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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Journal Writers: how do you journal?

I am woefully behind in my journal.  I haven't written in it for months.  A big reason for this, I now realize, is I've set up unrealistic expectations for myself in my journal-writing this year.

I decided this year I will only write things in my journal that I want to remember.  No emotional dumping, no negativity.

But this has proven difficult.  First of all, I've been stressed to the gills for most of this year.  (As in, if we don't find a job in the next 2 1/2 months, we'll be unemployed and homeless.  How's that for stressful?)  Of course I don't want to remember stress like that.

But it's a lot of work to edit out such a big aspect of my life.  It's tied to everything else, so it's hard to suss out and write about only the memory-worthy events.

My second problem with my journal is that I use a dated day per page diary as my journal.  (A large Moleskine daily diary, to be exact, for the third year in a row.)  In past years I've found this motivational, because a blank page for each day encourages me to write SOMETHING.  But with so many self-imposed constraints this year, I've tended to write nothing at all.

And so, my journal sits closed on my bedside table.

I thought maybe it would help to have my book sitting open somewhere on a table, and I could write into it throughout the day instead of waiting for time at the end of the day (which never happens.  By the time the kids go to bed I'm too tired and drained to write anything meaningful, let alone memorable.)  Writing short snippets throughout the day would probably give a better picture of my life anyway.  Kind of like Tweets, in my journal.

In fact, just yesterday I saw this awesome article via Moleskiners about how 18th and 19th century diaries were a lot like Tweets today.  And today, Moleskiners points out another article about journals, fearing they may soon become extinct in this age of electronic technology.

Journal-writers, how do you journal?  Do you write something every day?  Do you wait until you have a large block of time and write a bunch of pages all at once?

I guess when and how you write is at least partially determined by what you write about.  Is your journal your emotional dumping ground?  (Journals are great for that.)  Like me, do you try to write about things you want to remember? Do you try to create an accurate record of your life?  Or, do you just write whatever you feel like?

And while we're at it, what's your favorite book to write in for your journal?

(For those interested, here is what I use: a large, hard covered Moleskine day per page diary:)

Moleskine 2011 12 Month Daily Planner: Black Hard Cover Large (Moleskine Srl)


  1. Great minds! This is the exact book I use for my journal. Love it. I used to keep a journal section in my Filo but then panicked one time I left it at work at the end of the day.

    The last few years I used a blank book and wrote only when I felt the creative urge to...but I ended up with huge time gaps and tended to only write catastrophic things or lugubrious poetry. It seems the happy events rarely inspired me, sad to say.

    Now I use this daily Mole and write every evening before bed. Or, if it was a late night with a lot of Sangria, first thing the next morning. I write only brief snippets about the day and try to stick to the positive or things for which I was most grateful.

    Any major writing I feel compelled to do, I still do in a blank book, but I consider it more a commonplace book or book of prose than a journal.

    We'll see if I stick to this same format next year!

  2. Hi Laurie,

    I have been following you here for sometime, I came here via Philophaxy which I have followed for a long time now.

    I write in my journal every day. First thing in the morning, usually just the weather, and how my Bride is doing, we have been fighting a chronic illness with her for 14 years, and it helps to keep close track of her symptoms. I may make entries then during the day, but always in the evening, a bit of a summary of the days events.

    To augment my journal, I use a pocket day per page planner, and a small side spiral Rite in the Rain notebook (Model 393M), I have a leather cover for it, and I find it indespensible for notes that there isn't enough room for in the planner. They are very much like tweets to myself.

    I like to include something from current event, and my take on them several times a week. Recently it has been the Gulf oil spill, but may be on politics, the arts, anything could go in it. Doing this gives a little bit of perspective which may be of historical significance years down the road.

    I use many different notebooks for journals, right now a large squared Moleskine, but try to use roughly the same size all the time.

    I have used this method for about 20 years now. I am convinced that you need continuity and consistency over a long period of time to create a successful record. If I am travelling, I use a seperate travel journal. Each day in my planner, I cross reference on what volume and page you can find an account of that days events. Over the years when I need to look something up that happened years ago, it greatly expidites the search.

    I hope this is of help to you and your readers.

    Best regards,


  3. Many thanks to both of you! You have much more self-discipline than I have.

    Crofter, thank you for your comment and thanks for reading Plannerisms! I really like your method. This is the type of record I wish I had. I think it's key to have my journal open and with me often, to maximize those writing opportunities!

  4. Hi Laurie! I've started to journal when I was 9 years old. Currently, after a pause of maybe 2 years, I 'm using the Moleskine Large Daily planner (same as yours). Usually it's an outline of how my day went. Sometimes, it's solely about one particular issue.
    I returned to journalling, after keeping a gratitude diary for a few months. Ever done that? Each night you note down 5 (not more, not less!) things that you feel sincerely grateful for. Some days are so weird that you think you couldn't come up with just ONE little item. That's when you can note down the "BIG THINGS", like Healthy Kids, Sunshine, Kept deadline and stuff like this. It's great for focussing on the positive aspects on your life, rather than indulging in selfpity and feeling life is just not fair.
    Also, did you hear about this new trend, called One-line-a-day-diary (google it!)? You're supposed to capture your day in just one single line. I've never tried it, but I'm definitely intrigued by it!
    As for journalling time: usually I start with a few lines halfway into the morning, then finish it after dinner/before bed. Last two lines are completed the next morning.

  5. Jotje I like your ideas!

    I've never done the one line a day diary but I've seen lots of similar 5 year diaries. They used to be very popular in the early 1900's.

    In fact, have you ever read the book The Red Leather Diary? It's about a 5 year diary that someone found in a dumpster in New York when an old apartment building's storage basement was being cleaned out. The finder found the owner, who wrote the diary from her 14th birthday every day until the day before she turned 19, in the 30's. The writer of the diary was in her 90's when the book's author found her and interviewed her about her diary entries. Each entry was only a sentence or two, but she was a gifted writer and packed a lot of meaning into each short line. What a fascinating record of that time of her life. It's a great book!

  6. Hi Laurie,

    I don't think it is important to have your journal with you all the time, mine never leaves the house. What is important is that you have something small that you can keep in pocket or purse that you can jot down easily thoughts, feelings, impressions, or other things of interest. These make interesting reading in and of themselves, because only about 10-15% of that goes into my joural.

    It is not the vessel, but the content that is important.

    Best regards,


  7. Twitter to Journal App... someone will write it someday!!

    Personally I use a week on 2 page diary insert in my A5 Filofax for keeping my journal. I don't write in it every day, and then only brief notes. I use it for doing things like our Christmas newsletter.

    I used to keep a very detailed journal in my personal Filofax back in the 1980's around the time of the birth of my son, and although he jokes about me and Filofax, he did find reading the entries around his original birthday (20 Jan 1987) very interesting.

    I would only alter the format of diary I use if I started to write significantly more in my journal.

    These days my blog tends to be where I write about significant events...


  8. Laurie

    I have yet to make up my mind how to journal. For the past few years I've had a succession of Moleskine journals, large, pocket, plain, lined and squared. Sometimes in conjunction with a Moleskine 18month Weekly Notebook Diary and a separate journal to plan then record school holidays. I find it much easier to keep the children occupied if I have the holidays planned :D

    Currently I have everything in a large squared Moleskine, journalling front to back, planner back to front but I don't think it's working for me.

    I've just ordered my Moleskine 18mnth weekly notebook diary 2010 / 2011 and will be ordering my day to a page 2011 in due course. I've recently seen a very inspirational blog (www.annadenise.nl) with the journalling and sketching. I will probably continue with an undated notebook, always Moleskine of course, to carry with me for when I'm feeling wordy.

    All of my journals have their pages numbered consecutively and an index in the back, any reference to previously mentioned items is referenced back by page number. I then have a Moleskine large address book which I use as a consolidated index so I can find what I'm looking for.

    OK so I hadn't planned on writing an epic but there you go :D


    P.S. Laurie your blog is a recent discovery and I love it, thank you :D

  9. I have a separate book for my journaling. Each one is separate from the other - no name brand product, just books I pick up in random places. But they all have to have pretty covers. And what goes in these is anything I feel like writing about, mainly my feelings and important things that have happened. I have been doing this since my freshman year at college.

    For my daily "Tweets," I use the Filofax Day Planner sheets - http://www.filofaxusa.com/images/products/refills/line/131319.gif
    For the week, I use the week on two pages format. But each night, I take out a day planner sheet and organize it for the following day. I put everything that's on the weekly sheets' section for that specific day - I add appointments in the appointments sections, to-do items in the to-do section, anything important I need to remember in the Don't forget section (birthdays, etc). On the back, under the Notes section is where I keep my "Tweets" and anything else I want to remember specifically for that day - it can be anything - the weather, a random thought, medical information, how I'm feeling, etc. It's somewhat redundant to copy everything that is already on my weekly sheets, but this gives me a chance to reorganize what is there and gives me extra space for anything that pops up during the day.

    For my journaling, I don't get to do it on any regular basis so I do keep a list in my Filo of what I want to write about. So when I do get the chance, I know what I want to write about. I'd love to carve out time each day but it seems almost impossible with everything else I have to do during the day.

    I also have a separate journal (with a very nice etched leather cover) where I write letters to my late father. I started the day after he died and mainly write about important events that happen within the family. It's just my way of keeping his memory close. A have a list of topics in my Filo for this too.

  10. @kanalt: I'm very touched by you writing letters to your late father. What a wonderful idea!

  11. kanalt I agree that's a wonderful idea, to write to your late father.

    Karen I'm glad you are enjoying my blog! Thanks for reading! :)

    Steve my planner winds up being more like a journal sometimes, with little notes about cute things the kids did or said, the weather, etc. It's fun to flip back and see those types of little details of each day.

  12. Thanks guys. It's funny because I had had that pretty journal for a while - I loved it so much that I wanted to buy it (even though it was more than I would normally spend for a journal) but it was so pretty that I didn't want to use it. The week he was dying I knew what I would use it for. It's perfect.

  13. I've never been a consistent journaler. I've used everything from composition books, to pretty journals, to a page-a-day diary, to livejournal, to twitter. I've been wanting to make a foray into five-year diaries, and I think this post has inspired me to do it...

  14. I try to write in my journal every morning, reviewing the previous day and beginning an entry for the current day. Ideally, I would also write in my journal again in the evening but usually this doesn't happen and I only write in it in the mornings. If I miss a day (or two, or three...) then I try to catch up and write something for every day that I have missed. My journal does not contain much in the way of emotional rants, and mostly consists of short observations on my daily life. Entries are quite brief, usually not much longer than a paragraph. My current journal is an unlined, pocket-sized Quo Vadis Habana.

  15. Hiya Laurie,

    I've been journalling consistently for the last 6 years (with a period of inconsistency before that!), so I thought I'd give you a little insight into how I do it. Essentially, I don't force it! Originally, my journals were for one thing only - writing. And it had to be interesting things, no meaningless twaddle. But rules are boring, and in my case at least it didn't work. So, I've adapted my journalling. Sometimes I only want to write a to-do list to summarise my day. Sometimes I don't want to write at all, I just want to pull a sharpie/watercolours/felt tips out and doodle. I figure, it all says something about that day so it all counts as journalling! And I don't write every day. Sometimes, you just don't have enough time or anything at all to record. Occasionally I stick in magazine clippings of things that I've seen.

    Like Crofter, my journal never leaves the house (except when I'm travelling, but I usually finish the notebook I'm on before then and start a new one for travelling). If I really want to remember something to write down in it I'll scribble it in my planner, make a note on my phone or email myself to write about it later.

    The only "rules" I have now (more like guidelines really!) is that I won't write nasty things about people in my journals. I can talk about something that's happened, but it's not fair to immortalise angry thoughts about someone that I a) probably don't mean and b) will regret a few weeks down the line when I've got over whatever irked me. I learnt that from my 8 year old diaries, filled with rants about meaningless things my sister had done!

  16. Hey
    Just discovered your blog and Philofaxy - so glad there are other people like me!
    I have a journal that gets written into ad lib - every month has an entry, usually when there's something interesting happening.
    When I was younger I was terrible for starting a journal and then pausing and getting a new notebook!

  17. Thanks for your input everybody! I love hearing about how other people journal and use their notebooks.

    I have such great intentions, but lack the discipline I guess! There never seems to be a good time for me to sit down and write--being home all day with two preschoolers is not conducive to quiet reflective time! I never have the chunk of quiet time I feel like I need to journal the way I want to.

    I need to just accept that it will never happen that way with my current lifestyle, and do something more like Twitter in my journal I think!

    Something I have done in the past is use a day-per-page diary as a combined planner and journal, and I liked that a lot. It made a really nice record of my life at the time. I didn't write feelings in it much, just what I did and where I went, major news events, weather etc. I may try that again.

    Thanks again for all the inspiration everyone! :D


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