Handwritten journals are back!

On the first of this year I returned to handwriting my journals, and I am so happy that I did! For the past six years or so I had been using an app to capture my thoughts and was able to rattle off thousands of words in general brain vomit in a day. It met some of my needs, but it felt mechanical and sterile. It felt disconnected somehow. I needed a change.

Digital was secure and private, and I needed that during those years, I had experienced privacy breaches and I felt violated and not at all free to let my brain fall out onto the page so that I could process what I needed to. I actually stopped writing altogether for a long while before turning to an app to start pouring my heart out again. Digital was good for a time. It was ubiquitous and I could add a few lines here and there on my phone or tablet or desktop, or I could sit and waffle for line after line. Digital allowed editing too — correction of spelling errors and grammar on the fly etc — I didn’t need to think particularly carefully about what I wanted to say. It just flowed out and then I went back and made sense of it. Sometimes. Much of it remained waffle. The main problem is that I can type and do other things at the same time, which is not really what journalling is for. Journalling is for focus and attention.

Now, I am free to return to analogue , and I love it. I feel connected to my thoughts and feelings; it is as though I can feel them flow through my fingers into the ink on the page. I love the sensation of my fountain pen gliding across creamy pages, the gentle, almost silent scritch of the nib on the fine tooth of the paper. I love hunting for the perfect journal to take the ink, and searching for the ideal ink to suit my mood. It could be an[other] art supply addiction.

At the moment, my ink is purple, and I find myself slowing down to enjoy the feel and sight of it flowing out onto the paper. Carefully forming the joined letters with all of their loops and flourishes helps me to focus, and block out the background noise around me and in my head. It forces me to stop and formulate coherent thoughts rather than automatically vomitting words out through my fingertips, as I do when I am typing for the sake of seeing pixels accumulate in a detached kind of way. It feels more personal. Like I am having a thoughtful conversation with myself.

Some days I fill eight or ten pages, others, I barely fill one. The last two weeks have been pretty sparse — I have been unwell and my brain too foggy to write much other than moping and whingeing about my never-ending snot-based symptoms. That gets old fast.

My regular routine includes Morning Pages (a la Julia Cameron), gratitude lists and in the evening an “awareness and grace” practice (a type of check-in learned from Amanda Grace at Pilgrim Soul). I write at any time of the day if I need to pull myself out of a black hole and figure out why I am feeling a particular way, or simply to capture something lovely that happened. I write things I need to be implant in my brain – cursive writing in particular is excellent for this. I track reactions to events, explore creative ideas and analyse my relationships to see how I can work on them or decide if it is time to call it a day. It helps me prioritise when I am feeling overwhelmed. I also have a tendency to collect quotes and snippets of overheard conversations alongside the things that happen during my day. My journal is a hodge-podge collection of miscellany that is purely for me, and because of this it is completely uncensored and feels utterly decadent. And, yes, sometimes an entry can consist solely of expletives and cranky rants, because that needs to come out too. Writing is cheap therapy, and I don’t have to worry about upsetting anyone else!

I identify each entry with the elapsed number of days from my birth — today I am 17800 days old. Numbering my days lets me see that I am most likely more than half way through my life, and I can see how quickly the number grows. It brings an element of mindfulness to my days that I would otherwise miss in the flurry of everyday life stuff. Each day is precious, and creating space to remember that is a joyful thing to me as I navigate the transition into the second half of life.

I keep a separate log book (the small yellow book in the photo above) for collecting the detritus of my days — letters sent, bills paid, appointments and outcomes, how much water I drank, what medications I took and when etc — because I forget everything I don’t write down these days, thanks to the magic of reverse puberty, aka perimenopause. These entries also help me remember things that I come across during the day that I may want to explore more fully in my journals later if I don’t have the opportunity to write in that moment.

I will, perhaps, index my journals at some point so that I can go back and find material for blog posts or books. I have to say that the search function on my digital journal is fabulous for this…handwritten volumes…not so much. Finding things in my handwritten journals will be far more difficult…but perhaps mining for gold amidst the rubble will yield other precious things too. Reading back over old entries reminds me of how far I’ve come and how I’ve grown and developed as a human.

As you can see in the photo above, I am well into my fourth journal for the year. I look forward to seeing these accumulate as the years pass. There’s something oddly satisfying about it — I feel the same way when I see my sketchbooks as they collect on the shelf.

For those interested, my current favourite notebook is the Leuchtturm1917 lined notebook, I use a Lamy Safari fountain pen with their proprietary ink cartridges. The log book is a Moleskine A6 daily pocket planner. 

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