My First Reflections: On Personal Journalling

A Classic

A few days ago, innowen asked me, if that's the word... to write a piece on how I journal. I nearly had a heart attack. After the hyperventillation, I obliged. What follows are my thoughts on why I journal and the tools I use to scribble my thoughts down.

Since meeting her, I've added a new dimension to my journalling - creative writing. For years I reflected on all kinds of data and opinion while studiously avoiding any emotional discourse. I am now discovering creativity is just as much collaboration as science; and that the best way to learn is through a mentor whose writings one admires much the same as with scholarly pursuits.

Journal or diary? My own somewhat antiquated idea was that journalling and diarist are synonymous. Names such as Frank and Pepys spring to mind rather than Cameron and Mailer. Doug and innowen quickly disabused me of this notion. They tell me a journal is nothing more than a collection of random thoughts that at the time of writing concern or intrigue one, they need not be a chronology of events. I have therefore been keeping some form of journal in my Filofax for a number of years without realising it. A case of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing.

Tools of the trade. Ask any old time newshound, writing is a trade. As such tools have evolved to make it faster and more profitable rather than enjoyable. I eschewed the 'blog' as some heinous form of word processor. I chose the semi-rigid nib of a Pelikan fountain pen; my Nuthung, and 28lb Bond (100gm) off-white premium grade paper, smooth and hard. My golden nib glides across it like a skater on ice.So what holds all this together? My beloved Filofax. In a way, it is a reflection of myself. Old and wise, rough and manly. The rings allow me not only to archive old pages but also to add new ones. I can remove a page to write or draw on, Use the D*I*Y forms that doug and others have so thought fully produced, even make some of my own. My filofax also serves as a place to practice my penmanship. More recently however, I have begun to learn how to bind my own books; using off-white coloured paper and innowen's article on bookbinding. Nothing beats writing those touchy-feely (and private) thoughts down in a book bound by one's own hand.

A life in Snippits. "What are you scribbling at now?" How often we hear that. Odd thoughts, sayings, questions and answers, vignettes of life all contained in a small leather binder. The only time I stop taking notes is when I am forced to drive - I find trying to dodge other motorist a terrible distraction to one's thought process. If I can I like to listen to music while journalling, this is in contrast to my note taking. The reason is simple, the latter is collecting information and one needs to employ active listening. The former is about finding the best employment of knowledge and the more relaxed I feel the easier my task becomes. For example, I wrote this while sitting on a train:

"Oscar Wilde was right; sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. I therefore try to limit myself to two pieces a day. The exception to this rule is railway staff. They alone stand witless and I find myself staring at them with ever increasing incredulity".

The road less travelled. Humans are naturally creative. I see the creative paradigm in science. However I feel I want to do more than merely espouse knowledge in an academic argot. I see myself writing more and pushing the boundary. I wish to descend from my ivory tower to explore it first hand. I want to draw pictures in the minds of others. I want to be the dragon under the bed; the lion in the wardrobe, the rabbit one cannot help but chase. To this end I will dig up and employ a few suitable reference works on myths, legend and mimesis. I will also be sure to keep up my journalling, for as innowen says "the best way to improve one's writing is to do it".

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Hi Sardonios Thanks for the

Hi Sardonios

Thanks for the article, looks like I too have 'journaled' for a long time without knowing it!

Curious to know what size of Filofax you use?


The Size of It....

Thank you willbewill, I am glad you liked it. I use an old 'Personal' size (6.75" x 3.75" - 95 x 171mm) Filofax. However Doug makes a very good case for the 'Classic'/A5 hub with the hPDA and notebook acting as satellites for anyone who is just starting out. :)

Great post!

Wow this was great. I've been having such a "journaling block" it's not funny. I have a pocket Moleskine cahier that's been riding around in my bag for quite a while. It's completely pristine, not a drop of ink or mark of pencil anywhere! But your article inspired me, and I opened to the first page and quoted you: "...a journal is nothing more than a collection of random thoughts that at the time of writing concern or intrigue one...". Now at least there is some ink in the book, and perhaps I will even add more. Thank you!!

Cotton Pickin' Good...

Thank you. Of all the journals I have been cited in yours will mean the most to me. :)


Nice picture. Can you tell me what it is?

To the Dark Tower Came...

Sure Paulien. The pic is both the narrative poem Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach and a quest for spiritual enlightenment. I thought it a good motif considering the subject of my article. :)


Haven't touched a journal since February (2006). I'm 66 years old and have kept a journal for most of forty of those years, accumulating millions of words, with output greatly increased once I plunged into the love-hate world of personal computers--especially as I type around 90 words per minute.

My favored mode was with fountain pen in hand-bound books when I quit. I don't even know why I stopped; I think I just got sick and tired of it.

Now I hop around websites associated with journal writing hoping to get jump-started by some miraculous encounter with just the right words, but it hasn't happened yet. I think something more fundamental than being tired of journal writing is at work: A sense that everything is basically futile.

Now! Before I leap onto my soapbox of pessimism (I think that between Schopenhauer and me, it's a tie as to degree of pessimism)--before that happens, I'll sign off for now.

Very good piece.

I liked Doug's article on journal writing, too. But I'm still "mute" or whatever the equivalent for fingers would be. The book lies abandoned; my mind twists around it painfully every day; I just can't make myself approach it--yet.

But I remain an ardent advocate of journal writing, for many reasons I won't go into here. If you have any inclination towards it--do it! At least give it a fair trial. My life is certainly very, very different because of my long journal-writing career, and almost certainly very much better for it.

Hi There

I'm hoping you are my old mate Jon whom I used to email daily.
If you are get in touch if you feel like it.
Good Night and God Bless, Mike from Manchester