How to Keep a Journal - Journal Supplies

On this page, you'll find advice on how to keep a journal, with a focus on journaling supplies. If you are looking for ideas for what to write about in your journal, click here or go to the bottom of the page, where there are links to journal prompts and related resources.

How to keep a journal - what should your journal look like?

To keep a journal, all you really need is something to write with, and something to write on. The specifics depend on your preferences and imagination. You might find the ideas flow better when you write with a fountain pen, or a pencil like the ones you used in school, or when you type on a computer. You might feel inspired by a special notebook; you might enjoy the physical space of a large sketchpad, or you might better off with a small notepad you can carry in your pocket. Your journal might end up being a three-ring binder or a shoebox full of index cards. Try different options and see what works best for you.

Here are some factors to consider:

  • Some people enjoy journaling more when the journal's pretty. I know these Moleskine notebooks are all the rage. Personally, when someone gives me a pretty notebook, I feel like anything I write is just polluting it; I feel like a vandal if I so much as write my name. To me, pretty journals always look prettier when they are empty. Since this is such an easy effect to achieve, all of the blank books I've been given over the years have stayed blank (or have been secretly gift-wrapped again and recycled with other friends. Don't tell). But there are many people who are not scared but inspired by those creamy pages, those elegant covers. You probably know which type of person you are.
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  • In a bound journal, the pages are preserved as you write them. With a looseleaf journal, an index card journal, or any other type where the pages are not attached, you have more flexibility. You can remove parts of the journal to read them; you can rearrange or add pages as you like. On the other hand, there is the risk of the journal becoming disorganized and parts of it being lost. And for some journalers, keeping a permanent record is part of the point.

  • If you write on a computer, not only are you free to rearrange parts of your journal, you can also revise everything you write. This may actually be a disadvantage if you get caught up in editing instead of writing. You can lose the free flow of putting thoughts on paper, and you can also end up censoring yourself, editing your journal down to nothing. Writing on a computer, some people also miss the physical act of shaping the words with their hands. They feel the words in a different way when they are moving a pen or pencil over a page.

Other journal ideas:

  • Sometimes it's easier or more convenient to talk than to write. You can dictate journal entries into a voice recorder and then transcribe them later into a written journal or just keep them as voice recordings. Your cell phone may have a voice recording function that you can use for this.

  • You don't necessarily have to write your journal in linear sentences and paragraphs. Since your journal is for yourself, use any form that fits the way you think. If you are a visual thinker, you might use idea maps, where you jot down ideas on different parts of the page and connect them with lines and arrows. You can also express your ideas with drawings or cartoons.

  • A few years ago, I found a wonderful journal of my grandmother's from a trip to Europe she made in the 1930's -- it includes theater programs, metro tickets, restaurant coasters and menus (she and my grandfather apparently didn't hesitate to walk off with menus), notes she and her friends wrote to each other on napkins, postcards, photographs. You can add collage elements to your journal: photographs, pressed leaves, postcards, receipts, doodles, magazine and newspaper clippings... (legal disclaimer: the Creative Writing Now website does not recommend menu theft.)

Click here to go to Part 1 of the How to Keep a Journal series: What to Write About.


How to keep a journal - Next steps

Please choose one of the links below to read more about how to keep a journal.

Journal Writing Prompts and Ideas

How to Write a Journal - How to Keep a Writing Journal for Stories and Poetry

See a complete list of CWN pages on How to Write a Journal


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