Journals: Part One

“It is a very sad thing that nowadays there is so little useless information.” Oscar Wilde

Posted by PicasaIt’s kind of silly, this habit of mine. Writing journals for over thirty years. They don’t matter much to any one except me. To me, they are better than a photo album. When I read them, I am instantly transported back to a previous time and place.

One of the odd things I’ve done, without even realizing it, is to tuck little scraps of paper, or photographs, or notes, in the pages of my journals. I open them to find an incomplete scrapbook of sorts, such as this one from 22 years ago when I was in Italy:


There’s a ticket from the metro, a card from the Bed and Breakfast which has the chocolate torn off the right hand side; a post card signed by our waiter “Con Simpatico, Marco”.

In the mid eighties I used to glue things on the covers of my journals. These two were bought in London, and I pasted a card I found of paintbrushes on one, a drawing of my initials on the other.

Other times, I’d simply glue a photograph I took with my Canon Elf right over the top of a wirebound notebook from the drugstore.

I found these journals at Borders which are made of Italian leather with a place to insert a picture.


Then, I took a class in book making, and started making my own. But, the problem with journals becoming too beautiful is the feeling that you don’t want to ruin them by writing in them. I bought this Italian leather one from Barnes and Noble a few years ago, and I’ve never even opened it for fear of spoiling the unmarked pages:

Now I’m using French notebooks from Clairefontaine because they have the nicest paper for writing with fountain pens. The ink does not soak through the paper, or fade and blur like it does on the cheap paper we have here in the States.

These notebooks can be ordered through a wonderful company I found called Writer’s Bloc. They are only about $8.00 each, and so worth it if you like to write on the smoothest paper in the world. Or, if you prefer fountain pens like me.

This is my very favorite pen in the world. It’s a Mont Blanc Meisterstuck, which is so old that it has West Germany embossed on the gold band at the top. I bought it almost twenty years ago, and I never take it out of the house for fear of losing it.

So, thank you, Carl, for posting about journals and bringing to the forefront a private, and sometimes compulsive, form of print.

And, as Stormfilled said in the comment section of Carl’s post, “Must urge those of you who are reluctant to ‘ruin’ your journals with scribbles that you must do it! It’s what they’re designed for. They enjoy it and there are always more.” Phew! That’s a load off my tendency toward perfectionism soul!

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28 thoughts on “Journals: Part One”

  1. Your collection is wonderful!(I have many journals of different kinds but am currently using a pretty Clairefontaine for all my notes on books).

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  2. Oh! How very wonderful! I wish I had done this years ago, i regret it deeply looking at your diaries. So many memories you can revisit and I agree they are much better than a photo album which does not always reflect our feelings.

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  3. How absolutely wonderful! The journals are beauties and I once preferred a fountain pen to all else but it was never as nice as yours. Now you've gone and made me miss it!cjh

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  4. You're the cool kind of journaler that I've always wanted to be! I can't tell you how many journals I have completed over the years…countless…but I never finish them. They end up abandoned. I'd love to start journaling (with a good fountain pen) and see the book through all the way through the last page with some interesting photographs and tidbits in between 🙂 I think it's great that you've tucked away your life into these books and saved them all. Fascinating really. And they're all so beautiful!

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  5. Oh, I have journals, but I use them to write short stories inside and scribble notes on worldbyuilding. So far I have only four completed and as far as my life goes I am not so fond of journaling. It doesn't really intrerest me, although I have been toying with the idea to write a YA fantasy novel for young kids in the form of a journal. I am so thrilled with these pistures. If only I had the bariety of such journal I would buy so many. I hope I get the chance to go on a book making course. We don't have such things.

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  6. Your journal collection is beautiful. I started keeping one a few years ago when my long term boyfriend broke up with me (he was cheating on me with an ex friend of mine). I wanted to keep a log of the fun things I was doing so I always had some happy memories to read back over. I still keep it but not very often. I stick in ticket/movie stubs, set lists from gigs, postcards and whatever else takes my fancy at the time. I keep a series of other journals as well. I have a notebook filled with book reviews, one keeping track of all the series I own (book wise) and where I am up to with reading them (I realised I have tonnes so this seemed a good way to keep tabs), a magical journal and various other bits and pieces. For my personal journal I always write in fountain pen in blue ink, but for other journals I have a biro brand I like and always write in black ink. My husband thinks I am quite anal about it all, but I think he secretly loves it and sees it as cute 🙂

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  7. Such a lovely collection you have here, Bellezza! I love journals, but am not dedicated enough to keep one. I've tried over the years, but the habit never stuck. The only time I seem to journal is when we're on a trip somewhere. It's certainly fun to look back on, years later, reading about all the places we visited. Much better than a photo album (and I do love my photos!).Great pen!

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  8. What a great post- you are quite lucky to have such an extensive record of your life. I've journaled- not much in my adult life, though. Going back and looking at old journals is too painful for me- not because my life has been so terrible, but because I'm so embarrassed for my younger self. I love that you put little mementos in the pages. I have the mementos- but not the journal. I guess that's like a non-verbal form of journaling? I ought to complile my bag of mementos into a scrapbook/journal.

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  9. Karen, I haven't known of anyone else to use a Clairefontaine notebook! Where do you get yours? How do you record your books in it? (Just title, or brief summary, or what?) As a fellow reader/journal-er I'd love to know.Madeline, not only does one get to revisit the memory, there's so much emotion included in its description. At least in my journals. In fact, maybe there's too much emotion being the 'girl' that I am, and how I often used them as an outlet as well. It's not too late to start for you! CJ, I've found fabulous fountain pens that aren't expensive at a place called Paradise Pen. You can do a search online for it. They have Lamy fountain pens for around 30.00 which is reasonable for the good quality they are. But then, youo might have to by a Clairefontaine journal as well. :)Chris, thanks for always saying the sweetest words. I didn't show my most current, even up to the last few years, because somehow that's like showing my lingerie (that's how personal they are to me). I may post on a more current, and more beautiful journal, sometime because as much of a thrill it is to write in them and save a memory, is the thrill of using something beautiful. I love the whole experience: the smell of the paper, the feel of the leather, the shiny new ink as it dries. I didn't even go into the colors of ink bottles I have…almost as many as lipsticks.Daydream, I think your idea of writing a novel in journal form woudl be fascinating. Not that this is your genre AT ALL, but have you heard of the recent best seller The Diary of A Wimpy Kid? If not, I'll post on it. It's a hilarious journal of a kid's life in Jr. High, and I'd love to see what you could come up with using that style.Rhinoa, I like how you have several books for several purposes, and ink to go for each! Do you have trouble keeping them organized? I'm glad you're away from that boyfriend, and hopefully girlfriend, too!Les, I bet it would be great if you tucked some of your photgraphs into your trip journals…you're the best photographer, and they would make such a beautiful record. Trip journals are exciting, too. I think I've gone into everyday life because I've needed more of an outlet for all my thoughts.Mrs. T, I bet you could make a lot more books than you think if you start compiling your momentos. The only problem with thirty years of journals, besides the revelations and embarrassment of a younger self, is what on earth will I do with them? I can't exactly picture taking them into a nursing home with me, or that anyone would be that interested in reading them. I've often thought I should just type them up on a disc (or twenty) and burn the real things. I don't know…

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  10. Bellezza, I will be very interested if you like to post about it. My novel idea is fantasy of course. I had this journal as a homework assignment and I had to write what happened every day in English. It was my summer English homework. I was bored writing the same things over and over again, so I started writing about ninja battles, hidden fortresses in trees and underground tunels for kids railways. I lost it since I was 12 at that time and didn't care much about it, but wow I want the idea to be revived.

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  11. Belleza,what beautiful journals. i,too, cannot pass by a store with beautiful journals, papers, cards without buying at least one … at the moment, i am stuck on moleskins ….However, unlike you, I can never seem to finish a journal. And it is so frustrating to go back and begin re-reading and then the story just stops …. where's the ending? what happened next??i love how you have personalized these with mementos, photos, a ticket …. so much better than 'scrapbooking' …. and handmade books – I LOVE !!! I've made two: one for my sister when she lost a beloved dog. And one for a dear friend. I drew pictures, pasted in photos ….words ….I am impressed (and envious) with your discipline to stick with it …and now, you are 'reaping what you have sown." in a good way.xxxlady blue

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  12. Daydream, sure, I'd be glad to post on Diary of A Wimpy Kid. Then, I want to see your text because the fantasy twist sounds even better.Lady Blue, Moleskine's are my second favorite! I love how they come in different sizes, how the black covers are so inconspicuous, and how you can buy the pages in a grid or lined format. I've had that same experience myself, of reading a journal that suddenly stops, and it is frustrating until I find the next one to continue the story. Even though it's my own life. One of the things I want to do is put those journals in a chronological order, rather than a cardboard box. I bet the books you made were as beautiful as your blog.

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  13. Gorgeous! Thank you for sharing! I love to get lost in all the beautiful journals at Barnes & Noble. I just wish I had more dedication to writing in them!Lezlie

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  14. ahhh sweet Bellezza,the books i made had more 'beauty' in their sentiment and love …..which is probably the best reason I had to make them ….think: a hundred years down the road, someone will pick up your first journal and be captivated …. and read and read until the very end …. which truly is just a new beginning…fondly,lady blueps. i love the gridded moleskins … don't ask me why … an oddity.

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  15. Anonymous, did you know that they also come in ballpoint? For those who don't like liquid fountain pen ink which is tricky to dry before one turns the page. I want to write a post soon on writing instruments, because they're as important as the journal itself to me.Lady Blue, your comment reminds me of Interlochen National Music Camp where the season ended with Liszt's "Les Preludes." I always asked myself, "How can a song called "The Beginning" be played at the end? But, of course, as we know, the ending of one thing is the beginning of something else.Yeah, I love the grid pages, too.

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  16. I've always journalled, too, but not as consistently as it looks like you have. I have just written about what to do w/ my mother's journals. I'd love your feedback on what to do someday… especially since you journal as regularly as she does.

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  17. What a wonderful gift you have given yourself in these journals. I have not been so diligent, but I do know that feeling of reading an entry and being vividly transported in time to that moment. I love to buy journals, but am slow to write in them, usually writing a few pages at the front only.

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  18. Booklogged, it's amazing how most comments seem to reflect a similar point of view: I like journals, they seem a worthy endeavor, but I don't continue to write in it to completion. I wonder why…is it too tedious? Time consuming? Interesting…

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  19. the seeds of its ending always lie in its beginningi don't know where this came from other than my head or more likely my heart. i found it to be true, though.but yes, the life cycle shows us that new beginnings happen so often around us – we rarely see the miracle of them anymore!xxlady blue

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  20. Lady Blue, sometimes it's harder than others to keep one's hope that a new beginning is just around the corner. I like the first line in your comment very much.Mar, living in Germany was a great impetus to my first Mont Blonc purchases! I had a very thick nibbed fountains pen which is lost somewhere; I hope someone's enjoying it as much as I did. Thus the reason I don't take the one pictured in this post out of the house anymore. Did you buy one when you lived there?

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  21. Although journaling should probably be an activity one does with the sole purpose of pleasing oneself, I would argue that you are not correct when you say that they only matter to you. I can only imagine what your son or your son's future kids and grandkids might think years later when they discover your journals. I've read so many posts about people doing just that and what a wonderful experience it was. I'm glad you posted this, it was such a great post to read. I want to get myself a nice fountain pen but know so little about them and don't want to spend a fortune and/or have difficulty obtaining ink refills.I'll be checking out those journals you recommend.By the way, did you see Stormfilled's response on my post to the 'journal to beautiful to ruin' idea?

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  22. Carl, I went back to look up specifically what Stormfilled said, and it was so wonderful I added it to the bottom of the post. A great sigh of relief was heard by all after reading that comment!

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  23. I'm glad to hear that because I came back here, saw that quote and thought, 'boy do I feel stupid telling her to go read that quote when she actually posted it right here'. 🙂

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  24. My dear friend:Will I be "outing" you, if I say here how I have always treasured that you let me read your journals all those years ago… While Kelly was gone for the Summer a few years ago, I photographed all of the pages of hers, and put them in a private place she could share with her childhood friends (if she wished, or, not), and on a hard drive in a fireproof safe, so that should the house ever burn (or, flood, as it did just last year, but after we no longer lived there!), she wouldn't lose those years of memories and reminders.Thank you for your friendship, and your trust, and for being there.Kevin

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