I returned to keeping an analogue daily journal in June 2020 (not too long ago) after a few years of break from doing "one line a day" in a 5-year journal. More and more I found myself not remembering what I did even a few hours ago. So my current journal stint is more about capturing mundane happenings.
There are a lot of other journal styles, rationales, etc., but I'm sharing mine below in case anyone else finds it helpful to start their own. I think there are a lot of pros: practice handwriting, deliberate self-reflection/introspection, in-the-moment writing for fleeting thoughts, capturing memories to read back on, getting away from screens and social media, use nice stationery like fountain pens and notebooks, etc.
I have a decent memory when it comes to business/work-related things. Maybe it's because I use all my brain power on those aspects that the more "mundane" day-to-day personal stuff falls through the cracks. When I say "personal" stuff I really mean the smaller stuff that doesn't drive towards a big project (I've improved on my own planning rigour for bigger personal projects, like HWA, HWAnimation, everything Love Love Hill, etc.). Breaking down big projects down into smaller bite-sized chunks is a skill that I've developed in my work-life that I now apply to my personal projects. With that said, my journal is probably 90% "super freeform" and 10% "planner".
One of the key successes to my ability to write everyday is that there is NO FILTER, NO ORGANIZATION! Random fleeting thought? Could be written down. Stupid idea? Can also be written down. Cute packaging you want to keep? Paste it in. I keep the journal OPEN on my desk, ready for writing at any time. Next to the open journal are my fountain pens. Because this is a "do whatever, freetalk" type of journal, I needed a notebook that had a LITTLE bit of structure (some calendars) but otherwise no templates. I didn't know this when I started but the community calls this "stream of consciousness" journaling. There's no longer narrative or theme that is predetermined. I suppose this shouldn't be that surprising given that I redirect a lot of what I'd normally put in a toot and put it in the journal instead.
I find that I'm way more likely to browse through my journal than browse through my digital calendar/notes apps.
This system works quite well right now because I'm primarily homebound because of COVID-19.
The notebook: Midori MD Notebook Diary 2020 (A5)
As previously mentioned, I got this beautiful diary on deep discount because half of 2020 was already over. I'm using A5 size with the cordoba paper cover. You can see how the notebook and paper cover are made. Since the book is mainly sitting on my desktop right now, the paper cover is a nice and subtle/light-weight way to protect the journal itself from food splashes (or whatever else is on my table) and keep a few stickers around.
I kept the covers blank for now, but as usual, the inside cover pages have a bunch of mementos pasted in them. Currently I have washi tape, postal stamp booklet/sheet leftovers, and a cut-out from an Aranzi Aronzo amabie/covid-19 envelope stuck in.
The system: barely any...
Yearly-view: I circle important dates (mainly birthdays)
Monthly-view: I write down birthdays, events, milestones, and/or appointments. The wonderful asymmetrical white space around the calendar gives me freedom to write other random stuff. I'm trying out putting a monthly "to-do" on the left margin, which are things that I should probably get down within a month, but aren't mapped to specific dates/deadlines (other than the end of the month). I keep a magnetic bookmark on the current month. I recently added my OC's birthdays in there too because I forgot they existed (is this a huge nerd move?). Every morning I start by looking at the monthly calendar spread.
This notebook only has the yearly and monthly spreads, and the majority of the rest of the pages are lined (subdivided into 8-sections) and a handful of blank ones at the very end of the book.
On the lined pages immediately following the calendar pages, I have what I would describe as on-going reference that is updated and added to on the fly. I chose categories that I felt I needed extra "write it down to remember" help on, but I imagine that this part is very different for every person's unique needs. Mine includes:
Achievements: things that I've done in my personal life that are worthwhile celebrating. E.g., finishing HWA book 1! Like many creatives, I am hard on myself and tend to think everything I make is garbage. Gotta remember to be objective and relative to my own circumstances.
Staying connected: people I should make an active effort to stay in touch with (this list is incomplete and there are overlapping initials, so I have to revamp this). This list helps me email/snailmail people. Especially important because I don't have birdsite to maintain informal connections.
Projects: making stuff! Some of these are actively incorporated into my "monthly to-do" but some aren't. I treat this as a big idea pool to draw from if I want a change of pace. E.g., HWA comic, HWAnimation, etc.
Reading/watching/listening: I'm notoriously terrible at consuming media, so I've come up with 4-ish themes to learn more about, such as AOAR, healthcare, design/creativity, comics/zines/etc. When people recommend things to me, I write them here.
Posts: sometimes I write things in my journal that could be expanded into bigger freetalk posts to share with others, e.g., this post about journaling!
Fun facts: these are mostly animal-facts from my research clickholes, but to call them "fun" is a misnomer. Some of the current facts that are here are actually quite morbid, e.g., the marsupial mouse male usually dies of exhaustion from mating.
Fountain pen ink and tests: whenever I get a new fountain pen or ink, I write a few test lines in here. This is representative of my current line-up (and hopefully it doesn't grow beyond this).
After those general pages, I have the freeform daily journal parts. The lined pages are subdivided into 8 sections because one other way to use to use those pages is to use each section for a day of the week. I just use an entire page (or two) for a day. My freetalk can't be contained!!!!!!!
I added page numbers to ONLY the daily pages for now. I also try to alternate between ink colours for writing. The notebook's existing ribbon bookmark is used for the current date's "entry".
These entries in the photo above aren't particularly private (I'm writing about my fountain pen/ink). At the beginning I tried to keep it neat but the thing with my handwriting (and writing throughout the day in spurts, rather than in one-sitting) is that my handwriting completely changes. TBH my handwriting even changes in one-sitting writing sessions too. Anyway, the main point is that I moved from writing ON the line to IN BETWEEN the lines and I feel like I like that better.
I'm also trying to loosen my grip and that inherently makes my writing looser and more abstract. I suppose that's fine since nobody should reallllyyyy be able to read my garbage anyway!
I've already found it helpful to flip back and browse what I've written; I'm enjoying my time with this!
This journal is also paired with my creative journal for everything comic/HWA related. This shiba notebook has Wai's art on the cover. It isn't fountain pen friendly so I use the thinnest nib and lightest ink that I have and it is ok :). Maybe I'll write about that journal in a different post.
Looking ahead to 2021
For 2021 I was going to get the MD Notebook diary thin (A5, grid), but since I was already booking dates into 2021 and didn't want to wait...I took a MD Notebook light (A5, grid) and manually drew in the calendars. The layout is heavily inspired by the MD notebooks so I take no credit. I messed up a bunch of the grids, but oh well! I do find that the grey lines in the 2020 non-thin MD notebook diary screams "ONLY WRITE" when I hope to do a mix of everything later on. The light blue grid feels less writey-write-only so far. I slipped it into an Aranzi Aronzo smart jacket that I love. The original notebook that came with the jacket wasn't fountain pen friendly, so now I get the best of both worlds!
My thought was that I actually want to have the calendar around all the time, but I don't need a year's worth of journal entries around with me all the time? I'm considering a 3-thinner-notebook system (in a traveller style cover). 1 notebook is the calendar, 1 notebook is a subset of journal entries, and 1 notebook is all the creative/comic stuff. It might be too much segregation, which is 100% not how I did things last year, but we'll see. SO MANY POSSIBILITIES to explore different systems, which I think is pretty fun! When we're allowed to go outside again (in a more carefree way) I 100% know that I will not want to carry TWO thick books with me!