Should I Own More than One Journal? A Minimalist Issue

There are journal writers who, inspired by minimalists, will not own more paper journals than they need at one time. If they are writing, then that is the only (semi) blank journal in the house. This method keeps down unnecessary objects and clears the mind. The lack of visual noise can quell anxiety and create a peaceful space.

However, while trying to keep objects in the house down to a minimum, one might discover that a second blank book is useful for sustained journaling.

It has been this author’s experience that sometimes you might finish a journal before you finish a thought. It is best to have the next journal handy to continue jotting down the idea for a couple of reasons. One, in case you forget the idea before buying a new journal. Two, you want the inertia from writing in the finished journal to carry over into the next one.

There is something about a completed journal that feels final for some of us. Some of us do not want the finality of completing the book to lead to resting on our laurels and not picking up a journal again for a while . . . or ever again. Have an extra journal on hand to sustain the journaling habit.

When one has immediately opened a new journal to continue a thought from the previous book, one has broken in the new journal, played around in a fresh space, marked the territory. In this situation, one is likely to return to the book.

If a person is in a tug-of-war with a need to remain minimalist (to own only what you need) and a need to continue the inertia of journal writing by having an extra book around, then think of the extra book in the house as a need, because, in that case, it is a need.



Dispose of Your Diary In a Useful Way: The Great Diary Project

  • Are you afraid that someone living today might read your diary after you have gone?
  • Would you like your diary preserved for posterity 75 years from now?
  • Do you want to dispose of your journals now, but cannot think of a good way to do it?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then consider giving your journals to the The Great Diary Project.

Based in the United Kingdom and borne out of an impulse to preserve the everyday ideas of ordinary life, The Great Diary Project was founded in 2007 by Dr. Polly North, who is the founding director of the project at BishopsGate Institute, and by Dr. Irving Finkel, who is Assistant Keeper of Ancient Mesopotamian script, languages and cultures of the British Museum.

Dr. Finkel found random diaries that were to be tossed away and purchased them. In his work with scribblings from ordinary life in the ancient world, such as a cuneiform of a receipt for livestock, Dr. Finkel found a window, a glimpse into what life was like beyond the statues and monuments to world leaders.

The founders of The Great Diary Project take that same approach to today’s diaries – they find value in the ordinary. As time moves on, what seems so mundane to us will be odd to posterity, or at least different enough to be of great value to historians. The project accepts diaries from anywhere and loosely define the concept. They preserve them and make them available to the public.

For those worried about people today reading your diary, don’t worry. When you deposit your diary with The Great Diary Project, you can determine when your diary can be made available to the public. You can tell them that this book is not available to the public until a century from now. By then, every person that you are worried will see it will likely not know what you’ve done with the thing or will have long since passed on from the planet.

Check out The Great Diary Project.



Not Journaling Enough? Your Tools Might Be the Problem

Have you procrastinated in your journaling? Do not feel guilty. Procrastination in journal writing sometimes occurs when your tools do not interest you.

If you are subconsciously irritated by the thin onion skin paper that allows ink to bleed though, one might not wish to write on the page again. If the ink pen you are using is too small for your hands it can be uncomfortable to use, making one less likely to pick it up. Perhaps you journal while outside of your home, but a physical journal is not something you enjoy carrying around.

Perhaps a thicker paper is needed. Perhaps a larger ink pen will help you return to the journal. Perhaps a digital journal is better for on the go writing than a physical one.

Patience is the key here. Sometimes you just need to reassess your objects. Do you find them useful? If not, it might be time to move away from them. While you are at it, enjoy the journey of finding the journal writing tool that is right for you.



Do You Reread Your Journals?

People write in journals for a variety of reasons. Depending on the purpose of the journal, rereading it can be useful. Sometimes, however, rereading the journal serves no purpose for you or perhaps it is too painful.

However, for those of us who use journals to record our history, our progress (or lack of it), rereading is essential.

I recently stumbled across Tim Ferriss’ book – Tools of Titans. In his introduction, I was struck by his use of journals. He calls them “notes.”

“I’m a compulsive note-taker…. I have recorded nearly every workout since age 18 or so…. It is the collection of my life’s recipes.

“My goal is to learn things once and use them forever.

“For instance, let’s say I stumble upon a picture of myself from June 5, 2007, and I think, ‘I really wish I looked like that again.’ No problem. I’ll crack open a dusty volume from 2007, review the 8 weeks of training and food logs preceding June 5, repeat them and -voila- end up looking nearly the same as my younger self (minus the hair). It’s not always that easy, but it often is.”

For Ferriss, workout journals and food logs are important.

What would be important for you to recall from your journals?

For me, recalling what I was doing a year ago  helps me to understand my progress and my process in any given area of life. Have I made progress on the goals mentioned last year?

Approximately a year ago this month, I said that I wanted to create a business. I’ve set those gears in motion.

One of the things I now do that I wasn’t doing last year this time is use the journal to record my goals for the week, re-reading the goals daily, and revamping the next week’s goals on Saturday.

Members of BTS, a music group that I like, ask themselves at least three goal-related questions every year, questions that I have adapted to a weekly form and ask myself every Saturday in my journal. They are these:

  1. What accomplishments excited you this week?
  2. What would you like to accomplish next week?
  3. Give yourself encouragement for the next week.

I answer these questions. Under accomplishments for the week, I note daily which things I’ve done and which I have not. I reread the answers at the end of the week. Sometimes I look back on the week and see lots of notes that something did not happen, that I did not accomplish this thing or that. It can be discouraging. But the great difference between last year and this year is that I correct the failings quicker because I  reread the list of things to do every week.

My journal is also where I record my feelings or thoughts about family, business, technology or anything else I’m thinking about. Not only is my to-do list there, but the mental state that I’m in when I accomplish (or fail to accomplish) a thing is right there as well. This helps me to see patterns of thought that I can change to alter my behavior, map my behavior towards the goal.

The person that I once was is always a familiar stranger. This is comforting. Since I made such terrible career decisions in my youth, I am forever in doubt that I’ll know what future self wants. However, according to my journals, the terrible decisions occurred when I stopped listening to myself and followed the crowd. Now, I listen to myself more, I follow the way that I am bent more, even if my behavior is difficult to explain. (This is another reason that rereading my journals comes in handy – if I can explain myself to myself, I have a better shot at being able to explain myself to other people.)

Do you reread your journals? Why do you do so?



How to Journal: 7 Journal Writers Give Advice

Whether you have just begun journal writing, or have been doing it for years, or are taking it up again after a hiatus, these fellow journal writers are here to inspire you in the journey. I’ve compiled quotes and links to their full content. Enjoy!



1. Arnold Bennett, Author

“There is only one valid reason for beginning a diary—namely, that you find pleasure in beginning it; and only one valid reason for continuing a diary—namely, that you find pleasure in continuing it. You may find profit in doing so, but that is not the main point—though it is a point. You will most positively experience pleasure in reading it after a long interval; but that is not the main point either—though it is an important point. A diary should find its sufficient justification in the writing of it. If the act of writing is not its own reward, then let the diary remain for ever unwritten.”

2. Jade Herriman, Art Therapist

“Check out the journals of writers, artists and scientists for inspiration – in doing this you will see how many options are available for a journal, the format is not set and can reflect your interests and passions.”

3. Alexandra Johnson, Author

“As my shelves filled with separate notebooks -travel journals, commonplace books full of quotations, writer’ notebooks- so they filled with the work that had come out of them. Now, I never have to worry about getting started. In dry seasons, all I have to do is open an old journal. Inside, something waits… to spark a new project. I learned long ago not to care what the journals look like, or if they’re well written (they’re usually not). or how often I fill the pages.” – from the book Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal

4. Kristin at Journaling Saves

“Remember that journaling should be enjoyable (most of the time). If you take the task too seriously or put too much pressure on yourself, journaling will become a burden instead of a gift. Keep a spirit of play, and infuse your journal with a little humor. Adding art, creativity, color or heart to your journal keeps the process fresh and inviting. ”

5. Jen Morris at Jen Morris Creative

“[We] think we need a good 30 minutes undisturbed to sit down and journal, but really it can be done in bits and pieces throughout the day. For example, if you leave [an art journal] open to a spread you’re working on, it can be easy to swipe a bit of paint across the paper right before you head out to work. That literally only takes 2 minutes. ”

6. Brett and Kay McKay Online Magazine Editors

“A journal is basically a chance for your past self to lend counsel to your present self.

[Simply] writing about your feelings and frustrations helps you focus on what’s really going on in your life and in your head, so that you can come up with a solution to your problems.”

7. Barbara Sher, Author

“Let’s end the notion that ideas have no value unless they turn into a business or have some other practical use. Save them all in a beautiful book like Leonardo did. You might want to give them away someday, perhaps to someone who needs an idea. Or your great-great-grandchildren might love knowing what a fascinating mind you had. Or your biographer might be very happy after you’re gone.”  – from the book Refuse to Choose