Choosing a Journal Notebook
Take a Moment to Breathe Before Making Any Decisions
You walk into the bookstore and that big glorious wall of colored journals pulls you over. You can barely decide which one to touch first. Take a moment, breathe, and think about what you really want for this new notebook. What will its purpose be? Are you going to take it everywhere, or give it a permanent home on your bedside table? Do you want to be able to tear pages out of it or do you want to keep it as intact as possible? Are you going to use it for sketches or detailed journaling?
Choose the Right Notebook for the Task
You're not necessarily going to do your science notes in a pocket Moleskine. I mean you could but it's a task better suited to a composition notebook. Just like it would be easier to draw geometric shapes on graph paper than on a blank page.
Are you creating a writer's notebook where you are going to store quotes and lists? Then you probably want something gorgeous to look at. A notebook where you feel inspired just looking at the cover, but that also has paper that is easy to write on with line spacing that makes sense to you.
Whereas if you are using it for a Bullet Journal or a day planner you're going to want a notebook that is sturdy enough to be carried around day ofter day and small enough to fit in your pocket or bag.
Types of Pages
Once you know what you're going to be using your journal for you have to decide what sort of pages you want in it. There are a few options.
Blank: The blank page is exactly what it sounds like, blank. Like a sketchbook. This style is great for artists or people who just like the freedom to do whatever. It's not great for perfectionists, or people trying to do a very structured style.
Lined: Like a regular notebook you had in school. Though you do have to be careful and check the width of the lines. I find most pretty notebooks still have wide ruled pages. I don't want to write that big. I feel like I'm wasting space.
Graph: Graph paper is cool if you want to draw out boxes on your page. I have a graph paper notebook as my bullet journal right now and I really like it. It's also a good choice for drawing because it helps you measure the distance between lines and shapes. It's also fun for drawing mandalas.
Dot Matrix: Very similar to graph paper but instead of lines it just has little dots at the intersection of where each line would cross each other. It gives the feel of the blank page but you can still see where the lines would be. This one is a favorite among bullet journalers because it gives you so much freedom to draw really any shape that you need without the other lines getting in the way.
You want to choose a notebook that is durable enough to stand the test of time. Spiral bound notebooks, for instance, are not ideal for transporting, the wire gets bent and then the pages don't turn quite right, it's also much easier for the pages to get ripped out on accident.
Bend your potential notebook a little, figure out what it's weak spots are. My journal has a very thick binding that came apart a little when I flattened it to write on the first few pages. I'm a little sad but otherwise it's holding strong and I've been using it every day for 6 months.
Consider if it would come apart if it got wet. Think about if you accidentally dropped it in a puddle or spilled your coffee on it.
Page Texture and Weight
This is the biggest problem I have with finding a good notebook (other than that the lines are too wide). The paper is just too thin or too glossy. I like to use really inky pens because I think they look prettier. If the paper is too glossy it doesn't dry fast enough and then it smears. If the paper is too thin it bleeds through the other side and I can only use one side of the page.
Also if the paper is too glossy then pencil doesn't write on it very well and it gets smeary. So consider what you're going to be writing with and whether the paper can stand up to it.
Finding the Right Pen or Pencil
Not all pens and pencils are created equal either. To keep yourself writing every day you have to find the pen or pencil that works best with your notebook. Use the last page to try it out. How does it feel, is it smooth or annoying. If you find it too annoying to write you're not going to do it.
To keep yourself using your notebook every day you have to find the journaling system that works for you.
Date at the Top: The most basic method is the date at the top method. You write the date at the top of the page and you write until you're done. Easy
Bullet Journal: Yep, this is the one I've been talking about through the whole post. It's a type of day planner that you write out in your favorite notebook. It's super simple and really helps you stay organized.
Guided Journal: A guided journal is one that gives you prompts to follow every day. The one that comes to mind is the "5 Year Journal." It gives you a short little prompt and you write a couple lines each day for that day's prompt. It gives you enough space to have an entry every day for five years so you can look back and see how your response changes from year to year for the prompts. It's pretty cool.
What Do You Look For?
Are there any specific things you have to have when searching for a new notebook? What really draws you in and makes you say "that's the one."
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