Friday, June 29, 2012

Not So Blank Books

I'm on a new quest. Yes, another one. As most of you know I've been keeping handwritten journals since 1973, and I go through a lot of them. Lately I've been making my own or buying them from journal artists over on Etsy, so it's been a while since I've checked out the mass produced variety at the book stores.

While I was shopping at BAM last weekend I raided the discount bins for books and discovered a pair of journals that were a bit different than the usual ruled-page blank books. This intrigued me, so during my next visit to the big B&N in the city I checked out their journal section, and found a couple more that were quite different.

I learned from my experience working with teens on Keri Smith's Wreck This Journal that a journal that comes with ideas and instructions and prompts can be more inviting to novice writers than a journal filled with empty white pages (which, let's face it, can be intimidating.) Quotes and prompts and artwork also provide focal points for the journaler to respond to versus inventing something on their own. There is no better way to get someone into the journaling habit than providing them with a guided experience. Once they build confidence, I think they'll be more prepared to take the leap onto the dreaded empty page. Thus I thought it might be fun to hunt for different types of blank books the summer and report on what I find.

At BAM I found "The Sayings of Mark Twain" journal, published by Piccadilly, with quotations from Mr. Clemens printed on each page. The book is hardcover/spiral bound, and the pages are a nice weight, college-ruled and tinted a very light blue in keeping with the journal's color scheme. There were also other journals of the same design in different colors offering the sayings of Rumi, Buddha, and Jesus. I got my Twain for $7.97 discounted.

In the same bin at BAM I found "Map Your Destination", a blank book published by Retired Hipster Inc. This one is a hardcover, with color-themed bordered pages that were both ruled and blank in clusters of eight (which would make it a cool travel journal.) Nicely discounted at $5.00.

Over at B&N I noticed Parragon Books' "My Life Journal" that had decorated pages and writing prompts on at least every other page. Hardcover with really attractive pages, some filled with artwork, quotations, objects and other visual prompts that reminded me of scrapbook art. This would be an excellent journal for someone who wants to try art journaling but isn't ready to make their own pages. $6.28 with my membership card discount.

My favorite find from B&N was Sabrina Ward Harrison's The True and The Questions ~ a Journal. This is the first hybrid blank book/art book I've ever seen; it's made up partly of the author's own finished and half-finished journal pages, and pages for the reader to compose, complete or alter at will. It's an oversized trade paperback but the pages are like lightweight cardstock so it's likely very durable. If you ever wanted to collaborate on a journal with another writer or artist, this is the blank book for you. $15.25 with my membership card discount.

Have you ever used a not-so-blank book as a journal? Any type you can recommend? Let us know in comments.


  1. Wreck this Journal. Which I think you mentioned here. And a few years later, I saw it in a book store. And, then it actually inspired a book... a contemporary romance, that I sold to Berkley. And it was fun to write. Oddly enough... I've only done a few pages of the journal. O.O

  2. You should check out the journals that Chronicle Books puts out. I picked up this one on a whim and it is the first journal I've ever written in consistently over a year's time. I've already picked up another Chronicle Eco Journal because I only have a few pages left in the first one. I just love the whimsical pages in the ones that I picked out, but they also have a lot of prompted journals that I'd like to try as well. I got mine from a local bookstore, but I am thinking of ordering some of the prompted ones directly from Chronicle.

  3. I've never used anything other than a blank book, but looking at these I'm tempted.

    Digillette, thanks for the link. I'm off to check those journals out too.

  4. Many years ago, a relative gave me a lockable diary with inspiring quotes of all kinds on each day. It sounds stupid, but as a teen I loved it, and the small (easily pickable, I might add) lock gave me enough mental/emotional freedom to get my thoughts down. In green sparkly ink. Or purple pen. *laughs*

    I picked up the Write Brain book on, I think, your recommendation and have enjoyed that one, too.

    Otherwise I'm mostly a blank-journal kind of gal. (My pen collection on the other hand, is, wow. Large and getting larger.)

  5. I pick up whichever journal strikes my fancy (or my emotional state) that day and jot notes in it. Unfortunately for me, it creates a bit of chaos at times due to the lack of continuity and the inability to find what I've written that I need. I do love the bottom two journals you've shown though. They seem like they'd be lots of fun to sue and who knows? Maybe I can stick with one for more than a couple days at a time. ;-)

  6. I love journals, I'm currently writing in two, one for my life and random thoughts and the other devoted entirely to writing and creating. I'm always on the lookout for new journals as I'm getting close to finishing the first one. I tend to prefer blank page journals for some reason, I feel bad for writing on a page that's all decorated and pretty, I don't want to ruin it with my scruffy handwriting.

  7. Where do you find that exact Parragon Book my life journal. I love that design but what journal is that?

    1. I bought my copy at a Barnes & Noble store, but here's a link to where you can buy it online for less than six bucks: