Vlog #1: Choosing the Best Journal

Under the guise of creating a helpful tutorial, I took my new Flip HD Video Camera for a test drive this weekend. The cool kids are unfortunately calling it “vlogging” (which the Page observed sounds like a Russian STD).

Whatever you want to call it, here’s my first video for your viewing pleasure. If you have a slower internet connection, you may need to hit play and then pause to let it buffer a little.

In this inaugural Journaling Saves video, I talk about the different kinds of notebooks and my experience with them, the pros and cons, and some items to consider when selecting a journal. I use my excessive/obsessive array of journals to illustrate.

Feedback, as always, is welcomed. Unless you want to comment on my hair — there’s not much I can do about that right now.

Video Resources

Here are a few links to reviews I’ve written that are mentioned in the video:

And some additionally helpful entries on the topic of choosing a journal:

On the Journaling Saves Facebook page, there’s a photo of my bookshelf with the different journals tagged by name in case you want a visual on that.

The video was shot with a Flip Slide HD Video Camera and edited with iMovie. Barely.

Journal Privacy: 5 Solutions

Journal privacy is a topic I’m requently asked about. The very nature of journaling raises concerns about our writing falling into the wrong hands.

It’s true that a violation of privacy could bring about unsavory results. But the real problem is that you censor yourself when writing if you’re afraid of being found out.

The magic of journaling happens because we can be honest, because we can spill our guts on the page – if nowhere else. You’re robbed of the benefits of this release when you can’t open up.

I received the following question from a reader:

“I have journaled my whole life since I was ten years old. I am glad to say I have every single journal still lying safely in my drawers. But recently I’ve become worried about what will happen when my children read all those journals after i have passed away.

Like many people, I have dark periods in my life that are very private. The option to destroy those journals is too painful to think about. Also I hesitate lately to be completely open and honoust in my journals for the same fearful reason. Do you have any advice?”

Finding a solution to your privacy issues is essential to your wellbeing. You must feel free and protected if you are to benefit from journaling. So let’s look at some of the options.

1. Post-mortem Destruction

Ellen, you mention that destroying those journals. I feel your pain! There’s no way I could bring myself to destroy any of my creations. However, is that just true of while you’re alive? If that’s the case, you could make arrangements to have them destroyed once you’re gone. I’m not a lawyer, but I imagine that could be included in your Last Will & Testiment or a similar arrangement.

2. Conversations

While everyone is different, I’m a “lay it on the line” kind of girl. So my instinct is to call a family meeting — while you’re healthy and happy. If your children don’t know that you keep a journal, this is a good time to tell them. If they already know, you can elaborate.

Explain to them how your journal was a daily snapshot of what you were going through at the time, that it doesn’t necessarily reflect your overall feelings, or that entries taken out of context won’t necessarily reflect the big picture.

Tell them whatever it is you want them to know — tell them whatever you think the journals would make them doubt. That you love them infinitely, that you were happy even with some dark days. Explain that dark days, doubt and self-questioning are very important for growth.

This could be a teaching opportunity for you to explain how you’re able to thrive overall, even with some down days. Perhaps they might even decide to start journaling as well, when they hear how it helped you throughout your life.

Then if you don’t want to destory your journals, and your children are left with them, they will have a solid, positive context in which to place the material if they choose to read it.

My mom is still very much alive, but I would be blown away by the ability to read journals from when she was my age, what she was going through. I think people are more resilient than we allow. I can understand how it would be difficult to stomach certain information – perhaps if a mother were expressing regret over having her children, those children probably don’t need to read that, especially if it was just a fleeting sentiment and not representative of her big picture.

So it’s possible to edit your journals, slicing out any material you don’t feel comfortable leaving behind. Or you could do like the governemnt and just take a black sharpie to certain words and paragraphs. Top Secret.

3. Cover Letters

If a conversation is beyond your comfort zone, you could do the same but in letter form. Spell out everything you’d want anyone reading your journal to know before reading it. If you want to be anal and OCD like me, you could make photocopies of it and rubber cement a letter into the front of each journal.

4. Trusted friends

Another option is to identify a trusted friend or family member who is to inherit the journals upon your passing. You can have a conversation with that person before the fact, explain what you’d like done with them. Perhaps you’d like your children to have access to them, but only after a certain time, when you think they’d be ready for it. Those instructions could be given to your trusted confidante. Or you could ask that person to destroy them.

5. Anonymous donation

The Page always jokes with me that my whole collection of journals will end up in the Smithsonian after I’m dead. Seriously? I don’t think I’m all that interesting. But his point is that a complete chronology of one person’s life, distinctly touched by that time period, could be fascinating 100 or 200 years from now.

I would feel better about donating these journals anonymously to a historical society or similar far away, where they could be enjoyed and used — but not by anyone I know! So that’s another option for you. That way your journals would go to good use, but would not be around to affect anyone in your life.

How do you handle the issue of journaling privacy? Do you have anxiety about leaving them behind? If you have any solutions for Ellen, please leave them in the comments below.

This post was written in response to a reader question. Have a question you’d like answered? Drop me a line and let me know.

Circle Journey Books

A long time ago, I received two blank Circle Journey kits as a birthday gift. Since then, I’ve been using one of them with an old friend. They’re amazing kits for sharing with someone else and each time I get this journal back in the mail, it’s like Christmas.

Over the past six years, my friend and I have filled this journal with images from the past and present, musings on life, love, and how it’s all turning out. The journal used to travel 3,000 back and forth between New Haven and Seattle, but I finally convinced her to move here. So now it’s mailed to and from the same zip code. I could have walked down the street and put it in her mailbox, but what fun is there in that?

The blank Circle Journey kit

I think we both regularly forget about the Circle Journal, and when we rediscover it, it’s so inspiring we can’t help but create a new entry and send it off in the mail.

It amazes me how long ago my entries feel. A polaroid of my tiny studio apartment the day I moved out and onto the houseboat, the window propped open with a scrap of driftwood. A super-saturated photo of sunlight streaming through the floor-to-ceiling windows in the Aloha Cabana, a view my friend soon claimed as her when she moved into my apartment. It feels like ancient history.

If you have another willing friend or family member, do the Circle Journey with them. It’s so much fun and so rewarding. Each time it returns in the mail, it’s a gift to both of you. The last round arrived in a makeshift packaging with a note saying “There’s so much love, the envelopes have become too small!”

It might be helpful to choose a period of time to send this back and forth. With this particular journal, it seems to be each time one of us moves, which has been at least annually for the past decade. But you could use birthdays or holidays or seasons as a landmark to remember to contribute the journal.

I couldn’t find any place to buy them new online anymore, unfortunately. But you don’t need the kit to do this, of course. You just need a willing friend or family member and a bound journal or notebook of some sort.

Below are a few photos of our circle jounal in progress. (I especially love all the lyrics on the envelopes, including a song from the TV series, “My So-called Life.”) Click on the thumbnails for a larger version of the image.

Circle Journey Books Correspondence Kit Circle Journey Books Correspondence Kit Circle Journey Books Correspondence Kit
Circle Journey Books Correspondence Kit Circle Journey Books Correspondence Kit Circle Journey Books Correspondence Kit Circle Journey Books Correspondence Kit
Circle Journey Books Correspondence Kit Circle Journey Books Correspondence Kit Circle Journey Books Correspondence Kit Circle Journey Books Correspondence Kit

Sakura Stardust Gelly Roll Magic

I’m aware that it’s ludicrous to write an entire post on a new pen. But based on the excited feedback and “me toos” I received on the Journaling Saves Facebook Page, I’m not alone in my enthusiasm for such things.

So I’d like to tell you about the most awesomest new pen ever in the history of the universe. (The essential Pilot Precise V7 notwithstanding, of course). It’s the Stardust Gelly Roll pen by Sakura. My current color of choice is Purple Star.

In the past, I tried gel ink pens and was disappointed. The ink did not flow uniformly, leaving gaps in my writing. The only downside to the Sakura I’ve found is that the ink takes a few seconds to dry, making it easy to smudge. So this pen would probably not be a good choice for lefties or the less patient among us.

I also just discovered that there’s a Bold Meteor and Bold Galaxy version (in 6 Galaxy colors!) of this pen that the U Bookstore does not carry. I am shipping them from Amazon, post haste.

They also make Souffle Opaque Puffy Ink Pens, which I may have to try. I wonder if they’re anything like the puff pens I used to decorate horrific tee-shirts in the early 80’s, pre-Bedazzler?

Here are five reasons why the Sakura Stardust Gelly Roll makes me swoon.

1. They write smoothly

This pen magically writes so smoothly – the ink is silky. This means less fatigue on the hand and also, more fun. Sakura claims the Gelly Roll pen has “ice cream smooth ink.” While I didn’t try licking the ink to compare flavor, it does write like I imagine ice cream would write. Were one inclined to write with ice cream. For some reason.

2. They have glitter (!!!) in them

The “Stardust” line of Sakura pens have glittery ink that sparkles brightly. I mean they use the word “glittering” on the package. Come on. There are a few other types that likewise shimmer, including the Metallic, Gold Shadow and Silver Shadow pens. According to the Sakura website: “Stunning Gelly Roll Stardust® captures the sparkle and glitter of stars to make handwriting extra special.” Guh.

Add sparkling starlight to your writing and designs? Okay!

3. They cost $1

I’ve purchased many a pen in the $3-5 range that didn’t perform a bit as well as the Gelly Roll. At the bargain price of $1, I can get one in every color. Oh, and…

4. They come in a million colors

Or at least a few dozen. The Purple Star is my favorite right now, but there’s one in metallic teal that matches my scooter. I need at least one pen in Celeste green.

5. They’re great for art journaling

The Moonlight version writes on black paper – perfect for art journaling and reverse journals (the ones with half light and half dark pages). The shimmer can be used to add a bit of shine to embellishments.

Try them out and let me know if you love them as much as I do.

Art Journaling at Daniel Smith

I went to the free art journaling demo at Daniel Smith Art in Seattle on Saturday and it was a total blast. Liesel Lund lead the demo and she showed us how to make our own journal. Then she talked about some of her favorite products and showed us a few techniques for art journaling. She even shared some of her art journals — all of which were amazing. My favorite was an underwater-themed art journal with cut-away pages that reminded me of books I had when I was a kid. The kind with holes in the middle that slowly reveal more of the picture. Very cool. She has lots of examples of her artwork on her blog, Adventures in Pretty.

I’m definitely signing up for the hands-on workshop in August that she’s teaching there – Intro to Art Journaling. It seems right up my alley since I’m pretty new to the format as an actual genre (though I’ve been collaging for a hundred years). Liesel also hosts workshops at her home in Phinney Ridge and several of them looks fabulous. Can’t wait to dig in.

So I was going to take photos of the event to share, but there was a big “NO PHOTOGRAPHY” sign at the front of the room when we arrived. Not sure why, but I didn’t want to get kicked out so I obeyed. (For the most part.) But the set-up reminded me of a cooking class, with Liesel at the front working at a big counter, with an enormous mirror overhead so we could watch her work.

She passed around sheets of paper demonstrating various media and how they behave on different surfaces. The sheets were super useful, and I’m going to make some of my own back at the ranch. They help you decide on the best tool for the job at hand. Some paints are easier to work with if you gesso the surface, and others provide the desired effect by seeping naturally into the paper. I’ve never been much of a painter, but I love to work with brush pens and watercolor pencils. She showed quite an array of both.

One of my favorite products she showed us was metallic gold gesso, which she used to finish the inside covers of the journal she made. It created such a gorgeous sparkly surface. She worked dark acrylic paint into the gessoed surface with a wet paper towel to add depth and variation. It was magical. I wanted to buy some of the colored gesso in silver, but they only had gold. I’m on the hunt.

I picked up a few other tools she demonstrated that looked like fun — a Lyra water-soluble graphite pencil, which has an addictive creamy texture and is easy to work with wet or dry. It reminds me of that one-in-a-million perfect kohl eyeliner. The pencil is great for writing on or embellishing a page. Since I’m not much of a brush-painter, I like the idea of working with a pencil.

I also got a giant jar of YES! craft paste which is fabulously tacky and flexible. I’ve been using rubber cement for decades, more out of “always have” than any other reason. So I’m excited to try a new adhesive medium.

There’s one more object of desire on my list that Daniel Smith did not carry but luckily the University Bookstore does. It’s a white Sharpie Paint Marker. Kerry and I are headed to the U Bookstore tomorrow so I’ll be able to pick one up. Sharpie can pretty much do no wrong, as far as I’m concerned. And I’ve got a blank art journal I’m starting that has black pages, so I’m searching for illuminated pens and paint to use. Liesel’s underwater-themed journal had many dark pages and the metallic blues and purples accented by white just looked toe-curlingly fabulous. I’m so inspired to try my hand at it. I’ll be sure to share the results!

I definitely recommend checking out the art supply stores in your area to see if they offer demos or workshops. If they don’t tell them to get on the ball or you’ll have to move to Seattle.

Beautiful Budget Journals at Barnes & Noble

I regularly support local business, and I love my local bookstores and stationers. They get most of my money. But when my friend Joni showed me her gorgeous new blank book from Barnes & Noble, my journal envy was insurmountable.

I’m always on the quest for the perfect journal. So off I went and discovered the treasure trove of amazing journals and blank books at Barnes & Noble in their spring collection.

A few of their designs were absolutely toe-curling. I had to buy this one. Had to. And even though I don’t traditionally consider spiral bound notebooks the best journals, I can see myself digging into this one.

It has super heavyweight pages so the ink won’t bleed through, and the lines are college ruled. The hard cover makes it great for writing in bed or on other soft surfaces. Plus it’s wide enough that the spiral won’t really get in the way (my only real gripe with spiral bound journals).

The best part is the price – all the journals in their new spring selection are between $5 and $8 – a steal. Check it out!

Carnival of Pen, Pencil & Paper – April Edition

I’m very excited to be featured in this month’s Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper hosted by Nifty over at Notebook Stories.

The Carnival is a collection of the month’s best blog posts about notebooks, journals, paper, writing instruments and art supplies. In other words, all the great stuff I spend my weekly allowance on.

My featured post is Blueline Notebooks: a Love Story.

If you’re a paperphile like I am, you’ll dig these other blogs so be sure to check them out!

Blueline Notebooks: a Love Story

Blueline Notebooks in a stackI love stationery. I love stationery in a way that defies explanation. I know it’s not normal; I made peace with being a weirdo long ago.

After many journal trials and tribulations, I’ve found my life partner in Blueline Notebooks.

It’s Just a Phase

I write daily so I fill my journals in a month or two. (One time I filled one in three weeks, but I was on vacation for much of it with little else to do besides lay in the sun and eat fruit.) I’ve been motivated to write voluminously knowing the faster I fill my current journal, the sooner I get to pick out a new one. Not very zen, but there you have it.

When my journals are arranged in chronological order, you can clearly see the different phases I passed through in my journaling career. My earliest volumes are slender, one subject Mead “neatbooks” with flat, spiral-free bindings. When I realized I’d be keeping at this awhile, I started using beefy three-subject spiral-bound notebooks. Then I realized the spirals drove me batty and the scored pages would often tear, so I switched to the ubiquitous marble hardcover composition notebooks.

Through the years, my choice of writing instrument has likewise evolved, and for the past 10 years or so I’ve been using a Pilot Precise V7 fine point pen. In fact, it’s all I use. But this pen requires a certain kind of paper, because the ink is bold and bleeds through easily. Most drugstore quality notebooks won’t do, unless I only write on one side of the paper. Luckily I discovered Claire Fontaine notebooks.

Claire Fontaine makes the most beautiful notebooks I’ve ever seen. They’re French, so the sizes are different from the U.S. standards, making them even cooler. The large notebooks are taller than American letter size. And Claire Fontaine puts out such gorgeous colors and patterns. A few years ago they started making hardcover notebooks with magnetic flaps to secure the pages. Brilliant.

One day I was cruising the University Bookstore, which has a mind-boggling selection of notebooks. While searching the newest Claire Fontaine patterns, I accidentally happened upon a misplaced Blueline A9 hardcover notebook. I promptly bought a case of them and never looked back. I’ve been using them exclusively for about 3 years.

Why I Love Blueline Notebooks

How do I love thee, Blueline notebook? Let me count the ways:

1. Perfectly sized

The Blueline A9 is similar in size to the generic composition notebook, though slightly narrower. It has 192 pages, which means I can finish it in a manageable period of time without feeling like I’m dragging ancient history around with me. (Three months is about as long as I like to spend in one notebook.)

Its smaller size and light weight make it easy to stash into any bag I own and take with me anywhere. This is not true of the huge Claire Fontaine hardcover notebooks I favored for awhile. Those required a backpack or large messenger bag – almost like a laptop.

2. Reasonably priced

I buy these by the case, so I get a discount. But they’re usually about $7 a piece. Based on the high quality of these notebooks and the amount of enjoyment I get from them, I consider that a bargain.

3. Extremely durable

The binding is very well made; I’ve never had one of these notebooks even think about coming apart. Unlike many of my drugstore variety comp books.

The cover also takes a beating. I can attest to this as I dropped a notebook off my Vespa while riding 45 m.p.h. and it survived, with nary a scratch.

4. High quality paper

The paper used in the notebook is heavy and rich. My Pilot V7 Precise fine point pen ink doesn’t bleed through. And the surface of the paper has a great toothy texture that makes it comfortable to write on and difficult to smudge. The paper is available lined, blank, or quad-ruled.

5. It has an INDEX!!!

When it comes to archiving my journals, I’m so anal-retentive it’s not even funny. The Blueline A9 has an index page that allows you to make a color-coded Table of Contents. It also includes a sheet of labels for the cover and spine, as well as – get this – color-coded tabs to mark off the content!

The Index has become my very favorite part of the journals, and it truly makes them personalized. I frequently use phrases cut out of magazines to make the table of contents – quotes and phrases that capture where I am at that time. I don’t usually create the tabs until I’m done with the notebook, but I often make the TOC up as I go along.

6. Archive-friendly

Each sheet in the notebook has a spot for the date and the page number. This comes in handy more often than I would have believed. It’s cake to flip through if I’m looking for a specific date. And if you want to be super OCD, you can use the page numbers in your TOC as detailed above.

7. They look really awesome all lined up

Once you start accumulating multiple journals, you may find like me that you get satisfaction from seeing them piling up on the shelf. Seeing your progress is motivating. And it appeals to my anal-retention to see a long row of glossy, hardcover notebooks with color-coded spines on my shelf.

You can order these fantabulous Blueline Notebooks on Amazon. Free shipping if you buy 4 of them!

Have a favorite type of notebook? Let me know what it is so I can check it out!

Paper Lust: Jill Bliss Mini Journal Boxed Set

I enjoy boxed sets, series and themes because there’s comfort in order. And because my OCD is sated when matched items are lined up on a shelf. But I also find themes profoundly inspiring because they encourage brainstorming and boost idea generation, essentially making you smarter.

While discussing seasonal journaling the other day with one of my fellow writers, my thoughts flew to the Jill Bliss mini journal boxed set I’d been aching for. Suddenly, I had an excuse to buy this beautiful set of four deliciously flowered little journals, wrapped in a scrumptious hard case that looks fabulous on the shelf even before you start writing.

Jill Bliss mini Journal Set - box binding view
Binding view of the boxed set

The four journals in the set are begging to be turned into a themed series of some stripe. I’m thinking seasons – one for each. Even the colors lend themselves to this natural division.

If you’ve got a boxed set of four journals like this, what elements of your life could you capture in detail? Four trips? Four kids? Four choose-your-own-adventure endings to a situation? Four intense days of introspection?

Boosting your smarts with themes works in other areas besides journaling, too. Try this next time you’re seized by a great idea for a project. Can you dream up a few more along the same vein? Perhaps one for each holiday? How about one for each month? Each family member? Each state? Your thoughts eagerly branch out in new directions when you give them a path to follow.

Themes encourage lateral brainstorming, too. I do this with website post ideas. A post on journaling to prepare for a challenging event, for example, easily blossoms into a series: prepare for a career change, a wedding, a birth, a move, a death, a vacation with the in-laws.

The brain seeks patterns. Use this to your advantage and you’ll always have a pool of bright ideas to choose from.

My new journal boxed set fairly glows with inspiration. The possibilities are endless. How would you use them?

Inspiration in Just One Line a Day

Just before Christmas, we were celebrating a friend’s birthday at Trophy Cupcakes. (For the record, I’m a die-hard Cupcake Royale devotee, and the lapse in fidelity wasn’t my idea.) Trophy had lots of great gifty items – postcard sets, mugs, photo frames, etc. I was pawing through them mindlessly when I came across the “One Line a Day” journal, made by Chronicle Books.

I was smitten instantly and knew I had to have it. As you can see in the photo, it’s gorgeous. It’s a hardcover book, robin’s egg blue pleather, with gold leaf page edges. Satin ribbon placemark. All old-fashioned, from the metallic embossing on the cover to the Century Gothic font.

The more I turned the thing over in my hands, the more in love I fell. Here’s the thing – it’s perfect for a tool I call “vertical journaling.”

One line a Day Journal by Chronicle Books

This book has a page for each day of the year, with 5 years per page. This way, you can effortlessly compare where you were March 1, 2010 with where you were March 1, 2011 and 2012.

I was thinking of other ways to use the book besides writing down what happened that day. You could write one thing you learned each day. Or one word to describe the day. Or you could turn it into a gratitude journal and list something you’re grateful for each day.

Sometimes having limited space can stretch your imagination!

I started using it as a journal, because having visual proof of growth from one year to the next is intoxicating for me and highly motivating.

How could you use this tool?