Dear Queer Diary, Today We Found the Perfect Journal

If you are anything like me, your bookshelf is filled with blank notebooks. You’ve got the purple glittery diary you received from your aunt for your eighth birthday, the smooth leather journal your parents gave you for your high school graduation, and the weighty A4 notebook you purchased in Argentina, intending to begin your sure-to-be bestselling novel.

Posterity is going to love this exhaustive account of my angst-ridden early twenties.

Posterity is going to love this exhaustive account of my angst-ridden early twenties.

Yet somehow, when you are suddenly inspired — by an important life event, a good book, or this scintillating article on the virtues of journaling — to write something down, none of the journals that you already have seems quite right. Which is both how you come to have such a large collection of blank notebooks in the first place and how you end up searching, once more, for the perfect journal.

The first thing you need to know, my dearest queer diarists, is that the secret to finding the perfect journal is accepting that, ultimately, journaling is not about the journal. The most glorious notebooks on earth will do you no good if you do not fill it with beautiful words and truths and dreams and secrets. And if you have those beautiful words and truths and dreams and secrets, you could write them on a paper napkin and have them mean just as much.

However, all that doesn’t mean that it isn’t totally worth it to Etsy it up in search of a glorious notebook in which to inscribe your deepest and most secret thoughts—on the contrary! At the very least, your chances of not losing a lovely notebook are much higher than your chances of not losing a paper napkin that you scribbled on and then threw into your backpack underneath your running shoes and the complete poems of Adrienne Rich.

The following are a list of factors to consider in the quest for the perfect journal:

1. Size
My preferred journal is less than half the size of a normal piece of paper; however, this is a highly personal preference that has much to do with my collection of awkwardly little purses and freakishly small handwriting. Consider your own needs: Do you long to create life-sized sketches of your cats? Do you need to carry your journal in a waterproof sack to protect it while you snorkel?

Unless you are a shockingly prolific writer (or you have excessively large handwriting), I would advise a slimmer notebook, at least for starting off. The satisfaction of finishing off one journal and getting to pick out another is immense, and if you start off with some kind of massive tome, you may not get to go notebook shopping again for eons.

2. Contents
For most journals, this is a simple choice between lines, blank pages, and maybe graph paper. And if you can’t choose just one? You can order a special custom notebook that allows you to specify a certain ratio of lines to blanks to graph paper!

3. Form Factor
I’m not entirely sure what “form factor” means, but I really like alliteration, so I am just going to go with it. What I am talking about here are things like the hoo-ha (not that kind!) that loops around the front cover to close your journal or whether or not the notebook of your choice stays open while you write or tries to devour your hand like some kind of snapping turtle.

4. Design 
This is the fun part of journal shopping, where you get to choose whether you want your journal to be covered with cute hand-embroidered owls, hip letterpress bicycles, or punky studded leather. Must you have gold-edged pages? A front cover carved out of a fallen tree? As always, my friends, you do you.

I would certainly not mind if my girlfriend were to buy me this very journal for my upcoming birthday. Ahem.

I would certainly not mind if my girlfriend were to buy me this very journal for my upcoming birthday. Ahem.

If, in the process of doing you, you would like some sources of inspiration, well, the images above feature some of my favorite models from across the wild wild web—including one particularly fine notebook designed by your good friends right here at Autostraddle! If you’re broke, don’t worry. A notebook-making post is coming soon!

You know that whole pen is mightier than the sword thing? It’s true! So why not go forth and fill all the tiny notebooks in the world with our thoughts/feelings/dreams/doodles? Tell us your favorite reasons for journaling in the comments! Where’d you get your notebook?


Maggie is a queer twenty-something who considers herself a connoisseur of quick breads, wedding blogs, and epistolary novels. Her life ambition is to save the U.S. Postal Service.

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Maggie is a freckly, punctuation-loving queer living in the Boston area. She supports her book-buying and tea-drinking habits by teaching America’s youth how to write topic sentences and spends her free time writing postcards and making sandwiches for her girlfriend.

Maggie has written 53 articles for us.

36 Comments

  1. I’ve been journaling since I was 12. My journal was the first to know that I was GAAAYYYYY.

    But in the last couple of years, my journaling has dwindled down to maybe a few pages every 6 months. It’s really sad because I love doing it and helps me process things. I blame my Netflix account and every social media that exists. Thanks for reminding me how much I really need to write things down. On paper. And not on a screen.

  2. Hm. I do most of my writing on my laptop – especially through Evernote, it’s just a lot easier to preserve and search through than paper journals – but I do have slim exercise books for feelings and writing exercises and a small portable moleskine for ideas, especially work ones. Have you read Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones”? It was really good at getting me to write daily – and she’s queer.

  3. Loved this post! And mmmmmm iced chai.
    I just cleaned out my closet and found my old journals. I have a ton of half filled ones and they’re hidden all over the damn place. Once my mom found a journal of mine and it resulted in many tears – ugh hate it when privacy is invaded. Whatever.
    Due to that incident I apparently found it necessary to write a disclaimer over a “love poem” I attempted. “This is fictional! if you’re nosy and read this i don’t like women.” Only to flip through a few more pages to find a dated transcription of the first time I came out to a friend…I recorded our text conversation. Y’all I am pretty lame.
    It is hilarious fun to look through my old writings. Yay journals.

    *I think I need to journal more so I stop leaving 5 page comments on every AS article. My bad.

      • oh good- right now I’m journaling with these cheapy Bic pens I took from our Feminist Alliance that say “SMASH THE PATRIARCHY.”
        on the one hand, awesome.
        on the other, I could probably spring for a pen that cost more than 27 cents

      • I am also a big fan of Pilot G2s. A while back I found a giant package of them with like 40 colors or something ridiculous, and I bought it and it made me really happy.

        I’ve never been a very enthusiastic journal-keeper, but that Pensieve analogy has me convinced to start again. 🙂 Seriously, though, I recently unearthed a journal I kept when I was little, and it is really interesting/entertaining to read these missives from your past self. For instance, I learned that 9-year-old Whitney wrote Star Wars fanfic. 26-year-old Whitney has no memory of this…

    • I never go anywhere without my Kaweco AL Sport Fountain Pen. It’s in my pocket at all times and is awesome. I can’t believe I didn’t use fountain pens for ages – they’re the best. And I’m not gonna lie – they’re sexy. So damn sexy. The girl sitting in the back of the cafe writing poetry with a fountain pen is the usually the first woman to catch my attention when I go somewhere. Never mind the scantily clad ladies. I’ll notice the book nerd. <3

      • I’M THAT GIRL! Marry me, and we’ll adopt beautiful children who will chronicle their own lives in perfect Palmer longhand with their child-sized fountain pens!!!!

        …um, ahem, which is to say, glad to know that my strategy — sitting silently in the coffee shop journaling furiously with my chrome Cross ATX and eying all the beautiful girls who I never have the nerve to talk to — might someday work on someone.

    • Yes, let’s talk about pens! I’ve gone through so many phases with pens. In high school, I wrote all my notes with the same type of pen, but switched it up in college, and again in grad school. Now, I’m really into Le Pen in Oriental Blue, even though every time I think of the name I die a little bit inside. Oh, also, Pilot Varsity pens are top drawer. One time a coworker brought me a refillable fountain pen from he a trip he took to Oman, and I use that for all my fancy writing and signatures.

      Oh good golly, I have a lot of feelings about pens. All the pens. All the feelings.

      • I HAVE THE SAME FEELINGS ABOUT LE PEN IN ORIENTAL BLUE. ugh it is so pretty and nice and why did they have to call it that??? i am on a serious le pen kick in general though. a different color for every class because i sometimes am a crazy person.

        • That is not crazy! Color-coded notes are the best! Otherwise, how would you be able to tell what class those notes are for in only one look?

          Re Oriental Blue Le Pen, can’t we just call it “midnight blue” and be done with it? You’re killing me, Le Pen. Killing. Me.

    • I have so many feelings about pens. The people in the pen store in downtown Vancouver know me, probably as that girl who has complicated feelings about pens.

      I’m a lefty. And I don’t have lots of money. And I’m allergic to random things that pens are sometimes made of. The perfect pen is harder to find than the girl I love. How is that possible?

  4. With over a decade of obsessive journaling behind me, I have learned that notebook needs evolve over time as you grow up. My first notebook was an Amelia’s Notebook (old-school American Girl style):
    http://www.amazon.com/My-Notebook-Amelia-American-Paperback/dp/1562477927/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1379019088&sr=8-12&keywords=amelia%27s+notebook

    Then, when people discovered that I was into writing, I got some truly absurd gifts (like this fuzzy cow-spotted one):
    http://www.polyvore.com/black_cow_print_notebook_journal/thing?id=37681948

    I spent a few years in the world of straight-up composition notebooks (staples was my favorite brand, because they had COLLEGE RULED – totally essential):
    http://www.staples.com/Staples-Pressboard-Composition-Book-College-Ruled-7-inch-x-9-inch/product_716613

    And now, in the hipster twentysomething stage of my life, I am all about the hip Decomposition Notebooks – and completely in love with the gridded pages in this one:
    http://www.amazon.com/Michael-Roger-Topographical-Decomposition-Book/dp/1401534503/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1379019000&sr=8-3&keywords=michael+roger+decomposition+notebook

  5. Omg this is going to be the best column ever. I have so many blank journals! Right now I journal either on my laptop or in my Moleskin journal, depending on where I am/what mood I’m in/if I’m feeling like typing.

  6. I journaled my way through ages 7,8, and 9, a lot of my high school years, my travels abroad, and my realization I liked girls. This post has singlehandedly inspired me to take it up again!!! I just wish there was a bookstore open right now so I could pick the perfect new one!

  7. I think I love the idea of writing more than actually doing it, I’ve tried to keep at it but find i’m too lazy to do it regularly. Plus I find introspection exhausting, like how much do i have to write? Is a page enough? Sadly my life is not interesting enough to fill a page everyday!!??….sigh…..Love the article by the way.

  8. If you are broke and if you journalled as a kid like I did and if you left journals half-empty like I did…. solution!: journal in the back-halves of your old journals. I really like it. I’m doing it in order too. It gives me a sense of continuity of self. I’ve changed and yet not changed so much, and here’s my adult and child voice together.

  9. Well, now I wanna take up journaling again and also go shopping for more notebooks..as if I didn’t have two full boxes of blank ones.
    well,mostly blank.
    I mostly use my phone and evernote,though I do have a tiny composition one I picked up at duane reade that I absolutely love. I should’ve bought more of those.

    I think I’m gonna buy one of those from evernote that mix analog and digital.

    and I’m definitely checking out that book.
    I had a lot of journals from when I was younger, starting from when I was lik 8 or 9.
    that and pictures are what I most regret losing when my house burned down.

  10. I find that this post can relate a lot to sketchbooks & sketchbooking too! I can never have something too fancy or I feel the pressure!! to fill it with something ~meaningful~ and pretty. Or if I want to get angry, it ruins the pretty graphics lol

  11. I have so many notebooks. Paperblanks are my favourite for actual journalling, but they’re expensive. I use whatever blank pocket-sized things I can find at the bookstore for on-the-go journalling. Then one my friend made me, sometimes. And other little ones that are single-purpose sorts of journals, I guess. I love them.

    I wish there were a way to combine all my internet comments, Facebook posts, tweets, blogs, etc. and create a little journal where I could save them all on my computer. I’d buy that app. It makes me sad that everything is so dispersed now, whereas I used to have coherent journals as a kid.

  12. This is the best.
    I got my notebook when I was working at Staples. I found it in the back room, hidden among a bunch of other large black notebooks that weren’t popular enough among the back to school shoppers to put out on the floor. Fortunately for me, it’s the perfect size to not take up much space in my bookbag that I carry with me everywhere!

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