Remember this one? – Questions to ask yourself when buying a new journal

I’ve learned a few things on this path to Self-Help Whisper-dom and though I’m no expert, I’m really an expert. (Yeah, I’m an enigma.) An expert at what NOT to do.

However, in this case, I’ve decided that I kinda/ sorta know a thing or two. I’m going to share a few things I’ve realized over my journal-buying days that may help you to avoid having several (or more) half-filled journals that only collect dust.


In the past, no kidding, I’ve had journals with one page written, then torn out, another page is written on, possibly with the phone number of my dentist when they called to remind me of an appointment and I had no scratch paper… and then more pages are written on and torn out. This is nothing new to those of you who know me. I am a creator/destroyer if you recall.

So, here’s the deal…

I have been writing in the same journal now for three years or so. Normally, it takes between three months and one year to fill a journal, depending on how often I write, how much I write, and what else I do in the journal (draw, paint. make graphs, etc.).

I am now an “everything” journal-er. I have bullet points and letters, conversations with deceased people (both sides) and prayers. I have typical journal entries about what I did on a certain day, a list of the prescriptions I take, pages dedicated to movies I want to see and books I want to read. You get the drift.

I wasn’t always this way but over the last five years or so, and certainly, since I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, I’ve attempted to keep “like things” with “like things”. So, that means, I keep all books on the shelf, except the one I’m reading, of course. I keep all my pants hanging in the same closet… and all shoes, music, and toiletries together. Not with each other — I mean, shoes in one closet, music on one shelf, toiletries in the bathroom cabinet. I mean, as much as possible. And I’m nowhere near perfect. But again, I think you get my point.

I used to have a Health Journal, a Dream Journal, a Poetry Journal, an Art Journal, and a Journal-Journal. Then I had one for therapy notes. Another for job searches. Man, that’s a lot of journals!

Now, I just pick up my journal and put whatever I want into it. Saves a lot of time and stress.

This last journal has been difficult for me. I don’t know why. There are months between some entries. Others are day-by-day-by-day and just when I think I’ve got the habit going… crickets. I don’t get it. There’re markers and organizational tips and doodles… and quite frankly, it’s become a bit of a mess. So, I decided to start all over again.

Off I went to the bookstore in search of a new journal. Little did I know I’d be faced with (what looked like) more than a hundred choices.


That is why I decided to write this post today. Had I not known what I was looking for, I might have chosen a shiny newcomer because it was on sale, or pretty, or clever, or not-quite-right but I thought I could work with it.

Note: You may work with it for a week or two but for the long haul? Not likely. I speak from experience.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before you head out to the store:

  • How much do I want to spend? Journals can cost from $1 at the dollar store to $30+ at a bookstore… up to $50+ at an office supply store. Of course, online stores now also carry journals for great prices. For me, journaling is personal and intimate, so I prefer in-person shopping. I’m one of those people who like to hold it in my hands and get a feel for how it will be to write in it for months or years to come.
  • Do I want lined paper or blank? I’ve had both. I prefer lines because I have arthritis and vision issues… it helps to keep me on track. However, if I draw something really cool, it’s pretty-much ruined with the lines running through it. Others may feel it looks juvenile. I get that.
  • Will I be using ink to write? Pencil? Pastels? Watercolor? Will I be pasting things in… like photos? This speaks to the quality of paper you’ll need. I write kind of hard anyway, which creates shadows on the backside of the page, if not a full-on reverse mirror-image that blurs and distorts the writing on that page. I will say this: if you plan on using your journal for artwork, get the sturdiest paper you can afford. And yes, the price definitely goes up with the quality of the paper inside the journal.
  • Do I want it to fit in my purse or pocket? What size journal do I want? I love carrying a journal in my purse for when inspiration strikes, but I hate how the pages get smushed up by my wallet jammed back in my purse in a hurry, or a pack of gum or pretty-much anything. Also, I have trouble writing on a small space and reading it afterward. Scratch the tiny journals for me. I also don’t want it huge because I would feel compelled to fill the large pages. Too much anxiety there. Ha! But seriously.
  • Do I need it to securely close? Yes, I’d like it to securely close, in case I do want to carry it to the doctor or on holiday. The one I got today (pictured below) has a zipper. Totally cool! I could put keepsakes in there. I love it!
  • Do I want it to lock? Believe it or not, the old-fashioned “Diary” style locked book we wrote in as girls is not dead! I saw one today. For me, as an adult in a trusting relationship, I have no need for a lock. In my first marriage, yeah, I might have locked it but that would have been like a neon-sign inviting my first husband to check it out. In cases like that, I suggest that while we all need a safe place to process, be careful with any journal (locked or not) and put it somewhere safe and secure. (Also, seek therapy, legal, and/or spiritual counsel.)
  • How do I want the pages bound? Let me tell you why this matters. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to write on the left-hand page when the pages are sewn or pasted together in the middle. Half the page is useless and you’re writing over a rolling hill of paper. Totally annoying. I prefer spiral wire holding the pages together so you get the full-page on either side.
  • Do I want prompts to write or blank pages to create? As you can see, there are many choices for prompt-type journals. I’ve received a few as gifts and loved them. I tended to fill them out in one afternoon or over a few days instead of over the course of weeks or months. For me, I kind of always come back to blank pages. But it’s really up to you! 
  • Do I want elegance, simplicity or something fun for the cover? What will lure you to the journal to write? I chose a simple cover, in leather, and a nice solid color. To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled with the embossed “Thoughts & Theories” but the rest of it was SOOOOOOOOOOO much *exactly* what I wanted, when NO others were. So yeah, I will gladly ignore “theories” and keep the rest.


So, is it time to buy a journal? Let me know what you decide and if my questions helped you to decide!

“Documenting little details of your everyday life becomes a celebration of who you are.” 
― Carolyn V. HamiltonArt Improv 101: How to Create a Personal Art Journal

“Remember this one?” posts = Originally posted by me for this blog on March 3, 2018 


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