I knew it was only a matter of time.
I knew, after committing to writing a blog post every week, that there would be a week where I had nothing.
Nothing to say that hadn’t been said a million times before and way better.
My life? Snore.
Writing, aging, personal growth, marriage, friendship– I scrolled through my mental Pinterest board of all the usual topics, and came up empty this week.
Hearing the scrawny bastard critic in the corner sneering, “See? You’ve got nothing to say. Leave it to the professionals, won’t you?” I sat and took a breath.
That shut him up.
Then I looked right in front of me, because someone told me, or I read, or I made up, that you can just write about what you see. The first thing I saw was my journal, the second, my pen.
I’ve been keeping a journal since I was in second or third grade. Sometimes they were picture journals, where I would draw ads for movies I’d seen, or practice my fancy autograph with different last names, depending on my latest celebrity crush.
It was kind of a scrapbook, really. Since then my personal writing has evolved to serve all kinds of purposes, from list making, to venting, to meditation. I can’t imagine ever stopping.
And so, dear reader, I submit to you a blog post about the humble journal.
I am not an expert on anything, but after nearly forty years of pouring my thoughts onto private pages, I feel like I know a thing or two about what makes a good journal, so how about I share those with you now? Actually, life is short, and you’re busy. I’ll just tell you the best journal and you’ll have to trust me on this.
The best journal is this one, by Plumb Notebooks. I make no disclaimers, because I really think it is the best and here’s why:
This journal will set you back around $22.00, but I think it’s worth it. It is a beautiful color, with unlined paper that’s heavy enough so ink doesn’t bleed through, and shaggy edges that will make you feel very classy. Also, it’s bound in such a way that it lies flat when it’s open. You don’t have to put your coffee cup on it to hold it open when you write, which is lovely.
One of my favorite writers on writing, Natalie Goldberg, says you should use cheap spiral notebooks for journaling and what I call Writerly Diddling. The idea is that, if you write in a plain cheapo notebook, you won’t be so precious about your writing and the pressure will ease up.
First of all, journaling doesn’t involve any pressure, unless you’re hoping to unearth a memoir or something like that. And, even if you are using your journal as a kind of compost bin for other writing (a great idea, by the way), writing in those sad schoolish notebooks just isn’t as much fun. Maybe it’s the flashbacks from seventh grade, or the way the wire thingy comes uncurled and snags my sweater, but I like a journal that in no way reminds me of Geometry homework.
This one is chunky enough to feel important, and squat enough that it can fit into my purse. (PS: If you find that this journal is too big for your purse, just get a different purse. Someone told me that a big purse makes your ass look smaller, so it’s a win-win!)
I’m a little scared of how I’ll feel when this particular journal goes out of print. I’ve bought a few extra, which should get me through the next year and a half, but that doesn’t do much to calm my nerves around the possibility of having to find a new favorite. For now, I’m just trying to live in the moment.
Since we’re on the subject, and since I’m on a roll and seem to be, if I am not mistaken, actually writing a blog post, which only fifteen minutes ago I thought was completely impossible, let’s talk about the pen.
What’s the best pen?
You might have your own opinions, and if you do, please share them in the comments. Unlike my deep and stedfast attachment to my journal, I’m not completely sure I’ve found the perfect pen. I have, however, found a really great one:
I’ve been a big fan of the unfortunately named “Uniball” for a really long time, but they’re a little spendy, and sometimes they smudge or leak onto the seat of my car. I liked the Sharpee pens for a while because they were waterproof and pretty cheap, but they had a drag on them and slowed me down. The Papermate Ink Joy is, in many ways, a regular old ballpoint which of course I love, but it has the smooth speed of a more expensive pen.
So, clearly this is not a post that will change the world. But I do believe that writing at least helps the world, whether it’s a novel, a news story or just a page in a journal.
Not that I go back and read them that often, which makes some non-journaling friends ask, “Then what’s the point?”
Good question, and a good question usually has more than one answer.
I do it because it helps me remember.
And because it helps me forget.
An argument with my husband, scrawled out as fast as I can, pressing down on the front and back of as many pages as it takes is then, like a paper boat, set sail downstream. Most of the time, I never see it again.
(I believe skillful forgetting is a really good thing in a marriage.)
And as for remembering…
I turn to a page written when we were in Hawaii last summer, and it’s there. The night we went swimming in the pool, my boys and I, and took turns holding each other on our backs, floating around in the moonlight. The stars are there, and also the sweetness of my twelve year old son towing me gently around the pool, his palms on my back. It’s written there, that I felt the tables turn for the first time.
My memory leaks like a cheap ballpoint, and I’m so grateful to my journal for capturing and preserving that moment.
So, that’s what’s right in front of me. What’s in front of you?
Write about it 🙂