Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Finding a Journal to Love

A journal is a very personal choice. I have shopped for journals for a number of years. Along the way, I've found what works for me and what doesn't.

Here's what I've learned:

1. The computer doesn't work well for all my journaling needs. I need something that is portable. Life presents a variety of situations and challenges, and it's important that the journal can be carried to the bookstore, the library, the coffee shop, the bedroom, the porch, and so on.

2. The same journal doesn't suit everyone. My current journals are spiral-bound. My husband who is left-handed would not be able to use them comfortably. I have friends whose journals are smaller than mine and I know those small pages would frustrate me. I want room to spread out! And those popular ribbon markers just get in my way. The point is, what works for me won't necessarily work for you.

3. Trial and error is the true path to finding a journal you love to use. I know this sounds frustrating, but it's an honest insider's tip. There is no substitute for a little experience. Some people stop journaling before they have really begun, and they don't realize that the problem may be that they haven't found the right journal, or diary. A journal that really works will be as unique as you are. You may have to buy one, then try it, then buy another and try it, and finally find your true love several weeks later.

4. The ideal journal should meet your needs, your preferences, in every way, rather than being a task-master that requires you to fit it's mold. Watch, too, for those needs to change as your lifestyle changes. During the years when my children were in the elementary grades, I used the Country Diary which showed a week on a page and only required a few sentences from me each day. I recorded the weather, what we did, and an inspiration thought or important observation. I could do this easily while enjoying my morning cup of coffee. I didn't have the energy for longer passages. But it was a great way for me to stop and reflect for a few minutes. During one summer when I was trying to recharge myself, I used a very large journal that gave me space for sketches. I drew a simple sketch of each bird I saw and recorded what I saw in the outdoors around me. This was very refreshing, and just what I needed at the time. One of my friends uses her journal to record her exercise and food diary, then writes extra reflections alongside that. Lately, I have used two journals of different sizes: one for recording prayers and Bible study notes, and one for reflective writing about anything. So, think about what you really want to do in a journal before you buy one.

5. For the best results, take your time. I usually require several shopping trips before I finally find a journal that is right for me. Let these trips be a kind of joy break for you, and don't give up too easily. There are a lot of choices out there. Some of my favorite spots for finding something right are: Staples, Borders, and Walmart. Fancier options look wonderful, but often are too expensive for me to be comfortable with experimenting, and often they don't really do a better job. Book stores are good resources for journals. You can look around on Amazon and some other online shopping venues as well. You may find something special right on your home computer. For example, I recently discovered the French Country Diary online, which looks delightful. I had no idea it was even out there.

6. While you are looking, you can just use a simple, spiral-bound, subject notebook. It will work while you search and then you won't feel pressed to buy something that isn't quite right. That will also let you start your reflective exercises immediately, without waiting, and take advantage of the precious summer days when you have fewer demands on your time. It's much easier to build personal habits before the school year begins.


I know that some of you are now wondering what journal I am currently using, so here it is . . .

Right now I am using two deep red, spiral bound journals from Staples. They match, but are of two different sizes. The lines are spaced well apart and that makes them easy on the eyes. The journals fold back on themselves and sit perfectly flat, which lets me comfortably use both sides of the pages. One size fits down in my purse. I have enjoyed them very much. As I wrote above, one is for recording prayers and Bible study notes, and the other is for other kinds of reflective writing on any subject -- kind of like writing letters about my life to myself. It works well for me and gives me all the flexibility I need.


I hope some of you will share with the rest of us where you find the journal you love, how you use it, and what it looks like.

Happy Shopping!

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