How to Make a Journal Index


Like any printed volume worth its salt, your journal deserves an index. Here are some ideas for making a fun and creative table of contents for your journal to help you keep track of entries or just to add some visual interest to a text-heavy notebook.

Why Index your Journal?

From satisfying OCD to getting your hands dirty, there’s many reasons to create an index for your journals. See if any of these speak to you:

Stretch your creative muscles

A journal index provides space to be creative and visual, just like embellishing the cover and spine.

If you favor journal writing over art journaling, your notebooks may look a lot like mine: text-heavy and filled with block lettered black ink.

Sometimes you want to be more creative or visual in your journaling, but the giant face of a blank page is just overwhelming. The index is a controlled space in which to experiment with more visual elements, color, creativity. You may find that working on your index inspires you to add more visual and creative elements elsewhere in your journal, whether it’s by decorating the cover and spine or breaking out the colored pencils within the regular pages of our day to day writing.

My journals are almost 100% text, but the indexes are often visual and filled with drawings and the scraps of daily life. They are the most lively parts of my journals.


Shape your narrative

Journaling creates of narrative of your life. Your joyful, messy, important life. Creating an index of each volume emphasizes this narrative, clarifies it. Just like any valuable non-fiction book, it needs a table of contents.

Keep track of relevant posts

Creating an index allows you to find relevant posts later on. If your index includes useful queues to the information within, you can use it to locate that particular entry you’re looking for.


Provide a sense of completion

Finishing a journal is a big accomplishment. Try making a ritual of wrapping up the volume by finalizing the index.

I usually make entries in the index as I go, but I don’t complete it with tabs and page numbers until I’ve filled the entire journal.

Once I’m done with the index, I create the tabs and affix them to the pages represented in the index. It provides a sense of completion. This little ritual has become one of my favorite parts of journaling and it allows me to pay homage to the book that has kept me company every day for many weeks.

Collect your favorite quotes and phrases

You can use your index to capture particularly stunning bits of writing. Occasionally in the midst of my daily writing, I pull out a colorful phrase that I don’t want to lose to the depths of my journal and I think, “THAT’S going in the index!” I’ll pause in my prose and scribble it in the next blank section of the index. It makes for spectacular reading later on.

I took my most recent journal index in a new direction by capturing overhead and overseen phrases that struck my fancy. It reminds me of the running list of fake band names I used to maintain, filled with turns of phrase I came across in my daily reading and conversations.

How to Structure Your Journal Index

The Blueline Notebook I use come with a ready-made index with a space for page number and description. I usually end up using the “page number” space for words or pictures.


Numbering your pages may provide you with a sense of order and calm. Or you might feel it’s a complete waste of time. Page tabs or dividers can remove the need for numbered pages. Do whatever works for you!

I rarely number my pages. Of my 127 completed notebooks, exactly three have numbered pages. I tried, I really did. Discipline has never been my strong suit. I’ve also discovered throughout the years is that the bottom corners of the pages get curled, torn, or wet and smeared anyway, rendering many of the numbers illegible or invisible.

Here are some indexes I’ve made throughout the years to give you an example of one way to do it.





This is one of my rare journals that makes use of page numbers:


(My Flickr Journal Index Photo Set has lots more examples and photos for you to check out if you’re interested.)

Some possible ways to index:

  • Date – straightforward enough – just choose an interval and go with it
    Event – if you’re an active person involved in lots of engagements, breaking your journal out by event might work well.
  • Week #— I recently learned that some Europeans view the entire year in terms of weeks, which can be particularly handy for archiving. So instead of relying on that sloppy system of months with varying lengths and dates that start on inconvenient days of the week, you can use week #26, week #37 etc.
  • Epiphany – whenever you find yourself writing an entry with a particularly useful revelation, note it in your index for safe keeping. This is the method I tend to rely on most.

When to Make Your Journal Index

There’s basically two choices in building your index – writing it as you go, or doing it when the notebook is complete. (Unless you’re psychic, and then you can complete your index ahead of time.)

I’ve found a combination of the two to be useful. I fill out the main parts as I’m writing, and then add in the markers and tabs when it’s done. Sometimes I don’t get around to making the tabs, and that’s okay, too.

You can certainly make a fun project of returning to old journals and creating an index for them now.

Here’s what my current journal looks like — it’s in progress so I haven’t completed the index or fleshed it out yet.


What to Include in Your Journal Index

Dreaming up the contents of your index is the fun part!

You could include an actual sentence from the section you’re indexing, the date and location, synopsis of an event, or why the entry is relevant.

Include found objects from your travels in your index. Turn it into an adventure, and keep an eye out for bits as you go about your day. Newspaper headlines, parking meter receipts, stubs, anything with the day or date on it can be used in your index.

Magazine covers are a goldmine for this sort of excavation. They often reference the date or time of year in fun and clever ways.


I feel like I’ve struck gold when I can find ones that reference both time and place:


Carry a retractable craft knife with you in case you come across a stellar piece of print for your index. Like while reading those woefully out of date magazines in the doctor’s waiting room. The Olfa Touch Knife is my favorite for travel and I never leave home without it. It’s less than two bucks and fits in your purse or bag quite easily. Based on my last trip, you can even get through airport security with it! A glue stick makes a perfect travel-friendly adhesive.


The essential old stand-by, the interminable X-Acto Knife is a close runner up but doesn’t travel as well because the cap tends to fall off and then you can spear yourself if you’re not careful. Definitely keep a few of these in your desk, though. You can tear out print during your daily travels and trim it down later.

You’re not limited to print media — you can find inspiration anywhere. I recently carved the label off a Listerine bottle because it encompassed exactly where I was at the moment:


It’s all up to you. You can even make your index largely visual, and just create shapes or illustrations as the dividing points. I have a few journals with indexes that rely almost solely on symbols and shapes. I don’t find them very helpful to revisit, but it was fun at the time.

Helpful Materials for Making Your Journal Index

Notebooks are a very personal choice based on how, where, why and when you journal. But I highly recommend giving the Blueline Notebook a shot for many reasons, not the least of which is the built-in index it comes with and the self-adhesive tabbed dividers for sticking on pages.


You can easily create an index in any notebook however. Just save a blank page or two at the beginning of the notebook and pick up some adhesive tabs at the office supply store. You can also get these fun and fancy adhesive tabs on Amazon.

Here’s an index I made in a standard composition notebook:


In addition to the Olfa Touch Knife I mentioned earlier, I also recommend rubber cement and glue sticks. Glue sticks travel much better than a jar of rubber cement, and they even come in repositionable formula now. Rubber cement is my favorite medium for paper adhesion, but it’s best stored upright on your desk.

I put together a little Journaling Saves Amazon store to capture all my favorite journaling items that I recommend – there’s a special category called Index & Embellish. Check it out!

Do you index? Do you have any ideas for us to try while making our journal indexes? Please share in the comments!

If you make an index you’d like to share, add it to the Journaling Saves Photo Pool on Flickr so we can all ooh and ahh. I’ve uploaded several more examples of my own journal indexes in my Journal Index set.

Journaling on Location

Journaling on location: front porch of Chaos Cottage, Somerville, MA

We already know it’s important to date your journal entries. But documenting your location is also a valuable step toward creating a full picture of your “day in the life.” Here are some ideas for incorporating your whereabouts in your journal entries to create a clear big picture snapshot.

Wish You Were Here

A journal entry is like a postcard to ourselves. The location is just as important in capturing the slice of time as what is going through your head. You wouldn’t send someone a postcard from Paris, blank except for the phrase, “Wish you were here.” Um, wish you were where?!

We are always somewhere. When and where is why we write – to create that perfect postcard to ourselves. To make a tiny imprint of this time and place.

Where Am I?

Consistently documenting your location as you begin a journal entry can be an excellent way to get the hand moving. For those of you who ask, What should I write about? this tool is a fantastic start.

Just ask yourself, “Where am I?” If you’re hitting that blank page like a brick wall, detailing where you are (and why) is a great way to get warmed up.

Where you are is the beginning of any story you want to tell, even if you don’t think the story itself has much to do with place. This is because, when documenting your location, it’s natural to share your feelings about where you are. Or, more interestingly, why you are there.

“I am here, again.”

“I am here — finally!”

“I am here, as usual! :)”

“I am here, unfortunately.”

“I don’t know why, but I’m here.”

If you’re feeling stuck, starting with a similar phrase can get the hand moving, freeing up the journaling process so you can continue writing more easily.

At the junction of California & Fauntleroy.

Staking out your space

I’ve written about my recommendations for finding a place to journal. I’ve also said that having a perfect place isn’t as important as you’d think.

The variety of locations I’ve journaled is extensive. And I don’t mean Destinations — like Bali, Boca or Beirut. (Since I’m a nester and a homebody, I’m not very well traveled. I do confess to frequenting Boca, but we’ll blame that on my parents.)

By location, I mean the bathroom stall of Friendly’s restaurant in Branford, CT. The front seat of my 1985 VW Golf. The A train, the Red Line, the commuter rail. My overgrown city garden. The roof of my houseboat.

Journaling on the roof of my empty houseboat, the sad night before I sold it. (Note to self: Pedicure.)

Combining location (roof of houseboat) with date (late June) sets the stage for the deep entry I’m committing to paper. A failed undertaking, a failed relationship, and the small death of a big dream.

As I begin to re-read that entry, I will clearly remember what it felt like to sit on the roof of that boat overlooking the sunset water, feeling the gentle rock, watching the sailboats glide by. The words will have more significance. My moment in time will be captured more clearly.

When location speaks for itself

If you get creative with your writing materials, you don’t need to say where you are. Your journal entry can speak for itself.

Although Blueline notebooks contain my preferred choice of paper, on occasions I am forced to document my days elsewhere. I am almost never without my journal. But on the occasions when I don’t have it with me, or if it wouldn’t be appropriate to pull it out and start writing, I’ve made do with a surprising assortment of alternatives.

This bluebook is from a high school final exam. Since we weren’t allowed to bring in other materials during the test, I took an extra bluebook so I could write when I finished my exam. (Essay tests were not exactly a challenge for me. Algebra, on the other hand…)

Journaling on location: Final Exams.

My first job out of college was as an administrative assistant at Fleet Bank. At the time I favored huge Clairefontaine notebooks, which were not easily concealed at the reception desk. I began writing on company letterhead, incognito.

Company stationery captures my first job out of college as an administrative assistant at Fleet Bank.[

While working as a grocery store cashier, I wasn’t allowed to journal at my register, per se. But being 15, everything was extremely important, and I couldn’t possible let a day pass undocumented. Especially when I had a raging crush on my co-worker and I’d write to pass the hours until his shift started.

These rain checks will do just fine. There’s a huge stack of them at each register.

Dear diary, please let Terry be working today.

Actually, the blank backs of these register cash-out slips ended up working much better, being narrower and longer and therefore easier to conceal while scribbling madly on my fruit scale. I have an enormous stack of them from my brief employment at the IGA Supermarket.

Cash out, check in.

And many years later while (angrily) awaiting friends in a bar, a stack of clever Brew Moon coasters served as parchment.

Words and pints.

The best part about these occasional deviations from the normal bound journal is that they truly capture the “where” of that day. I can write, “Oh hai, I’m at Brew Moon in Harvard Sq.” Or I can just start writing on a coaster stained with microbrew, and know years later when I hold it in my hand I’ll be closer to that night than any flat white sheet could get me.

This exhibit hopefully re-inforces my belief that you can write anywhere. While it’s comforting to have a perfect spot to journal, it’s not necessary. Don’t let lack of a pristine location keep you from journaling. (If I can write on a bus station toilet and live to tell about it, you can make do with whatever is at your disposal.) If you need to write, you’ll find a way. Just apply a little bit of what my family calls “Yankee Ingenuity.”

I also hope you are inspired to start making a note of your location when you begin writing. In my book, it’s nearly as important as dating your journal entries.

» How about you? Do you include your location when you journal? Have you used “found” stationery to claim your space? Tell us all about it in the comments below!

Save the Date!

A surprising number of readers have emailed me with the same journaling question:

“Should I date my journal entries?”

The short answer is yes.

But what fun is a short answer?

A Shameful Lack of Dates

Earlier this week, I went to the Salon of Shame — a fabulous recurring event in Seattle where adults read their teenage diaries on stage to entertain a theater full of strangers. By choice.

Tuesday night, three different readers commented on their lack of dated journal entries. I was dumbfounded and totally blown away. It’s called a journal for Pete’s sake! A diary? As in, An Account Of Your Day. A specific day. A day so important you decided to write about it and commit its memory to paper for all eternity!

Yet it wasn’t important enough to write a simple string of numbers at the top of the page?

It’s time to stop this senseless epidemic of undated journal entries and get you folks writing a few numbers at the top of your page.

You should date them because if the day you are documenting was important enough to scribble three long hand pages about, it was important enough to pinpoint in time.

You should date them because if you choose to leave your journals behind for others to read, they will need this crucial information.

You should date them because if you decide to read your entries again (especially on stage for a theater full of strangers), chances are you won’t remember the time and place.

I won't forget this date - my first big wipeout on the Frankenstella, a scooter with a formerly beautiful custom paint job.

The Interstate Archive

The idea of undated entries freaks me out because I’m an archivist at heart. I have been creating a multimedia archive of my life since I was 6 years old.

It started with diaries and sketchbooks. When my photographer dad taught me to use an SLR camera, the archive evolved into chronological photoessays. I added video a couple of years later when I inherited a second-hand camcorder.

I used to carry a mini tape recorder around with me everywhere I went to document the happenings of my life and interview the people around me – family, friends and complete strangers on the street. I frequently added ticket stubs to what’s become a two-foot-high stack, chronicling the thousands of bands I’ve seen over the past 20 years.

A small sampling of my obsessive chronological archive.

I was sure I’d found the promised land when I started blogging in 2001. For the first time ever, I could combine all of these media into one project. It was so inspiring that I didn’t sleep that summer. I began posting daily and never looked back.

But then several years ago, I began to wonder if my obsessive desire to document my days was interfering with actually experiencing them. It was around the same time I decided I didn’t want to be a music journalist anymore.

Standing at the foot of a stage, bathed in lights and sound, the bliss was sullied by my knowledge that I would need to explain the perfection away when I got home. Instead of feeling the music, I was writing rough drafts in my head. It was infuriatingly un-Zen.

I stashed my reporter notebook, replaced my lens cap, and called it a night.

Only my daily journaling continued, the sole survivor of this archived life. Perhaps that’s why those dated pages felt even more important than ever.

( Alcohol was ruled a factor. )

Scavenger Hunts and Collectibles

My life partner, the almighty Blueline Notebook, features a handy field to write the date on every single page.

I actually use this spot, because it makes it easy to locate a specific time when flipping through a full journal. You can glance at the top corner and see exactly where you are in the volume.

(The awesome Table of Contents and writable tabs are useful for the same reason.)

But I still enjoy finding creative solutions to dating my entries. One of the best reasons to discipline your dating: it provides a reason to search your daily life for detritus with dates. Receipts, ticket stubs, calendar scraps. It’s like that magic number you start seeing everywhere once you look for it.

Parking stickers are a bonus because they feature date, time and place:

I guess it’s time to confess my closet obsession with date stamps. (And just when I was starting to win you over to how sensible dating your journal entries is.)

I love featuring the date because then I get to collect tools like vintage library stamps:

I especially covet date stamps with weird subject matter. Here’s a sampling of some I culled from a few of my recent journals:

One of my favorite date/time and place stamps came from a summer job working at a train station:

It’s fun to keep an eye out during your travels for creative ways to add the date to your journal. Give it a try. It turns your day into a scavenger hunt.

Not in an adventurous mood? A pen will work just fine.

But whatever you use, for the love of God, please date your journal entries!

I’m curious: Do you date your journal entries? Why or why not? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Moleskine Passions Wellness Journal: Review and Photos

The Moleskine Passions Wellness Journal is the health-focused edition of the Moleskine Passions line. This particular journal is intended to help you track your diet and exercise.

The Moleksine Passions journals are relatively new and focus on all kinds of stuff that people love to get worked up about (wine, music, taxidermy, etc.). Moleskine is a believer in equal opportunity and offers a specialized Passions journal for a wide variety of hobbies and interests – “Journals for the loves of your life.” Awww.

I’ll take you on a little guided tour of the Wellness Journal and highlight some of the cool features. I’ll also point out how I’d improve this journal, if Moleskine ever gets around to asking my valuable opinion. I am, after all, their target market.

In upcoming posts, I will be covering a few other journals I’ve picked up recently related to health and wellness. Check back soon because those just might be your ticket to eternal youth and vitality. (At the very least they’ll provide a stylish spot to track your dietary transgressions.)

Without further ado, I give you: the Moleskine Wellness journal.

Oooh – it’s so pretty!

Moleskine Wellness Journal Cool Features

You can click on any of the photos to get a closer view.

Pretty Embossed Hardcover

The Wellness Journal is beautifully packaged – it is a Moleskine, after all. Oh, look – it’s healthy people doing yoga, right on the cover! Aren’t you feeling inspired just sitting here?

embossed hardcover
Blank Tabs for Personalization

This section features six blank tabs you can personalize with your own labels (or the labels included).

Moleskine Wellness Journal blank tabs photo
blank tabs for personalization

The included labels are not very useful — who keeps track of Facebook pages on paper or manually writes down web addresses? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, Luddite. There’s just… more elegant solutions.

labels for blank tabs

But labeling the blank tabs with something meaningful to you is a great idea. And it may even help make up for the paltry Food log section since it can be used to supplement your diet tracking.


The back of the journal features a customizable index and a sturdy double expanding pocket. The pocket is pretty awesome and can hold quite a bit of stuff — like gym schedules, photos, or articles.

journal index

I’ve actually used up all these bright green stickers already, even though I have yet to write in my Wellness Journal. They’re fabulous when used totally out of context. Eye-opener?! Let your imagination run wild.

stickers for entries
Ribbon Placekeepers

No skimping, here — THREE ribbons! And they’re all shiny. I may surgically remove these and implant them in my beloved Blueline notebook.

pretty ribbon place keepers
Back Pocket

I heart stuff to put stuff in.

expanding file pockets

Moleskine Wellness Journal Contents

Here’s an outline of the specific sections of the journal.

Introductory Pages

Front of the journal contains:
2 Planning pages – event, date and notes columns – probably good for logging upcoming races, etc.

planning view

Food Calendar for the Northern and Southern hemispheres – showing what’s in season during which months – kind of irrelevant in this global economy but good for those of you following the 100 mile diet.

Food Facts – brief list of foods with calories, carbs, protein, and fat figures. It’s severely limited in the produce department but lots of info on beef, beer, donuts, and potato chips (did somebody say “wellness?”). Also has 2 blank pages for you to fill in your own foods. If you’re eating something other than Vienna sausage and sour cream.

International Sizes – shirt, suit, jeans and shoe size conversions for men and women. Most Moleskine journals contain information like this, which I can’t imagine ever being useful, unless you often find yourself traveling internationally to purchase your jeans. Which you might. I guess. Hey – send me a postcard.

Useful Measures and Conversions – liquid and dry measures, length, weight, temperature and speed. Another section I don’t see the point in with Google at my fingertips 24/7. But perhaps the liquid and dry measures could be useful in your food tracking or something.

Personal Goals Tab

An area to track weekly, monthly and annual goals. Super handy.

Exercise Log

Many pages to track your workouts, what you did, the intensity, the weather. Lots of fun icons to use (and you can apply the stickers included in the back section to make notes about each workout).


This section is confoundingly slim. There’s more room to track the scores of your intramural volleyball games than your new gluten-free diet. I’m not sure why. The irritating part to me is that this section only provides 29 days worth of space to track your food. But the exercise contains over three months worth of pages. And the Personal Goals tab allows you to create goals for up to a year.

diet section detail

Since I bought this notebook mainly for the food tracking section, I’m very disappointed in it. And this section is the deal-breaker for me.

General Health

A place to track your supplement intake and lab test results. Which sounds good in theory but something about writing stuff like that down in a notebook with your name and address on it that could be easily misplaced or stolen just gives me the willies.

Games / Sport

This section allows you to keep track of games you played, who you played against and what the score was. I don’t know anyone who would actually do this. I also don’t know why you’d want to. But hey — here’s a spot if you feel moved. Who am I to judge?


I like the Inspirations section a lot — maybe because it’s most like journaling to me. This section provides mostly blank pages for you to paste images, copy down quotes, or spell out affirmations.

inspiration pages

In Summary…

Overall I had high hopes for this journal. But it really leaves much to be desired. It feels like they created the product just to have something to market and sell, rather than to think about how it would actually be best used.

The quality is of course up there. At least that’s consistent with Moleskine’s other products. The cover is really cool with embossed images of people doing yoga and running. And it has three ribbons to keep track of your various sections.

My recommendations would be to triple the pages in the blank tab sections to allow for personalization, and to extend the diet section by 2 months so it at least matches the workout log in length.

Or even better – to make it an arty mini three-ring binder with refills.

So that’s it in a nutshell. They’re a little pricey, but you can pick one up at Amazon at a considerable discount – and support Journaling Saves in the process!

Do you have thoughts on this Moleskine journal? Speak your mind in the comments below. Also let me know if you’ve tried the other Passions journals and what you thought of them. (Especially the Taxidermy one.)

Plants vs. Zombies, IRL

This is a guest post by my lovely and talented sister, Kelley. She’s going to tell you how to use sunflowers to keep zombies from eating your brains. I’m not kidding.

A while back, I wrote a guest post for Journaling Saves about Emotional Vampires. Despite all appearances, I’m not personally obsessed with strange monsters of the “B Movie” genre.

However, this week, as I was getting my butt kicked by pole vaulting Zombies in the video game “Plants Vs. Zombies”, I couldn’t help but notice some of the obvious connections to what was happening in my life, and the lives of my friends.

Journaling will do that for you.

When Video Games Resemble Life

For those among you who aren’t aware of the charming characteristics of zombies – zombies want to eat your brains. They aren’t sly. They aren’t subtle. And they don’t move very fast. Mostly they shamble along, careful not to drop too many non-essential body parts, always moving in the same direction. For such mindless beings, they are incredibly single-minded in their focus.

Unlike Emotional Vampires, zombies don’t pretend to be anything other than what they are. In fact, when you first see them, despite their gross appearance (which they can’t really help – having recently exited graves), it’s perfectly obvious that they are monsters.

They move slowly enough so that with any basic level of strategy and organization, you can rid yourself and your lawn of them faster than you can pull up dandelions or head off the Jehovah’s Witnesses marching toward your front door.

So why do we let them in to eat our brains?

This, I think, is the real question. We all can recognize our own personal zombies, and we can see them coming. We have scripts, old dialogues, roles that we know well. We think things are buried, but they keep getting dug up again. Zombies refuse to stay where you’ve left them. You know who they are.

Maybe for you it’s that friend that always succeeds in making you feel guilty and wrong for things that you have no responsibility for and no control over. Her emails show up like clockwork monthly or annually, despite your best intentions to root her out of your life once and forever.

Perhaps it’s a family member who thinks you should buy into his reality – who argues with you until you are unsure if you‘re truly sane. Some are co-workers who should have their own personal horror sound track playing a warning as they advance upon us in our defenseless pre-caffeinated state to make outrageous demands and even more ludicrous claims.

In-laws are frequently zombies, moving in on us, (or in with us) despite our best intentions, and evading our fences and defenses. They show up with way too much baggage. They make it through the front door, and then it’s game over. They eat our brains.

In the game “Plants vs. Zombies”, a player plants various “defense” flowers and weapons such as Pea-Shooters and Wall-nuts. My favorite plant is the sunflower, which beams at you and then gives you extra sun.

If you plant enough sunflowers, you’re almost assured of having enough sunshine to fight the wave attacks of the zombies and their cohorts.

Journaling the Zombies Away

Maybe we’re most vulnerable in our personal lives when we’ve neglected our own needs. Perhaps we haven’t planted enough sunflowers to give us hope and energy when the long shadow of an approaching zombie darkens our door.

  • What are YOUR sunflowers? How can you cultivate them and nourish them, so they give you ammunition for your pea-shooters to stave off that next zombie attack?
  • What do your zombies look like? What kinds of warnings do they give you before they approach?
  • What can you do to provide wall-nuts and tater mines to keep the zombies from even approaching your front porch in the first place?

Psychic defense is everyone’s personal responsibility. You deserve more than to live your life like the walking dead.

Digital Journaling: Make the Switch

Let’s give a warm welcome to today’s guest poster, the talented journalist Sam Lytle! Read on for his words on today’s journaling technology.

Making The Switch To Digital Journaling? These Are The Features You Should Look For.

Technology: A Blessing and a Curse

Depending on who you talk to, it can be almost equally argued that the progression of technology has either a positive or detrimental effect on society. With social media we are able to connect like never before, but at the same time less attention is paid to grammar and punctuation and now much of our communication is in emoticons, LOL’s and quotes credited to people that never existed.

This information revolution has taken a similar toll on journal keeping. Never has it been so easy to write in your personal journal at any time and at any place. Conversely, never has conveying our deepest inner thoughts and feelings been less personal.

I have filled many handwritten journals. They are full of funny and awkward moments, entries that span dozens of pages and hand drawn doodles. In the classic “What would you take if your house was on fire and you could only grab one thing?”, for me, it would be the box that holds these books.

Journaling in a Busy World

As I have recently collected titles such as ‘husband’, ‘daddy’ and ‘employee’, my free time has subsided and I am grateful for any minutes I can steal away for my coveted journal time. Another deciding factor was my famously awful handwriting. My future generations will be thrilled when they find out all of the records I have kept until they discover they are written in a secret code and are therefore illegible.

A few years back I decided that if I wanted to continue journaling in my ever busying life, I needed to make the switch to digital and I haven’t looked back. Though much more could be said about the pros and cons of both classic and digital journaling, I just want to point out a few of the things I have learned about this rapidly expanding world of electronic journal keeping.

The eJournal Options

There are three basic categories of digital diaries and journals: PC/Mac based, online or mobile apps (tablets are lumped into this category because, as of now, many of the applications are shared).

PC/Mac based software is perhaps the oldest form of digital journaling. It has basically existed since the word processor got popular in the 70’s. Today it exists both as files generated using word processing software and journals created with specialized entry software such as The Journal , Life Journal and Mac Journal . These programs are generally only on one computer and need to be manually backed up for safety.

Online journals and diaries are usually browser based and can be accessed from any computer with an internet connection. Penzu , The Online Diary , LDS Journal and My Life Here On Earth are all examples of online journals. Because these software programs are based in the “cloud”, they are automatically backed up on servers, though you should investigate the method yourself and not just take their word.

And finally and more recently are journal “apps”. Short for application, apps have exploded in popularity especially since the iPhone App Store went main stream three years ago. Today there are dozens of journal apps available across several platforms including iOS (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch), Android (smartphones and tablets), Blackberry and Windows Mobile 7. These represent a journal you will almost always have with you but also are limited by the speed of your thumbs. Examples include Chronicle , Momento and Day One.

The Best Solution for YOU

While each of these forms of journal keeping have their own benefits and drawbacks, there are some ways that are arguably much better than others. My recommendation is to find either an online based journal that has mobile compatibility or a mobile app that has online compatibility and backup. For example, LDS Journal is an online source but it also a special domain you can go to on an iPhone or iPad for entries. Mac Journal is a software package that allows you to journal on your computer and now has a Mac Journal app to go along with it for entries on the go.

While the multi-platform solution is the best option for most users, here are some other features that help the best versions stand out:

  • Password protection
  • Configurable reminders
  • Multiple fonts and backgrounds
  • PDF saving options
  • Printed journal option
  • Emailed entries
  • Text messaged entries
  • Picture entry
  • Tags
  • Search
  • GPS Location Tag

In your own search, decide which of these options matter the most to you and then choose a client that has the most.

Perhaps the most important deciding factor should be to find an option that works best for you and something that you will actually do.

Happy journaling!

Sam Lytle is the founder of the new , which is a website focused on tips, solutions and platforms to make journal keeping a reality in our busy lives. EasyJournaling has an emphasis on modern technology journals while retaining an appreciation for pen and paper journaling. He brings to it a background in iPhone and iPad app reviewing for and his personal blog about all of his writing adventures.You can also follow him on Twitter @easyjournaling.

An (outdoor) Room of One’s Own

It’s so important to have a sacred space for journaling, regardless of size or location.

In order to lose yourself to the flow of thoughts and words, privacy is essential. You need to be uninterrupted and able to concentrate.

Before I signed the lease on my new apartment, I went to an open house there. It’s a little triplex built into a steep hill, with four flights of stone steps leading up to the front door. The first time I climbed those stairs, I felt like I was ascending into my leafy dream home: a tree house.

Then I found the crowning jewel of the place — a hidden patio in back. A tiny corner embraced by a 20′ stone wall with a garden bed, wildly overgrown with blackberries and morning glory. A lilac tree shaded the area and brought in dappled sunlight. Moss covered the concrete ground. Trailing vines scaled the old cedar plank fence. It smelled like earth and green. I was in love.

Even before I removed 100 lbs. of blackberry brambles and re-landscaped the whole shebang, I saw beautiful visions in this little spot. Mostly, it felt like mine. While digging weeds out of the rock wall, I accidentally shook loose an enormous boulder, narrowly missing my foot. It rolled into the perfect spot for a seat.

So I sat.

I drank lemonade and surveyed my new blank canvas, my oasis, my sanctuary. I dreamed and planned, and then I turned it into the ultimate journaling hide-out.

I brought home adirondack chairs in several shades of blue. I emptied out the garden bed and painstakingly removed all the “Yankee potatoes” (rocks, as we call them back East). I planted pink grass, white jasmine, purple heather, and passion flowers. Sunflowers, Star Gazers and Moon Lilies. Hacksaw Ferns and Bleeding Hearts. I tucked my comfy chair in the corner and started writing there in the cool green wilderness.

Feeling secure, secluded and supported, I have found some amazing pathways in my head while lounging in this sacred space. At night I can sit under the string of star lights and hand-blown glass bulbs, citronella candles and cat-tail lanterns. I can throw a log in the celestial firepit, which makes twinkling, star-shaped shadows on the ground. I can hear the crickets and frogs singing as I put my words on the page by firelight.

In the mornings, everthing feels fresh and new — hopeful. The sunflowers have their faces turned toward the rising sun. The moon lilies are quietly retreating to their earthen beds. The day feels clean and full of promise.

When I invite friends into my little wonderland, it feels like a gift for the both of us. I watch their demeanor change and their stress melt away. Even if they don’t consciously acknowledge it, the space works its magic into their soul and sets it free little by little.

It does the same for me.

Do you have a sacred space for journaling or other acts of self-care? Let’s hear about it!

Moleskine Journal Cover for iPhone 4

In the interest of simplifying my life, I’ve picked up an iPhone. No longer will I need to drag around a cell phone, digital camera, iPod and Flip video recorder. It’s all in one white, shiny little package.

The camera was the main push for me, as I keep seeing fabulous journaling products in stationery stores that I want to share with you, but never seem to have my camera on me. So expect lots of mobile uploads from here on out!

In any case (no pun intended), I was searching for a protective cover for my iPhone when I stumbled upon the Little Black Book case by Pad and Quill. As a lover of all things Moleskine, I immediately lusted after this little Moleskine-inspired treasure.

Moleskine inspired case for iPhone 4

I have one on order but I wanted to share the (digital) paper lust with you NOW! :) Check out Pad and Quill because they have some great stuff over there happily blending the elements of journaling, writing and reading with technology.

Speaking of technology, stay tuned for the forthcoming series on hi-tech journaling! I’ve got some guest posts en route, as well as my own reviews for those of you testing the waters with ejournaling.

(Although you know me — I always preach the merits of journaling by hand, too!)

And speaking of Moleskines, I picked up a Wellness Journal from the new Moleskine Passions line. I have a full review with lots of photos so you can see if it’s of any use in your journaling repetoire. (I found it to be more of a pretty shelf-friendly collectible.)

More to follow!

Photos courtesy of Pad and Quill.

Destination: Creation Station

I found the ultimate place for an Artist Date. Well, actually, I didn’t find it — my friend Kerry took me there first. It’s called Creation Station and it’s absolutely the best spot to get inspired with random stuff. I wish all of you lived nearby so we could go play in the bulk bins! They have the strangest collection of objects — from tubs of glass dolphins to discarded wallpaper sample books to rubber doodads — just begging to be made into something fun.

My new apartment has an amazing patio that I’ve turned from a concrete crap heap into a vibrant sanctuary and retreat, overflowing with jasmine vines and pink grass and passionflowers. It was begging for a mosaic, so I ventured to Creation Station to see what I could drum up.

I bought an enormous jug of broken glass pieces, tumbled to hazy perfection. I originally didn’t plan on a particular design, but when I poured them out on my kitchen table, a smiling sunshine leaped out at me.

My receipt lists the following purchases, frameworthy on its own:

  • Assorted Glass Things
  • Various Wood Things
  • Wood/Glass/Stone Tiles
  • Various and Sundry Tubes

The wallpaper books are perfect for art journaling backgrounds and I plan to grab a couple on my next trip, along with various and sundry paints and material scraps.

Have you discovered any surprising retail gems to spark your creativity? Do tell!

An Extreme Journaling Retreat

Things have been a little hectic around these parts lately. They are finally beginning to settle down as (another!) solstice slips by. June 21’st has always been my New Year’s Day and this year in particular I’ve been in desperate need of a clean slate. A blank canvas. A hard reboot.

For a couple of weeks I’d been researching possible locations for a retreat. I wanted more than anything to be away from the madness surrounding me so I could hear myself think. Maybe in the woods, definitely someplace without cell service or wi-fi. And ideally, alone.

Most people plan their summer getaways months in advance. I learned this when trying to book one of the many cabins, cottages and yurts in Washington’s numerous parks and beaches. I kept coming up empty handed. I even got laughed at when requesting June 21st — “You mean 2011??!!”

I didn’t want to spend $175 a night and I don’t (yet) have a VW camper van. So I complained amply to my friends and made peace with the idea of hosting a retreat in my own creative space at home. A clumsy solution at best.

And then the Universe smiled down on me and ushered forth my friend Kerry, who is a sales agent for Princess Cruises. Turns out one of the cruise ships departing from Seattle had a few empty cabins and she was able to reserve them for friends & family for next to nothing.

It seemed too good to be true. But 48 hours later I was aboard the Golden Princess, bound for Alaska on a 7 day cruise, all by myself.

I’ve never been on a cruise before; it’s always been outside of my financial means. I toured one of the Princess ships with Kerry a few months back while it was in port. I remember walking the decks, fantasizing about being able to get away for a week, have all of my needs taken care of — three meals a day cooked for me, laundry service if I needed it, and nothing but time to sit and write and ponder and question and explore my mental landscape on the pages of my journal.

And suddenly here I was, with just that — and right when I needed it most.

If I ever doubted the existence of a benevolent force in my life, I never will again.

I brought journals and two of my favorite journaling prompt kits, Inner Outings: Adventures in Journal Writing and Wide Open: Inspiration and Techniques for Art Journaling on the Edge. I also brought this fabulous book that every creative person in business should get and complete: The Creative Entrepreneur: A DIY Visual Guidebook for Making Business Ideas Real. It has you creating an art journal to explore the innards of your artistic business. It helps you connect the left and right brained portions of your work, explore what’s missing and come up with solutions.

I ate fruit and watched the waves for hours. I curled up in a deck chair with my journal. I filled page after page.

The retreat so thoroughly hit every single need within me. I slept until I was done each day. I basked in the sun. I ate good food prepared for me. And I drank in the silence, the stillness, the peace. I felt my body uncurling from its tense knot.

As a bonus to all of this physical and mental healing, I got to see Alaska! I saw humpback whales, Husky dogs, golden bears, bald eagles, and glaciers. And some really cool buildings.

I wish every journaler I know could have this sort of luxurious experience. There is nothing like it on the planet. I was able to turn over every single aspect of my life and expose the damp parts that needed airing. I untangled the giant snarls in my brain and shook them loose until my life flowed freely again. I returned to Seattle weightless and unencumbered.

Much of what I discovered was already there for the taking. Isn’t that always the way? I just had to clear away the noise to see it.

My goals were physical relaxation and creative clarity. I gained both. And once I hacked through the fear, guilt, and confusion that was crowding out my creative flow, I felt inspired again. There are so many projects I want to put in motion, so many fabulous ideas I want to share with you. Workshops and new eBooks and kits and classes. I’m overflowing with colorful, exciting plans and I can’t wait to get started.

This summer I have carved out lots of time to put these ideas into practice. I’ll be sharing more about them as the days go on. I hope you will join me.