The Journal Junkie

Yesterday I bought a journal. This is not newsworthy. I buy journals all the time. Like many writers, I am an office supply junkie. Next to sticky-notes, journals are my office supply Achilles heel.

I own many journals of many shapes and sizes. I have handsome leather journals, flashy faux gold leaf journals, nature-themed journals, journals from museum gift shops. Some of my journals are covered in drawings of hydrangeas or geometric designs; some are wire-bound and would be perfect for a school child. A couple of journals are lined with writing quotes. Another gives a line of advice on how to lead a good life.

My favorites are a set of five Beatles album cover journals. My most precious are a trio of retro journals, a gift from a friend who died.

I own many journals, but they all have one thing in common. They are all blank inside.

I buy and buy and buy journals, but I don’t journal. I have tried. Many times. To no avail. I’ve filled a few with a record of the books I’ve read over a year. A couple I have used for character studies or notes from a particular place I want to use as a setting. One is kept in my car for emergencies. That one, sadly, is scrawled through with grocery lists.

Why do I keep buying journals? Because they’re pretty. Because it’s a habit. Because, deep down inside, I believe I will one day figure out how to journal.

The journal I bought yesterday is a handsome leather one. (Okay, handsome fake leather.) It is beige and covered in writing. The writing is line after line of pithy advice:

Mean what you say…. Be your best self…. Life life freely…. Lead by example…. Believe in your dreams…. Dance the night away…. Skip down the street…. Don’t take no for an answer…. Be bold….Take a chance…. Trust your gut…. Believe in your power…. Exceed your expectations…. Express gratitude.

How could I not buy this journal?

I admire writers who are capable of keeping a record of their thoughts, dreams, hopes, and expectations. Three of my favorite author journals are:

May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude

Madeleine L’Engle’s Two Part Invention

John Steinbeck’s Journal of a Novel

In these three journals, the flip side of being a working writer is unmasked. May Sarton revealed her disappointment when her novels were not as highly praised as her poetry. Madeleine L’Engle blew the cover off her seemingly strong marriage. John Steinbeck admitted to drinking too much and showed an obsessive need to have the perfectly sharpened pencil before he could do his daily writing.

On the other hand, they recorded the intense joy of writing a single good line. Their revelations showed how the writing work of the day made the frustrations of the day a minor annoyance.

I learned so much from their journals. Maybe I’m searching for the right journal to write in, and that’s why I keep buying them?

Do you have a favorite journal by a favorite author? Do you journal? Will you teach me how?


9 thoughts on “The Journal Junkie

  1. You journal – you just don’t do it in those lovely books. You do it here, and on Facebook. And I am grateful that you do!


  2. I guess that’s one way of looking at it, Kathy. I’m not sure if my Facebook “journaling” reveals much, other than my need to be silly, but I do try to be entertaining!

    This doesn’t help me decide if I should stop buying journals, however.


  3. What Kathy said! And otherwise I’m just like you, Ramona. Empty journals everywhere. Sigh. My best friend, on the other hand, has written in her journal every night for decades. But she just uses a plain ledger book. She made me swear that I would burn them after her death so her daughter wouldn’t be able to read what she had written. Now that her daughter is 27 she has relieved me of that promise. ;^)


  4. Edith, I also have a friend who has journaled for decades. He can tell you what he had for lunch on any given day in 1981….

    I wonder if this is a guilt thing, that as writers we feel we *should* journal, but the desire to do so just isn’t there?


  5. Your post made me laugh because I’m the same. Feel that I “should” journal, but just can’t. So glad I’m not the only one! (Those pretty little journals *are* enticing!)

    I do like Kathy’s notion that blog posts are a type of journaling, though. They are a way to talk about things that don’t fit into a fictional narrative.


      1. For me, it’s also that my time and energy are limited. Realistically, even when I’m not at the day job, I’ve only got one or two hours when I’ll be at my peak for writing. I can tweak and edit the rest of the day, but for me personally those few hours when my writing can really flow are best spent with the current WIP.

        I also don’t have that much happen on a daily basis and if I made myself do daily journaling it would just turn into a chore. That’s why I like blogging. I can take something small and expand on it at my leisure, but if I don’t feel that reflective, there are plenty of other things to base a post on. Or I can take time off if life becomes hectic.

        I’m not reluctant to share something personal on paper–journals were originally meant to be private and I wouldn’t necessarily share it with anyone–it’s more that the act of writing takes a certain amount of energy, especially if it’s something highly emotional.


  6. I too am a sucker for beautiful journals, but write only intermittently in my journal. (Usually when I am really depressed, which makes for a rather one-sided reading experience later.)
    I love reading journals though – Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf are especially poignant.


  7. MarinaSofia, thank you for those suggestions. I have not read Katherine Mansfield’s journal/s and it’s been a long time since I’ve read anything by Virginia Woolf.

    Journaling through depression or grief is helpful, I know. I’m not sure how reading back through it would be, as you point out. Something to consider.

    Thank you for stopping by and sharing.


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