The first step toward keeping a journal is probably the easiest: selecting the journal itself.
Many seasoned journal keepers have their own personal tastes and preferences. Some love their Moleskine notebooks, with rounded corners and stretchy bands to keep it all together. One of my first literary crushes, Ignatius Reilly, the protagonist in John Kennedy Toole's "Confederacy of Dunces," penned his rants and ramblings on a children's classic, the Big Chief writing tablet. Some diarists prefer diminutive notebooks that can be quickly palmed and tucked away in a purse or back pocket. But most writers agree that the journal in which one writes by hand is superior to digital options, hands down.
Putting an actual pen or pencil to paper (the pen being the more "confident" of the two) creates a powerful connection between the mind's inner experience and the body's movement in the outside world. Writing cultivates the ability to observe one's own feelings and thoughts, and writing by hand slows this process down, giving time for reflection along the way. When we journal, we connect the mind and body and spirit in the present moment. Sounds a lot like yoga, right? We are speaking to another consciousness, our "reader," our "witness," is ourselves. Telling the soul's truth makes this physical process particularly powerful.
Your journal is an extension of yourself. What kind of journal or notebook should you use? Here are seven of the best kinds of notebooks for journaling:
1. The Tablet or Legal Pad There is something about the yellow paper on a full-size legal pad that loves a pen. Lots of room for your words to roam about on. It lays flat. It's inexpensive and these writing pads can be purchased in bulk, so you'll run out of ink long before you run out of paper. Oh, and that journal entry that went something like this, "I hate everybody. Yuck. Crap. Crap. Crap," can be removed easily and discarded. This is a plus and a minus.
2. The Spiral Notebook Inexpensive and readily available, spiral notebooks can be found just about anywhere at any time, the corner drug store, the grocery store, the dollar store. Pages can be ripped out. The front and back covers afford some privacy. Spiral notebooks come in a wide variety of sizes, with a choice of wide-ruled and college-ruled.
3. The Bound Journal - Lined The pages cannot be removed (easily), so this looks and feels like a real book. And the lines keep the words marching straight across across the page, no sloping upward or downward.
4. The Bound Journal - Plain My personal favorite. Plain pages allow for words to be BIG when they need to be, and small when they want to be small. You can doodle, draw pictures to illustrate a point you're making, paste pictures and clippings from the newspaper, and you can write between the lines when you have something more to add later. Lined templates are available if that sloping thing really bothers you.
5. The "Math" Notebook - Graph Paper If order is really important to you, graph paper keeps the sentences in a straight line and the letters themselves consistent in size. Block out spaces for doodling and illustrations.
6. The Notebook Your Friend Gave You Journals make great gifts, especially when inscribed with words of encouragement. Add a second inscription in the middle of the journal, too. A friend did this for me and it was a wonderful surprise to find her cheering me on when I turned the page.
7. The Very Best Journal. The one you write in.