally to my kids, and friends.
    My Commonplace type book on natural remedies and stuff is mainly for my kids. (well they are grown now) I hope they keep this, and will be able to use some of that knowledge. I also have stuff I’ve printed out for them, and placed in notebooks too.
    When I was a kid, I used to have a diary. My little brother was always trying to find where I hid it. It had a lock, but he could pick it. It was too much work trying to keep it away from him. Who knows, maybe one day I will start another. I have toyed with the idea for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kelly, thank you for the nice words. I do want to point out that my post was not in contention or counterpoint with yours, or any other post. I consider all approaches to written thought valid, and was only illuminating what motivates me. I think that “journal” is a word that is quite expansive and inclusive of many approaches and inspirations, and one should focus on the approach that benefits themselves the most.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I, on the other hand, want a journal to be as FAR away from schedules, lists, organizing, structure, etc. I like a journal that is messy, has personality, has little short entries, and big whopping nonsense entries. I want the story of my thoughts, not a catalog of my responsibilities.

    I”m very poor at it, in terms of regularity, but that is as much a reflection of my life, anyway, as anything. I just accept it at this point.

    I took a journaling seminar a little over a year ago and, while they have been slow to be implemented, I *did* gain some good notions. One was the concept of “prompts”, which gave a lot more variety to the fuel to kick-start a writing session. They are probably covered in the many books and websites on journaling, but basic constructs like gratitude, dreams, describing a place, reflecting on quotes of others, many more. If nothing else, maybe YOU could do a blog entry that would ask for input on “What are your favorite writing prompts?”

    And regularity, which I don’t just struggle with, I exercise massive fail about. But I try. She had a good way of putting it (I will attempt to recall/paraphrase), in context of doing a little writing every morning (or pre-determined time): “If you wait until you have something profound to say, you may find yourself waiting a very long time; if you write as a discipline, the epiphanies will come.”

    I just need a bit more discipline.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. So, I do find that when I write in a journal, I do reach — I wouldn’t call mine epiphanies, but more like an occasional payoff of clarity, unearthed by the process of writing. I’d discover thoughts I didn’t know I had, or insights into how to see something another way, or deal with something going forward. And that part I really like.

      And I think it’s really helpful advice that people should just start, rather than waiting for something profound to say. Sadly, my hiccup was different: I didn’t feel the need to wait for inspiration to strike. I don’t ever think I have anything profound to say. 🙂 I just say whatever occurs to me. 🙂 (I’m sure blog readers are nodding in recognition here.) So I could start off just fine. But I would find myself too often journaling about things that were too quotidian to hold even my interest.

      My stumbling block has always been finding the motivation and interest to keep going, after the initial “I should journal” resolution and sense of purpose fades. Then it starts to be a task. And I realize that I could instead do something I find actually fun. Or even things that aren’t fun, but are more obviously useful: exercise, say, or even household chores that at least offer a more immediate and tangible reward (laundry folded, kitchen cleaned, etc.). That’s what I really need to overcome. The answer is probably: make it a habit.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Laura, now I will do the second half of my comments about how I journal. This is my simplified bullet journal. I don’t have a lot of things going on, but it is still useful.
    On the first page I put my name, phone number, and a symbol key, with symbols underneath.
    Square is the symbol for task.
    Square with a check mark is a task competed.
    Square with a star beside it is a high priority task.
    Square with a right arrow going through the middle means it didn’t get completed, and it migrated to the next month.
    Square with a left arrow means it migrated to a certain month, then I write the month.
    — this is a note symbol
    A very small circle is an event symbol.
    Narrow triangle is an appointment.
    Upside down triangle with a closed small circle is an urgent appointment symbol.
    Heart- something I love, or an idea.
    8 or infinity sign right side up-signifies a collection, list, project.

    Then I go to the next four pages, which I leave open and mark them as an INDEX.
    Then I go to the next 3 pages and mark them by month, and label them Future Logs. Future logs will contain something like bills that I don’t pay every month, vet visits, time to buy new flea or heartworm meds, birthdays, holidays, shows…whatever.

    Then I go to the next page, and start the month on one side. The next page is the month and task page.
    On the month page I list every day in that month by number. Next to that I put the day of the week.
    I always mark the month in two columns. 1-20 or 21 on the left side, and in the middle I start writing the next set of days.
    2. S
    5.T etc…
    Each index page is marked: A, B, C, D
    Then on the month I number starting one. The following task page for that month is page two.
    Then I start the following month as page 3, with task page numbered 4, and so on.
    I do not do months in advance. I may need another page, and if they are pre-marked, it would mess it up. At the end of the month, I start the next month page, with month task page. I write the associated numbers in the index log.

    Now for my bill bullet journal, it is much more simplified than the journal above. The good thing about the bullet journal is, you can do it the way YOU WANT, and you can have it as basic, or complicated as you need.
    If you run out of index pages, you just start another set, and start with E, which would be the next letter in the alphabet. I also list the year on the top line of the index page. This Clairefontaine book will probably last me 3 years, with what I write now. I hope I explained it in an understandable way.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Laura, I like A5 or B5 sizes the best. But for small journals Field Notes is acceptable. (fp friendly only from now on)
    My favorite paper to show off ink is definitely Tomoe River paper. So that has something to do with why I love the Seven Seas journals. Plus they are stitched, and I prefer that. They will lay flat, but you may need to break it in first. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwvD7vyqZrs
    The link is Nanami showing you how to break in a journal that is stitched. DO NOT try this with a staple or glue bound journal. I do mine very similar to what he did in the video. But I do more sections, and don’t bend it completely over like he does. Plus I am more gentle with my journals than he was…lol.

    Seven Seas- I like The Writer, and Crossfield both. A5 size currently inked, date cleaned, pen and ink entries plus
    I use one for natural remedies and medical notes etc…it could be considered a Commonplace book. One book will last a long time, pages are thin, and the ink looks the best in these books.
    Quo Vadis Habana – Turquoise, Lined (6.30 x 9.45) ink, & pen notes, perfect size with elastic band, has Clairefontaine paper
    Clairefontaine Basic Clothbound Notebook – Green, Lined (5.83 x 8.27) bullet journal, contains heavier paper and an elastic band
    Rhodia Webnotebook A5 for computer notes, does not lay flat for me, but otherwise I like this one a lot
    Apica Premium A5 bill ledger, and I another one to test ink samples with
    Clairefontaine 1951 Clothbound Notebook – Lined (5.83 x 8.27) stapled, I use these for pen and ink entries as mentioned in the blog yesterday
    Moleskine/Field Notes-I use these for notes and ideas. I also keep a medical log with one. It doesn’t matter if it bleeds through a little or feathers.
    All of the journals listed are my most used journals. I have stopped using paper that is not fountain pen friendly. I am on my last Moleskine, and don’t plan to buy another. (they aren’t fountain pen friendly)
    I do tend to prefer nice journals, as they show off my ink more. So I do tend to try to write prettier, and more legible in them. My hands shake, so I have been trying to improve my writing.
    I will give you more data later.

    Liked by 3 people

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