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Judging a journal by its cover


I am sorry to break this you but, as of the date of publication of this post you have nine shopping days left to get your Christmas presents sorted. And before you tell me I can’t count, I once bought my husband concert tickets for Christmas at 11am on Christmas Day so its never too late. ( He didn’t buy  them before  because he thought I would think of them as a gift and I didn’t buy them because I thought he would think of them as a gift…!)   Now, am not here to encourage the commercialisation of Christmas or the use of overdrafts, but I am going to encourage you to buy yourself a small gift online today. You deserve it and you will benefit from it all next year. And why not get your best friend one too to share the joy. I am of course talking about a journal.

Come the first week of the New Year I am going to be running a whole week’s bonus posts on how to make lasting and life enhancing New Year Resolutions and to play along you will need a journal. So right there you have my permission for a little treat… And for those of you who are journal sceptical, when better than a new year to try something new?

Reader Alison Reeves raised the issue in my last journalling column about how you choose a suitable journal so here are some thoughts and suggestions for you:

First, disabuse yourself of the idea that there is some perfect journal. There isn’t. any given notebook will be delightful on one day and on the very next too big/small/have the wrong type of paper and so on. So first, make some decisions. There is no right answer to these questions and the answer you give will be just perfect for you. And then on a given day in the future it will turn out to be the worst decision you could have made. Life is a bitch like that. Excpect it, buy the journal that seems best and use it to write about how you hate your journal; it will be alright the day after. And if its not buy another one. This is paper we are talking about here, not real estate. Experimenting is no big deal.

(a)  Do you want one journal for all purposes? Or will you separate out your journalling into topics, maybe one for gratitude, one for morning pages. I keep a separate bread baking journal in the kitchen were I can record my experiments and results.

(b) Where will you journal the most? If there is one place in your home you ritually sit to journal you may choose something quite large which looks nice sitting out on your coffee table. If you scribble when and where you get chance you may need something more portable. Or transferable pages that fit into an existing planner that you already carry to keep weight down.

(c) How do you journal? This is where newbies may need to experiment. Do you like to use your best writing on pretty paper or do you use paints and crayons and need plain paper that will take waterbased media?

Here are my suggestions for some journals I love to suit everyone. I have given a link to a UK retailer but the products should be fully searchable on line for other countries

1. For the woman who likes pretty things in her handbag

Jill Bliss Flexible Journal.

There are a whole range of these journals. If you like these have a look at the Tree Journal by Lisa Congdon which I have not seen in real life but which looks pretty cool.


2. For the  lover of  personalised simplicity

I am loving the look of these personalised leather bound journals from Not On the High Street. Choose your size, pages and of course message. Wouldn’t these be great for people who like things to coordinate and keep separate journals for different topics?



3. For the environmentally conscious

I have a whole stack of these recycled leather and paper notebooks by Artbox in many different colours. Again, simple. I like that I can write with them in landscape or portrait orientation. Mine are these A7 sized ones but they also come in A6.




 4. For the person who is paralysed by a beautiful bound notebook

Come one. These are so cheap  and boring they can only be made better by random scribbles!


5. For the person who likes flexibility.

You knew there was a filofax in there! If you use ringbound planers it is easy to slip extra pages in for journalling in spare moments and then transfer then to storage later.  My favourite of all mine is the Osterley Plum A5, not least because the back cover allows me to slip one of the Jill Bliss flexible notebooks in the back for double joy,  but I accept that’s top end in terns of cost.  I use it as a commonplace journal with the notebook for jotting down links and names and vague things I find as I am reading books or online and want to come back to later. For rugged throwabout ability, no guilt, indulgence pick a Domino. Or search Adspot or Ebay for bargains. ( I got my Osterley on Adspot for 35% of RRP)

5. For the long term filofaxer looking for variety.


Chronicle Book’s Eco Journals can be easily found online and need only the signatures snipping and the pages punching to make fun or beautiful inserts.They fit A5 models. I use the Jill Bliss Succulents version in the Osterley. But see Gail Wheatley’s blog post ( which alerted me to these) for other options. I use these more casual pages as a bread baking journal. Of course you can always leave them bound!

Their  Sixty Four Leaves journal is not quite A5 size but  is still going to be my latest purchase as it  will slot in the back of my Holborn A5 for a workplace journal. in fact for those who like single topic journals check out the entire Chronicles range – they have some pretty cool dedicated topic journals.

After all that I cannot actually give you a link to buy the journals I have been using for years as my general reflective writing journal. I have a whole shelf of identically spined Picture Framed Journals which where made by British Museums. They are no more and there are only three left unused in my stash. What will I do then?!


What journals do you use and love that we should know about?

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Azreada #

    I have a confession to make. Every year I make journal covers for composition books, but I have yet to keep one for my own use. It looks like 2013 will be the year I start.

    December 17, 2012
  2. The word Journal can also be exchanged for ‘Filofax’ in the above post…. Perfect one day, too big or too small the next… etc etc etc…. Life is a bitch… S’il vous plaît excuser mon français

    December 17, 2012
  3. Gwyned Trefethen #

    As a spiral notebook, college ruled journaling gal myself, I would conjecture that my preference isn’t because I am intimidated by beautiful journals. Instead I see my journal more like placing thoughts on a leaf and letting them drift downstream. I throw away (in recycling of course) my journals as soon as I come to the last page.

    The most important tool for me is a good pen. I’m left handed and find ballpoint pens/biros tend to blob and smear when I use them. Over time I have settled on Uniball’s fine point Vision pens that come in packs with a variety of colors. I venture out periodically, but always come back to this pen.

    December 17, 2012

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