A Journaling Life

Since I’ve been talking so much about writing lately, I thought I’d share some of my journals with you. Basically, I write in my journal as a way to express my thoughts and feelings without always dumping them on someone else (mainly my husband). I try to do it several times a week, though sometimes it’s just not possible. I do keep a list in my Filofax of topics I want to write about in my journal so that if I don’t have the time, I can remember what it is I want to write about. When I was not feeling well a month or so ago and I was so down, I wrote in my journal every morning. It was a form of therapy for me, and I don’t think I would have made it through that very rough time without my journal.

I don’t have a ritual when it comes to writing, though I prefer it to be quiet (some un-distracting music is nice) and I usually have a cup of coffee by my side. I can’t write in front of the television, it just distracts me too much, and I can’t write when I’m pressed for time. I end up rushing through everything, worrying about where I have to be, and I skip over the very important things I want and need to get out and down on paper.

I like the idea of taking my journal to Starbucks or a café, but it seems a bit cliché to me. Or, rather, I feel like people look at me and think it’s cliché, and that makes me feel uncomfortable and self-conscious even though I shouldn’t care what other people think. Also, it’s an issue of privacy. More than once, I’ve had people comment on my writing—not what I’m writing so much as my handwriting. They have interrupted me to tell me how nice it is. And while that’s quite a compliment, I find myself annoyed at this—are they spying on what I’m doing without my knowledge, and worse, are they reading what I’m writing? I will occasionally take my journal to Starbucks or Panera for some quiet writing time, but I always look for a table somewhat away from others, and definitely far away from the door, garbage can and/or register since it’s these places where people feel it’s okay to spy on the happenings of others.

I have been officially journaling since I was a freshman in college. My roommate did also and she talked me into it. She used marble notebooks as her journals, but I was determined that mine would be pretty and inspiring. I happened to have a book already handy for such a thing, so it’s what I started with. The very first line is “College is great.” Not very profound, but you have to start somewhere, right?

Generally, I prefer books that are spiral bound, only because they are easier to write in. However, I’m more drawn to the cover of a book, so I will overlook the lack of spirals if the cover is something I like. Each book has a number written in the corner on the first page. This is the number of journal I’m up to. I am now on number 22. That’s not really a lot of journals considering I started in 1996—14 years ago (wow!). My mom starts a new journal every few months. She writes almost every day. I wish I had that kind of time and that much to say. Some periods of my life have been more active than others, though.

I have posted some pictures of a few of my favorite journals on Flickr. This is a book I acquired somehow when I was in junior high. I didn’t use it as a journal per se, though I ended up adding some keepsake items from those years. It’s not full and I often feel like an idiot when I look at it, at some of the things I said and kept. But that’s part of the process, I guess.

At one point, I had a half-full, half-empty journal. You see one side, and if you flip the book over and upside down, you see the other side. The idea is to write about positive thoughts in the half-full side and negative thoughts in the half-empty side. I didn’t use it this way, though. I didn’t want one side to be fuller than another, so I just picked a side and started writing. When I got to the midway point, I flipped the book over and continued until I met the middle again.

This journal is one of my favorites because of the leaf. I love autumn and leaves. The top cover is a clear thin sheet. When you lift it up, you can see the overlay page that covers the leaf. When you lift up the overlay sheet, you can clearly see the page with the leaf. All of the top sheets are somewhat see-through, so I had to color in the sides so you don’t see my writing. I’m a little shy about what it written in my journals.

This one and this one I love because they refer to coffee, another love of mine. You can see how many keepsake items I’ve stuffed into the second one.

This one I love because it represents the stereotypical librarian glasses. I’m sad that mine look nothing like this. I don’t have the face shape that’s required to carry them.

This is the journal I am using now. The cover just says home and comfort to me, which goes along with most of what’s written in here so far. I started this journal when I was feeling down and wanted to be home all of the time. It was a comfort not only to write in it, but also just looking at it.

Finally, this is the journal I use for writing to my father. I started this journal the day after my father died. I write to him when I have something specific to say. On average, I write in it once or twice a month. I bought this journal on a whim. I had been eyeing one like it for a long time but given that it was more expensive than the average journal you might find, I originally held off on it. Then one day, I just decided to buy it. It took me a long time to decide what I would use it for. During the last week of my father’s life, I decided that I would use it for writing to him once his battle was over and he left us.

I keep all of my journals in my bedroom side table. This piece has a cupboard underneath a drawer and it’s the perfect place for them. As you can see from the photo above, I will soon run out of room in there. I don’t know where my journals will go once I get to that point, but I still have some time yet to decide.


  1. I must have owned one hundred journals in the last 20 years. I throw them away when I'm done even if they were expensive. I have this fear that someone might read them!I have some regret.
    I find journals indispensable form of release.

    I've always wished to make a beautiful journal plus sketchbook of my observations and experiences but I've never had the time. Maybe a five year journal would be a good substitue? Minimal time, minimal space, not afraid people would read it yet capturing what was going on in my life.

    I see you have no moleskine journals. Is this because you haven't tried one or you beat to your own drummer? I personally think white bond type paper is most pleasant to write on.

  2. And to think - someone could have picked up a journal from the garbage and is holding on to it because the writing is so exquisite and no one knows who the writer is. It's like a movie! ;)

    It does unnerve me a little knowing that when I'm gone, someone could get a hold of my journals. Or, now for that matter. But I completely trust the people who would ever be close enough to my journal not to invade my privacy like that. And when I'm gone, they will either think I'm an idiot because of the mundane ramblings I do or they'll think I'm marvelous for leading such a wonderful life (ha!). I think it's more likely to be the former.

    When I started journaling I didn't know about Moleskines. I do like the paper and I would consider using them for some other purpose, but they're too bland (as far as the cover goes) for me to use as my journal. I'm not a creative artsy type who will make it pretty - I have no talent for that. So I just buy ones that are already pretty.

  3. I, too, am a journal collector though in recent years, have not devoted much time to writing in them - I just pick them up because I like them. I know - sounds weird - but it's a stationery fetish (y'know filofaxes, pretty papers, fountain pens, calligraphy nibs, glass pens, inks, etc.)

    I was much moved by your Dad journal - what a lovely way to continue/retain your special bond with him.

  4. I completely understand the stationery fetish, though I tend to limit mine to journals and Filofaxes.

    Thanks so much for your compliment.

  5. Thanks for sharing all your journals. I wish I had kept hold of some of mine from younger but I come from a big family and so someone would have found them and used them for entertainment! I didn't feel I had enough privacy. Using one to write to your father is so beautiful and nostalgic. I am sorry for your loss.

  6. Thanks, CP! It's understandable with a big family that you wouldn't want to keep journals around. I would probably feel the same way if I were in the same situation.

  7. I keep journals too. :-) I store mine is those flowery boxes you can get in TK Maxx, but when I buy my house they shall have a cupboard in my study!

  8. I would love to display mine too, but I wouldn't want people to pick them up and rifle through them and (horrors!) read what I've written. In my current place, I don't have any book shelves except for in the entry way, so that's not a good place for them to be. ;)


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