Two Years of Daily Journaling

This week I celebrated two years of daily journaling. While I’ve been keeping journals for years, until the last two years I’ve only done so sporadically. Journaling was something that I did only when things got really rough, to keep myself going, or when I was travelling, to preserve the memories of my trip. I used pocket notebooks for my sporadic journals, as it was more important for me to capture things than to reflect on them. It was a utilitarian process, not an enjoyable one. I knew that once I decided to really start a journaling habit, that would have to change.

These are all the journals which I’ve used during the past two years.

So the first thing I did was pick a notebook that I knew I’d want to use, and use daily. The only rules were that it had to make me happy, and that it had to be large enough for me to be able to actually write in it, not just jot things down. I wasn’t looking for the best notebook with the best paper in the best format (I don’t think that exists, actually, but for us stationery geeks the search is always on), just a good enough notebook for me.

My notebooks of choice.

I also decided very early on that I couldn’t use a fountain pen for this, because I wanted a pen that I could write with even not under the most ideal circumstances. I was also planning for both the notebook and the pen to bash around freely in my bag. These were going to be used and look used.

Can you see how bloated these notebooks are? Moleskine makes them sturdy enough to take a beating. 

I chose Moleskine large ruled hardcover notebooks as my notebook of choice, and the uni-ball Signo RT 0.5 gel ink pen as my pen/refill (UMR-85N) of choice. I wanted a sturdy lined notebook that I’d enjoy using and looking at once it was done, and after years of neglecting the Moleskine for other notebooks I came back to it because of some of their limited edition designs. I knew that I was going to use the uni-ball Signo RT 0.5 as my pen or refill of choice (inside a BigiDesign Ti Arto or Ti Arto EDC), so I didn’t need fountain pen friendly paper. I had decided to pick up the steady journaling habit by starting with a travel journal, which I already had some experience with, and then carrying on from there. On the first evening of a trip to London I happened to walk by the Moleskine store in Covent Garden, and I decided to go in and check out what they had. There was a beautifully designed Batman limited edition notebook in exactly the kind of format I was looking for, and it was only available for sale at the Moleskine stores. I bought it, unwrapped and stamped it with the Moleskine Covent Garden stamps, and I haven’t looked back.

That pen and notebook combo has hardly changed over the years. What has changed is the format I use to journal, and the amount of daily journaling I do. When I started out I was used to only jotting a few lines down here and there when I journaled, so I knew I couldn’t expect to write 4-5 pages per day right from day one. Starting with just a paragraph to half a page a day, I pretty quickly moved to one page per day of just writing.

Then I saw a Neistat Brothers video on Youtube and realized that I could use my journal as a visual capturing device as well, and anything could go in it, so long as it made me remember a moment or a place.

Limited Edition Cola Zero tab created for the 2019 Eurovision song contest in Tel Aviv. I don’t even drink Cola Zero, but this little piece of metal is still totally evocative to me.

That’s when the notebooks really started to get bloated. From clothing labels to business cards and ticket stubs, if I can put glue on it and it’s visually appealing or evocative, it goes in. I almost always also write a little note for future me, to remind myself what I’m looking at and why it’s there. That change really made these notebooks a kind of personal artifact for me, and I can’t say how precious they’ve all become.

A bit of cat themed washi tape and a Uniqlo shirt label. Sometimes things go in because I find them visually appealing or they make me smile.

At a certain point I started getting ambitious, moving from writing one page a day to two pages, then four pages, then six. That’s when I had to take a step back and make sure that I wasn’t burning out on journaling for all the wrong reasons. I enjoy writing and I enjoy journaling, but I’m also trying to write fiction, and my journal can’t become something that consumes that, an excuse for not writing. It’s also easy to get carried away and want to finish the notebook as fast as possible just so you can open a fresh one, or brag (even if it’s only to yourself) that you’ve finished a notebook. Nowadays I write one or two pages a day for most days, moving up to more pages only if I really have something special to write about.

Doodling seasonal fruit in the margins.

Life also happens, and oftentimes it’s scary and ugly, a black hole that threatens to consume all that is good in your life, including journaling. My mom got unexpectedly and very seriously ill last year, and we’ve been struggling with her disease ever since. When she was in hospital I couldn’t bring myself to journal. I backlogged those (thankfully few) dark days, and I realized that I would have to accept that as much as journaling is important to me, family comes first, so backlogging is going to have to become acceptable. I try to backlog as little as possible, but some days just demand that.

If I want to remember a good meal I’ll sometimes draw it.

I also draw a little in my notebook, tiny thumbnails of things that I want to remember later, or that I just feel like drawing. These are usually food doodles, as I don’t really like to photograph my food.

I still use my journal in trips, and ticket stubs and bit and bobs like these make it more interesting.

If you’re looking for some journaling tips, I wrote two posts on that subject here and here. If there’s one thing I can leave you with it’s that if you want to journal, you need to figure out a way to it make it work for you, and be ready to adapt as your life changes over time. There is no perfect journaling system, or perfect journaling notebook, there’s only what works for you.

Go write.

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Two Years of Daily Journaling

Field Notes In and Out

Out: Campfire Dawn. This is one of the editions that I learned to love the more I used it: it just wears out so well.

In: Snowblind. Somewhat ironically this edition shows itself off best in the summer. It’s going to get dinged up and grimy, but that’s just what happens to used notebooks, especially ones with light coloured covers.

Field Notes In and Out

Moleskine Lord of the Rings Mount Doom Limited Edition Review

“Frodo gave a cry, and there was, fallen upon his knees at the chasm’s edge. But Gollum, dancing like a mad thing, held aloft the ring, a finger still thrust within its circle.
“Precious, precious, precious!” Gollum cried. “My Precious! O my Precious!” And with that, even as his eyes were lifted up to gloat on his prize, he stepped too far, toppled, wavered for a moment on the brink, and then with a shriek he fell. Out of the depths came his last wail precious, and he was gone.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

The Mount Doom Moleskine limited edition is the most dramatic of the Lord of the Rings themed notebooks to come out this year, and justifiably so. The red and black provide eye catching high contrast that are in complete opposition to the grey on grey Moria notebook.

This notebook will pop out the moment you see it on the store shelf.

Sauron’s eye gazes upon you. Notice the use of the LotR typeface, and Elven script, on the paper band.

The front cover shows Mount Doom in all its Tolkien illustrated glory, with Frodo and Samwise as little golden dots against its grey and red horror.

The design continues on the spine, with Tolkien’s sign on embossed in red at the top.

The back cover, with the edge of mount doom and Sauron’s all seeing eye in red.

The choice of red elastic closure and a black cover is perfect for this notebook, and the gold embossing of the date, the scene and Frodo and Samwise really pops.

The front end page with Tolkien’s pencil drawings of an aerial view of Mordor. The drawing is very nice, but it does make the “In case of loss” pretty obscure. You can either go extra bold here, or try to blend in and hope that someone will notice.

The aerial map of Mordor continues on the back end page. As usual, but still worth noting, the map is completely aligned with the back pocket.

The extra with this edition is the Cirith alphabet booklet.

The red and black theme continues here.

A closeup on the back pocket, with its red sides and the map that continues into the back pocket.

This is a ruled notebook, and it comes with a red ribbon bookmark. Unless you use inks like Noodler’s bulletproof black, it isn’t fountain pen friendly. Then again, it isn’t marketed as such (Moleskine has other notebooks for that).

The B-side of the paper band details Frodo and Sam’s journey.

I love these Lord of the Rings limited editions (I’m using the Moria one as my daily journal). The mount Doom edition is befitting of the dramatic climax of The Lord of Rings trilogy. If you’re a LotR fan this is definitely a must buy, and probably the best designed notebook of this edition.

Moleskine Lord of the Rings Mount Doom Limited Edition Review

Moleskine Time Blue Limited Edition Review

Every once in a while Moleskine comes out with something completely new. About a year ago it was the Time limited edition notebooks: a new format of notebook, with thicker paper, and a distinct new design.

This is the Blue Time notebook. Each one has a different colour theme (blue, black, green and brown), a different motif embossed on the cover in foil, and comes in either ruled (lined) or plain (blank) pages.

The Time notebook is thinner than a regular Moleskine, but feels substantial because of its thick chipboard covers. This is a notebook clearly designed to sit on your desk and not be bashed around in your bag, as the covers bruise and stain easily.

The Time notebooks have 140 pages of 100 gsm white, acid-free paper. They are themed around old ornamental motifs and paper making techniques, and so they feature marbled paper for their endpapers.

The spine is fabric covered, and the pages are set and sewn like any Moleskine notebook, so apart from the very first and very last page, they all open flat.

The foil emboss/deboss on the cover is beautiful and understated. The Time notebook features an elastic band and a back pocket, but no ribbon bookmark. Perhaps Moleskine thought that the index and numbered pages are enough.

I love the transparent band, and the way they dealt with the “In case of loss” area on the front endpaper.

The marbling effect on the endpapers is gorgeous, even though it’s a print and not actual hand marbled paper.

Again, someone bothered to align the pocket and back cover prints. Well done.

Since the first page of the notebook doesn’t open flat, Moleskine just put a blank page with a title there. I wish they would have done another throwaway page like that after the last page, but they didn’t.

The index! Two pages, and suitable for people with tiny hand writing and short titles for their pages. It’s a nice idea, though.

The pages of this notebook are numbered, and… fountain pen friendly. Not sort of fountain pen friendly, actually, deliberately fountain pen friendly. This is a notebook “for precious thoughts” after all.

I deliberately tested this notebook with juicy, italic and stub nibs, and it handled it like a champ. The paper shows some shading, though not as much tomoe river paper, obviously, and fast drying times. If you use nibs that lay down a lot of saturated ink there will be a tiny bit of bleed through and some show through, but for medium or fine nibs you likely won’t encounter this issue.

The other side of the page:

The paper is smooth, but not glass smooth, so it will work well with pencil if that’s what you prefer to use.

Moleskine doesn’t make the Time notebook collection anymore, but you can still find them pretty easily. I wish that this paper and format were available in other editions, or even in their regular lineup, and I’m glad to see that they’re still experimenting with their formats, not just with cover designs.

If you can get your hands on one of these notebooks and the format appeals to you, I recommend it.

Moleskine Time Blue Limited Edition Review

Ti Arto Review

It’s strange that I haven’t yet reviewed the pen that I use most, but that’s life, I guess. The Ti Arto is a titanium machined pen that accepts 200+ refills, and it has been my EDC and journaling pen since November 2016. There’s no pen I use more, and no pen I like more than this one.

Since the Ti Arto bashes around freely in my bag, it’s got quite a few scratches on it. I personally like that it shows some wear and tear, but as not everyone feels the same, I thought I’d take a few photos that show how the Ti Arto looks like when it’s not brand new.

The Ti Arto is made out of solid titanium, and doesn’t get dented even if you drop it. It does, however, show micro-abrasions and scratches.

None of these scratches is deep enough to be felt – they’re at surface level only. So it really is just an aesthetic thing. If you like your pen to look brand spanking new, the Ti Arto comes with a protective felt sleeve. I personally wouldn’t bother: this isn’t a fountain pen, but a tough, machined, EDC pen. It’s built to tumble around in your bag.

Now to the review proper: the Ti Arto was originally launched on Kickstarter, and became available on the BigiDesign site sometime in 2016. The pen is machined out of solid aluminium, and made to easily accept 200+ refills with no tip wiggle or need for spacers.

The Ti Arto is well balanced, both capped and uncapped, and very comfortable to use, even for someone with small hands that likes to write a lot. Unlike some other machined pens, the Ti Arto’s cap will stay on, even after years of use and after the threads start to wear out a bit. See that semi opaque silicone ring just below the threads? That’s the magic that makes sure the cap closes nice and tight. No refill is going to dry out or leak in this pen.

If you want to post the Ti Arto you can, by threading the cap to the back of the pen. The resulting pen is a bit longer, but still well balanced, and the cap doesn’t rattle when you write. It does take time to screw the cap on, so if you uncap and post often it will become a chore. Since the Ti Arto isn’t a fountain pen, though, there should be no problem leaving the pen uncapped for a while.

I use the Uniball Signo UMR-85N refill in this pen (the same refill that goes into the Signo RT). To change the refill you unscrew the section, pop the refill in, screw the section almost all the way back on, then tip the pen body forward until the refill tip protrudes, and then you tighten the section. Since you probably aren’t going to actually use 200+ different refills in this pen, I recommend finding a refill that you enjoy and buying replacement refills in boxes of 10 or 12 on Amazon or eBay. I go through a box and a half to two boxes of UMR-85N refills a year in this pen, and it takes less than a minute to switch out the refill.

Here’s are a few points about the Ti Arto, drawn and written with the Ti Arto:

If you are looking to own just one good pen, or if you’re looking for an EDC or machined pen, the Ti Arto is the pen you should buy. I’ve tried a good number of machined pens so far, including all the other (non-stylus) offerings from BigiDesign and nothing comes close to this pen.

Ti Arto Review

Zebra Mildliner Review and Journal Comic

I love highlighters, so long as they’re not the blindingly neon ones, as I find them distracting. So when JetPens first offered the Zebra Mildliner Double-Sided highlighters, I had to give them a try. Theoretically, like all highlighters, they are supposed to help you organize your notes. In reality they just add a little colour to my usual mess.

Highlighter pen bodies tend to be on the chunkier side, oftentimes square shaped. The Zebra Mildliners are just slightly thicker than usual pens, and very light. If for some reason you have hours of highlighting ahead of you, these ought to be pretty comfortable to use.

As their name suggests, these highlighters are double-sided. One size is a small chisel tip, and the other is an even smaller bullet tip. I had a hard time achieving coverage with the chisel tip in one go, but I’m not a stickler for these sort of things so it didn’t matter much to me. I was more interested in the Zebra Mildliner’s muted, and rather original colour palette.

This is a close up of the three Mildliner colours that I got: Mild Grey, Mild Orange and Mild Smoke Blue.  None of these colours are standard: the orange looks more like a peach than a traditional orange, the mild smoke blue looks like a muted teal or a light blue black, and I’ve never heard of a gray highlighter before. It sounds like an oxymoron: grey highlighter. But here it is, and it’s pretty cool (no pun intended, plus it’s a warm grey anyway).

Apart from having fun with these in the journal comic above, I tried these on a variety of pens and inks. I’ve been using these highlighters for over six months now, but I don’t highlight over anything but gel pens normally. As expected, these behaved the best with fineliners (see the comics above) and with ballpoint pen. This being Clairefontaine paper may have made the Uniball Signo gel refill drying times long enough for the highlighter to smudge the text a bit even after a full minute. The Ohto Flash Dry is just a miracle refill, but the Noodler’s Lexington Grey just floored me. I never expected to see a fountain pen ink stand up to highlighter so well, so quickly, especially with such a broad nib and on this paper. Phenomenal.

The Zebra Mildliner Double-Sided highlighters come in 15 colours. I don’t recommend buying them all; find yourself a “standard” colour, a “wild” colour, and another that’s your favourite. Despite what I personally may think, you can have too many highlighters.

Zebra Mildliner Review and Journal Comic

Moleskine Lord of the Rings Moria Limited Edition Review

A few years ago Moleskine came out with a series of rather plain Lord of the Rings limited edition notebooks. This year they’ve had a redo, and this time they’ve decided to invest a little more in the cover designs. The result is a series of notebooks that really does the LotR justice.

The Moleskine Lord of the Rings Moria limited edition is a proof that even if you choose grey as your colour scheme, you don’t have to create a dull product (I’m looking at you Blackwing volume 10).

Notice how even the font on the paper band has been changed to fit the LotR design sensibility.

Every little detail counts, including the choice of colour for the paper band (it just pops), and the Tolkien symbol on the spine.

I’ve decided to use this notebook as my next journal. You can check out just how many things I pack into my journals by comparing the two notebooks’ thickness. They’ve got the same page count (192).

The front cover features a drawing of the entrance to Moria, in dark grey on a light grey background. The drawing continues on the spine and the back. You can see members of the fellowship (in gold foil) standing in front of Moria’s gates, the monster about to attack from the lake, and the carving of the two trees and the entrance runes. A description of the scene is given in gold foil, also in the LotR font.

The back cover. You can see the gate rune to Moria in detail, and the Moleskine logo hardly at all. It’s just debossed into the cover. The elastic band matches the dark grey of the drawing.

Inside the front and back cover is some of Moleskine’s finest work in terms of endpaper design. The front features a sketch of the Misty Mountains and lands to the south and the east, and also the “In case of loss“. You can see Tolkien debating which name to use for various places.

The back includes a contour map of the Misty Mountains around Mirrormere. Again, the drawing is perfectly aligned with the back pocket (it might not seem so in the photo, but trust me, it is), a small but not trivial design feature.

This is a lined notebook, with a light grey ribbon. The paper works well with pencil, ballpoint, gel ink pen, fineliners and Noodler’s Bulletproof black.

The add on to this edition is also unique: an insert with the Cirth alphabet that Tolkien invented.

Inside the insert:

The B-side of the paper band includes a timeline for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, focusing on Frodo and Sam’s journey.

If you love the Lord of the Rings this edition is a no brainer —  I highly recommend it. Even for non-fans this is a very well designed, grey/red/black and white edition that proves that you can create beautiful things even with a limited palette.

 

 

Moleskine Lord of the Rings Moria Limited Edition Review