On Journalling

Recently, I received a journal among a bag of birthday gifts. We had discussed the importance for any writer of recording their thoughts. I am a relatively late convert to this practice. I had only started last May but it has made a big difference. 


I have a couple of key reasons for keeping journals. Firstly, I use the pages to jot down my ideas, arranged by date. Our imagination is inconstant. A great idea now may evaporate in some time. Indeed, this has happened to me on occasion. As a Knicks announcer once said,’Once the moment is gone, it’s gone for good.’ This makes writing down the thoughts imperative. Thus, having a notebook at hand is always a good idea. Secondly, I use the log for reminders. Of course, our smart devices could likewise do this. However, notebooks offer the convenience of not having to stare at a screen. Just like with ideas, scribbling reminders ensure that they will not be lost in the bustle of everyday living. 


Innovators, whether great or ordinary, have long taken up the journal craze. Some of our finest artists have been down this road. At the top of the pyramid are the moleskin notebooks. These hardwearing journals are premium stationery. Titans such as Bruce Chatwin, Ernest Hemingway, and celebrated painter, Pablo Picasso, have all utilised these logs. Last year, this online store had a moleskin sale. Some of them were down to 8.80. However, this was misleading as the shipping fees would double the price tag. Though I was tempted, I decided not to make the purchase. 

The moleskins have gone a long way since Hemingway’s time. They have the standard ruled journals; the blank ones; the graphed ones; and the dotted iterations. At the end of the day, I thought that it’s just a notebook. You’re only paying for the brand name and thicker covers but they have little difference. If I remember correctly, eighty-five of Chatwin’s moleskins were given to a library. They were chock full of his notes. Chatwin makes light of his journalling in his hybrid book, The Songlines. A fair bit of the book was dedicated to his journal musings. 

I initially bought a black notebook from a large retailer. It had a cardboard cover, a spiral binder, 200 A5 pages, and some slots at the front and back. Here you could put things like receipts, post-it’s, and the like. I filled it with all my book ideas, corrections, reminders, big words, and quotes from books and media. I register my thoughts while streaming, while having meals, in the morning, even after hitting the sack. I used it pretty much everyday; this became my constant companion. I noticed that the front cover wasn’t very durable, but I liked how I could easily remove the pages. All this time, I mobilised a simple ballpen to record my thoughts for posterity. Pro tip: always get a spiral notebook for ease of access. 

‘The notebook’

At the start of February this year, I had filled up the log. I had some options. I had purchased three thinner A5 notebooks from Kmart. They had varying cool designs and were good value. My sister had also bought four notebooks for me from this stationery store. They were even cheaper. Before the lockdown, i also purchased three identical black notebooks from a department store. I decided to use one of these. My current log is pretty similar to its percursor, with black covers, two slots, a spiral spine, and a similar A5 size. Unlike its predecessor, I wasn’t as religious in jotting down my ideas. I use the journal mainly for reminders and benign notes. Instead, I used one of my sister’s notebooks to plot out my ideas. Last month, I also got a pricey four-pack of gel pens for good measure. The pen is more reliable than your standard ballpen. It makes you want to write more.

Game changer

The pandemic has certainly redefined our lives. We’ve learned to adapt perhaps more than ever before. As lockdowns were imposed, people busied themselves with puzzles, board games, and Lego. Reading and buying books has had a renaissance. No doubt, some writers would be impelled to buy more journals to lock down their ideas. Thus, I would encourage budding writers to follow my lead. You lose nothing by spending a few bucks. It’s like having a portable backup, a snapshot of your days. You don’t need to dedicate a page to ‘Dear diary’; I don’t. Just regard it as a handy friend that will be of use both now and tomorrow. I want to reiterate that you don’t need to spend a premium. It’s the content that matters, not the cost.  

Despite all these implements, we must note that no one will write the words for you. You might have the best instruments but without some talent and lots of diligence, the tools are insufficient. Your thoughts are the building blocks of your maunscript. Once you’ve outlined your ideas, transfer and organise them onto the paper. The editing comes later.  Soon you’ll realise that you can’t take your eyes off your work. You’ve become obsessed with the process. Times may change, technology may advance, literary styles may go in and out of fashion. In spite of these variations, journals will always have a place. Remember: a man full of ideas will never be poor. You’re welcome. 

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