29 November 2011

On Journaling: How to Pick a Journal

A few weeks ago I shared the story of why I journal. 

Since starting my journal journey back in elementary school, I've had a good many journals. 

Some plain.  Some artistic.
Some simple. Some elaborate.
Some large. Some little.

Once blank and full of potential. Now filled and complete with mistakes and memories. With dreams and answered prayers.

There is nothing like the promise of a new journal. The grip of the clean pages. They draw you in, and with the very first swipe of the pen, are uniquely you.

Here are a few things to consider when picking a journal.

Are you a perfectionist or do you embrace your mistakes?
If you are a perfectionist and can see yourself wanting to disgard any prose that aren't quite perfect, consider a journal with easy-to-tear-out pages (such as a spiral journal). The more pages you tear out of a more intricately bound book, the more likely your journal pages might begin to fall out on their own. I tend to use my journal for all kinds of things (grocery lists, to-do lists, lists and lists) so it's important that I can tear out those pages and go. 

Pen or pencil?
For me, a journal, in all its beauty and mess, is permanent. I am my mistakes so I like to write in pen and just let it roll, crossing things out if they're not quite write. I love to see the progression of my writing as I search for just the right word. But if you are using a journal as a calendar as well or you just prefer to be more fine tuned, a pencil might be perfect for you.

A few things to consider. Pencil, although easily changed, can rub off on other pages as you work through the book. You might go back to read pages from a few months ago only to find that they have rubbed themselves unreadable.

I like to use a gel pen for optimal speed and smoothness. However, if I get too quick or get lazy with my pinky, it smudges everywhere.

Where will you write? 
This might sound silly, but this is a big factor for me in choosing my next journal. During college I would lie lazily on stomach in bed penning poetry and I loved when I could fold my journal over itself (like a spiral bound or one with a floppy cover). Now I use my journal a lot for writing in church and small group (or while sitting at a table) so a hardbound book is perfect.

What will you write?
Well, maybe you don't plan to write at all. Maybe your journal is for your doodles and drawings. Then a sketch book it is! If you're like me in my Harriet the Spy Days then a wide ruled book's for you. These days it's easy for my handwriting to be really floppy and swoopy so I like to write in college ruled journals with the thinner lines to kind of restrain my letters from going all the way back to kindergarten. If you're like my husband, then you love graph paper- something about all those boxes just begging to be filled. I've also seen some composition notebooks that are blank on the top of the page and ruled at the bottom. The best of both worlds!

What's your attention span?
Confession, I get bored really easily. Same old same old and after a while I need a change. Whenever I have had really thick journals, after a while I would want a new one leaving blank pages left hanging at the end. So now I skip the giant novel-sized journals and opt for the skinnier books so that as soon as I get bored with the cover or the paper color or texture, bam it's time to pick out a new one!

What's your style?
There are so many beautiful journals out there just begging to be black or blue with ink! I love the little journals you can find in the Michaels discount bin for just a buck. Perfect for tossing in my purse. I found my current journal at my local Christian Bookstore. Here are some other spots to check out:

Starting a journal is like beginning a new chapter. As our days unfold, the pages wait to hear the stories that we share.

I love thumbing through an old journal and seeing words pop out here and there. 

(from mine: spiritual, arise, strengthen, Jesus, humble)

Are you new to the idea of journaling? Picking out a journal for the first time? I'd love to see what you chose!


Check out the other entries in the On Journaling series.


  1. I love all your tips! I totally agree about getting smaller journals. I hate looking back at my large ones with lots of empty pages at the end. I always want a new journal at the start of a new season like when we move or I start a new job, that way I know I have a whole journal dedicated to just that one time in my life. Its funny how the journal I pick during that time says a lot about what I was going through too. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, loved the post!!


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