Journals and notebooks have been my daily writing companions since I was a teen. In addition to PBW, I keep a personal journal, at least three novel notebooks, one or two series bibles, a photo album, an art project book and a quilting diary. Now and then I'll also break out my current venting journal (for anger management), my belief & prayer journal (ditto) or my idea binder to contain the overflow. They're generally messy, overstuffed volumes of things that matter only to me; catch-alls for my creative work and anything else lingering on my mind. The only exceptions are the journals I write for other people now and then; I try to keep those a little neater for the recipient.
I think regular journaling or notebooking is a good habit for a writer to develop. I constantly refer to my novel notebooks and series Bibles as they're invaluable repositories of story history, especially when I'm working on a lengthy series. As series writers know it's not always possible to remember every single detail from each book; keeping a running record of your ideas, outlines, research, character and plot development etc. from each volume can provide valuable reference info for future installments.
I don't often look back through my personal journals, but when I do it's generally to remind myself of how I've managed some challenge from the past. By revisiting my personal history I often find new motivations -- and sometimes good ideas -- on how to approach, handle, or resolve a situation in the present. When there aren't any answers to be had, rereading those old journals help me get a better handle on accepting the things none of us can change. I always want to fix things, and I get frustrated when I can't, so occasionally I need a reminder that not all problems can be solved.
This quest has given me a whole new appreciation of the ready-made blank journals and notebooks available to purchase -- and so have your comments. I would never have discovered all the amazing journals published by Chronicle Books without Diana Gillette's recommendation, and look what I would have missed out on:
My quest will continue, too, as there are always new products to be discovered, like these Fantasy Art, Doodling and Life Log journals found during my last visit to BAM:
It takes time to create a written record of anything; preserving it for future generations -- even if it's only for the benefit of your own descendants -- takes more effort. If you keep at it you get into the habit, though, and after thirty years of creating my personal chronicles it's become so much a part of my daily routine that I don't even really think about it anymore. In time you will have to think about storage issues -- this stack here represents about six months worth of just the personal side of my journaling -- but that's where technology might actually prove useful, as you can elect to scan your paper journals and notebooks and instead save electronic copies of them.
To help some of you get started I'm having a not-so-blank journal and notebook giveaway today. In comments to this post tell us how you'd use a new journal or notebook by midnight EST on Friday, September 28, 2012. I'll draw three names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners one of the journals or notebooks I've found since beginning my quest (you won't know which until it arrives, so it will be a surprise.) This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.