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So You Are Starting a New Notebook, Help!


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So you chose which new notebook to use next. What's on the first page? (Courtesy of @mhguda)

This isn’t to tell you what to do; it’s to get your ideas. Lots of us struggle with how to start a new notebook.  Maybe you know what you’ll write in it because you keep a journal. Or, the notebook is dedicated to your hobbies.  

I subscribed to Field Notes, so I have a lot of them. I usually keep two in a holder I got for them. One is lined for lists, the other is graph for anything. For those, I sometimes just add the first entry to start. Now I’m planning to record my two favorite radio stations on the first page, and maybe a favorite quote on the graph version. 

Then there are those other notebooks. You know these, they are precious. You can’t just start with anything.  If they are leaving home with you, they might start differently than when they stay at home most of the time. 

Share how you start your notebooks.  Give ideas for starting a new notebook. If you bought a new notebook, and want to show it off, you can do that here or at this thread:



 @amberleadavis and @essayfaire suggested I start this thread. I posted about a new one on the above thread, wondering if I had a good idea how to start it. This thread was born from that short conversation.


It’s your turn now, to give suggestions and shine a bright light for your fellow notebook fans. 

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A lot of my notebooks and journals have specific uses.  I have several composition books which I used to used to note which inks work (or didn't) in specific pens (though woefully out of date at this point).  And I use inexpensive spiral top Piccadilly sketch books for doing tests of inks (again, I'm somewhat behind) in that.

I also have a variety of notebooks of various sorts for composing poetry and for my attempts at fiction.  And I have had a succession of journals over the years for doing "morning pages" (or, as I call it, "the daily core dump").  

There is no particular method for any of these for "starting".  The morning pages journals have dates for the entry at the top of each day's first page (the idea is to write 3 pages of whatever comes into your head, first thing, and then shut the journal and go about the rest of your day).  For the ink review/test ones. I have index  files on my laptop in case I need to look up old entries for comparisons -- the first page will have the ink listed by brand and color, followed by what pen it's in (and maybe then with a different pen the ink is used with later on is noted).  The poetry/fiction ones?  Those are just sort of chronological as far as getting the idea down on paper, and will be as many pages as needed (there may be a chapter heading or poem title, but that generally gets added later).

I also have a few pocket sized notebooks for things like shopping lists and to keep track of expenses (the latter, like the morning pages journals, are chronological).  

Beyond that?  There isn't really any sort of organization or "start" to them....

Oh, and I also have a few for doing sketches.  Again, they're sort of chronological for when the sketches are made, and for those (like the poetry journals) I note the date that it was done/finished, along with what the pen and ink combo was.  (The 
"better" poems tend to get retyped into iPages files because if I want to send them out they can be more easily formatted (a few have different variant layouts because I haven't made up my mind which I like better...).

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth



edited for typos


"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

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My favorite quote about this is from a Neil Gaiman interview with Tim Ferris, where he says, roughly, "You can fix anything [you've written down in your notebook], except for the pristine perfection of a blank page." 


I have, at various points, used various forms of indexing for notebooks and often included those at the beginning of many of my notes. I'm somewhat strayed away from this, though I sometimes wonder if I should return. If I did return, my favorite is Locke's method, which just has a sort of elegance to it that I really like. 


I've taken to appreciating the idea of throwing the table of contents to a notebook into the back of the book *after* I am done with it. 


When I discovered thin, low page count, thread-bound booklets, I think I tended to appreciate the idea of subject-separation more in my books, and now I'm able to have more organization by having more than one notebook, and that generally gives me the advantage that I can just begin writing immediately in my notebook when I start it up. So, for most of my notebooks, that's what I do. 


I have also found that I prefer the consistency and indexing of dated pages more than numbered pages. I find that I find dated pages more useful, and global, than numbered pages. I used to do a lot of page numbering, and it felt good to do it, but then I realized that I basically never use that information. I do, however, use the dates. 


So, over time, I'm finding that I'm reverting more and more to a simpler approach to all of my notebooks with very little in the way of indexing or the like, except for dates, and the use of smaller notebooks that I can fill up more easily and write on more easily so that I don't have to worry as much about changing direction mid notebook.


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@arcfide I like the idea of dates as an indexing tool. Thank you for sharing that. 

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Thanks for starting this topic, @Misfit.

Here's how it goes for me these days.

Since I've loved paper for as long as I remember, and found out here on FPN that I could buy notebooks online as well as in a store, my supply of new notebooks has exploded. And I love every moment of it!

When I have a new notebook, or composition book, or sketchbook, I slowly take possession. Feeling the paper, the heft of the book, how many pages... then, when it comes to seeing how ink-friendly it is, I get out some inked pens, and start numbering the pages. (That's why I always buy unnumbered notebooks). These days I also prepare a border at the top of the page, where I can put Zentangles, and a space for the day and the date. The index, on the inside of the front cover, only contains the date and the page number where I first write on that date. Once I've done that, plus added space for the little extras I need in every notebook (pretty picture, friend or family member photo, poem or saying, plus such stuff as instructions for a difficult to fill pen, and other arcane pen lore...

When I'm about 2/3 through the current notebook, I start thinking about which will be the next one. So that when that day finally comes, I'm ready for the new one. The top of the page border loosens my pen for all that follows.

I do mainly use only one notebook, and it does not leave the house. When I travel, I have a special one, but then I don't spend so much time with my notebook, so that's been the same for some time now. And, for work (I still do some teaching) I have a workbook, where I only put work-related stuff... that's it, in a nutshell.

a fountain pen is physics in action... Proud member of the SuperPinks


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I don't struggle.  Always start recording ink, pen, and weather.  Sometimes, when I remember them, dreams.  Daily events.


index?  If anything seems remotely important, I stick a small flag to the top of the page with a scribbled one-word note.  Nightmare.  Cool.  Deer!


Like that.

My other pen is a Montblanc and...


My other blog is a tumblr.


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p.1 Legend : a list of the symbols I use to mark a passage as a task or query, and its status (ToDo, Done, Awaiting Reply, Superseded, or Cancelled).  These symbols have been a great timesaver.  I no longer need to maintain a task list, but just flip through the last few pages of my notebook (as far as the bookmark) looking for unfilled boxes in the margins.


p.2-3 Index : blank space to be filled with references I will return to (by date rather than page, as Acrfide says).  The index allows me to keep just one notebook for multiple projects, avoiding the problem of where to write notes that are relevant to more than one project.


p.4-6 Reference : a few physical constants and mathematical relationships I use frequently.  The reference section has to be rewritten every few months when I fill the notebook, but it more than makes up for that in saving me looking things up or working out things I already calculated before.  It also evolves quite frequently anyway.


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This is good, as all of my notebooks currently in service are entropy in action. I have one reserved for ink samples and remarks and one for dream journaling, but otherwise they’re a mix of doodles, to do or buy lists, random thoughts in various languages, and attempts at pangrams. 

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@mhguda would you be willing to share a photo of the Zentangle, and where you put the date?  I tried to make Zentangles for a few days then stopped. 


@Sailor Kenshin oh sticky flags! More cool stationery items to use. 

@tim77 is your notebook a work notebook? I was wondering because of what you record on pages 4-6.

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I will try to take a picture. But maybe Zentangle is too grand a name for this. I do those, to be sure, but for my border, just a border on the top part of the page. Left is a box, with the two letter abbreviation of the day of the week, and the date. Right is a small box with the page number. The rest of the tangle is a simple pattern (there's after all not much space) repeated over the width of the page. I do those when I get to a new page. I find it focuses the mind...

And btw, I do have a sketchbook for Zentangling, and there, the starting date and the finishing date are separate from the drawings... and there, I don't do a border, just the drawing. It's a Maruman Croquis. I may show one of those as well.

Here is one.




Here is another.



Here is a full drawing.




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to add images

a fountain pen is physics in action... Proud member of the SuperPinks


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Those are cool, thanks for sharing.  I like the bottom image. It looks like a building from afar. 

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The cover sheet is left blank, but inside the very back, I put my contact information.


The title page is left blank until I know what the title will be - and I include the start and end dates.


The next page is then labeled as the Table of Contents and I leave about ten pages blank.  (This page count is a assuming a thicker notebook and I would add or subtract page count estimates depending on the size of the notebook)


Then, I start on page the 11th page and label it page 1 - and I # all subsequent pages. 


Once I know the total number of pages, I add sections.  (let's say the book at 500 pages front and back or 250 sheets)


On the very last page, I begin with my inks and pens and I move forward. I usually save about 20 pages for that. (So, about page 470?)  I then add that to the Table of Contents.


Working backwards about another 20 pages (about 450), I title the page Index and add that section to the Table of Contents.


When @Kari Homan Shannon sends me back the book we are working on, I will share it; she may be able to recall if had more sections.


In the ongoing letters section with Kari, the first entry to the TOC is my letter to Kari, with the date and page number So something like 7/1/22 Letter from A to K 11 (assuming that it was page 11).


In my ink book, I have sections for Filled pens that includes not only the pen and nib but the ink, which ends up being a date list. Then a section for inks by color (so blues together).  In my ink books, I only write on one side of the page so that I can compare inks on the other side of the paper.  (I will try and take a picture).


For the most part, I have one notebook that is sort of a catch all. I don't include client info, but I do include things that I need over and over - like the modifiers I use for my keyboard short cuts (I need that everytime I set up a new keyboard or a new user profile on my computer.) The index and TOC I try to do as I go, and I do use the flags as page markers.  One journal from @GatzBcn lasted me years, but now I have more than one.



Fountain pens are my preferred COLOR DELIVERY SYSTEM (in part because crayons melt in Las Vegas).

Create a Ghostly Avatar and I'll send you a letter. Check out some Ink comparisons: The Great PPS Comparison 

Don't know where to start?  Look at the Inky Topics O'day.  Then, see inks sorted by color: Blue Purple Brown Red Green Dark Green Orange Black Pinks Yellows Blue-Blacks Grey/Gray UVInks Turquoise/Teal MURKY







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9 hours ago, Misfit said:

Those are cool, thanks for sharing.  I like the bottom image. It looks like a building from afar. 

thank you.

Yes, it's supposed to suggest a building in the distance. Glad you saw that!

a fountain pen is physics in action... Proud member of the SuperPinks


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I always start with a kind of index on the first page, leaving the second blank, and then starting on page 3. I jot down just the page number (I paginate all my notebooks before use, but only write down every 10th page number to make this less tedious), the date and then what might be remembered of that day, somethin like


3 | Sat., 30/7/2022: Work project XY, cooking XY, cinema/movie ABC with XY & ZY

6 | Sun., 31/7/2022: ...


Once the first index page is full, I start another one on the first empty right-handside page after my last entry and create a little "flag" with a small piece of washi tape that works like a tab or grip to make this new index easy to find and grip. Mostly I have one or two of these extra indices within the book, but having them "roll" with the content of the notebook saves me from leaving pages empty in the beginning that I might not need. I know this wouldn't be an issue, but I do not like unnecessarily empty pages. Every one of us has his:her own little quirks. 😉 


For a while I also just started writing away on page one and beginning with the index on the last page so the journaling and the index would run towards each other, but this felt weird, writing "backwards". 


With an index up front I have at least one page that looks orderly as there I use for all entries the same ink(s), either J. Herbin Perle noire or Platinum Carbon Black, both in a fine nib and pretty much indistiguishable at first glance. 

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16 hours ago, Misfit said:

@tim77 is your notebook a work notebook? I was wondering because of what you record on pages 4-6.


It is.  But my next home notebook will adopt a similar style, albeit with different material in the reference section.  I don't think my system is sufficient to integrate work and home life in a single book.  I'm curious to hear from anybody that does run a combined professional and domestic logbook.

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With thick notebooks I approach it 'the old way'. It is  the same way I've seen in many ancient manuscripts, re-bound books, and what I was advised as a kid.


I leave about four sheets (8 pages) blank and then a title page if it is a topic-related notebook. I think the traditional approach was intended so that a safeguard page, a title page, identification and an index could be written once the book was filled in and you knew what did actually fit in and the corresponding page numbers. The safeguard page(s) would come in handy should the "book" need to be re-bound eventually (typically one would use a double page-size sheet, fold it in two page-size sheets, glue one to the cover and the other to the safeguard page).


Indeed, in my times I had several books I had used often re-bound. That was in the times before the advance pace of Science turned so fast that now almost any book is outdated in a few years. I think I took the last re-bound textbook (one on Pharmacology) to work last week,  but I have so many books that I my still have one or more around; and I consider if I should re-bind an old Microbiology textbook (although it is largely outdated and binding is more expensive nowadays and is not so easy to find affordable bookbinders). Likely not worth the trouble.


Likely it is not worth the trouble any longer to re-bind books. Maybe even to use paper books soon (I now read mainly on the smartphone or tablet, where I download classics as PDF e-books).


Oddly, I prefer to place the index at the back, once I see there are three or four pages left, I stop writing and build the index, making sure I leave a blank page at the end as well. This means I do no longer need space for an index at the front, but I can still use that space for a drawing, some embellishment or anything that lets me have some fun besides writing (or a dedication if I'll pass the finished notebook away).


For small, utilitarian notebooks (A6 or A7 pocket notebooks, less than 100 pages --typically 60-80-- used for jotting down reminders or temporary notes, scribbles, sketches, tangles or odds&ends) I just start writing straight away. Sometimes, I go over the last notebook to see if there are notes I still want to carry over to the next one and start the new notebook with them.


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I am loving this thread! 😃 Thank you, everyone, for contributing to it.


Hmm ... what can I say about my journal?






Hi, I'm Maer. I'm a notebook addict.


Alas, I am.


I became obsessed with a (now-discontinued) journal made by Mique Rius. It's a black soft cover, 600 page/300 sheet, 70gsm 4mm graph ruled notebook roughly 6 by 8 inches. I discovered my first one about 5 years ago in the stationery section of my local Barnes & Noble. I bought it, took off the shrink wrap, and fell in love with it.

I would look for another one of it every time I walked into a Barnes & Noble and bought roughly 10 copies over the next few months. I discovered it available online at the B&N website and bought 10 more. Then I found out that it came in red as well as black. More purchases online followed. I looked up the manufacturer online and discovered the Miquel Rius store ... and bought one in blue. And a 4 x 6 inch 400 page graph ruled small notebook in red, a 200 page A5ish in green with 5mm ruled lines ... and more from Barnes & Noble ... and ... and ...


I have over twenty of the red/black covered 6 x 8 graph journals and I'm set for life.


I think.


 ... Maybe.

And I do use them. I have one that lives on my desk as a catch all: notes, quotes, snippets of fic, drawings, diagrams, ink tests ... you know, a catch all.

I have one that I use as a daily journal and planner, with weekly menus and a daily doodle.

Here are a couple of pictures of those doodles from my files:



While I liked having that spot of color, I really haven't done more of that style. I'm generally too much in a rush to get that doodle done to pick an accent color. Besides, coloring in is best done after the entire week is finished, to better judge where the accent will go.


My weekly spread is a vertical spread. The clock faces get filled in with the sleep I'd gotten the night before. That is why they're on the lines *between* the days, to carry me from going to sleep on the night before and waking up on the morning of.




Here's another view, of what a week looks like when I'm not working a paycheck job outside my home:





As you can see, if the goal is 8 hours sleep per night, I fell over 12 hours short that week. Not enough sleep, not enough coffee, and wayyy too much laptop screen time, but I am rather proud I got to write for at least two hours M-F (yeah, no, the big colored-in blocks are aspirational, not actualized, goals. Oh and the horizontal trackers across the bottom are as follows: the drinks are 8 ounces per square, and the rest are 1 hour per square.).


It was a good week.



After the two-page spread for my week, I have a short spread for my menu plan.




That right-hand column is a reminder to prep ahead, but some weeks nothing needs prepping.


The facing page has the daily doodle. Just think of one thing that happened during the day and draw it.



BTW, if you haven't seen Jungle Cruise--try to catch it on streaming, cable, whatever. It's totally bonkers and full of plot holes but because it doesn't take itself seriously (cuz, dude, it's based on a vintage ride at Disneyland ...), it's just plain fun. Worth the watch. 😃


Flip the page past the daily doodles and I have "running pages"--pages that I run on and on about, like a brain dump, and there isn't a predetermined limit to the pages I use. The absolute minimum is a two-page spread and I came up with the idea as a means to use up the 600 pages I have to fill! Some weeks I write more than 2 pages, other weeks I write ZERO pages.


But I don't get bummed out over the zero, cuz this is where I get to play with my washi tape.


(Yeah, you *know* I have washi, right?)


Here's a January spread:


(Cutting out all those roses from a strip of washi took an hour. Not doing that again anytime soon...)


Another theme, more blue and vintage brown:




At the front of the notebook, a couple of blank pages in, is my two year calendar. I really need to put a tab on that page or something, cuz I don't use it often enough.




The MQ notebooks I use have 600 pages of graph-paper goodness and seriously, two years fit easily with about 150 pages left at the rear to record collections like, oh, pen and stationery purchases over the year, books read, movies seen, that sort of thing. It quickly became a "Log of Guilty Pleasures" but I'm sticking with it. If only to remind myself to reign in some of my many many obsessive excesses. 

(And no, I don't have any pictures of those. Gal's gotta have some bit of mystery left to her. 😉)



The front cover, showing the two years I'm (sorta) cramming into a single volume (2021 and 2022):


(Messy desk pic--two letters away from a porn caption, yikes!)



And under the left flap:



So I have the typical Sakura Micron pens (05 and 02) in black; two Sakura MIcrons with a plastic bullet nib, which lasts a little longer than the standard beige-barrel micron nibs--I wear those little buggers down to the metal tip, alas; next up are Uni-Ball UM-151ND pens (.30mm) in four colors I use the most; Zebra Mildliners in a light blue, light green, light violet, grey, and light red;  a Pentel Twist-Erase II (.5mm) and a Pentel Clic-Eraser for my layouts; a Pilot Gold Marker (EF), a Uni-Ball Signo Broad (1.0mm) in gold; and off the bottom edge of the picture is a Uni POSCA PC-1MR (.7mm) in white as an extra-heavy-duty white-out marker.

I know it's a lot to lug around for something that rarely leaves my desk but if I'm ever out and about with my  journal (and it does happen) I have everything I need for my usual pages right there with me. I'm still trying out various models of folding/stick scissors to tuck under the flap. But I know that will lead me to choose washi and stickers to carry in my journal case ... and that's bulk and weight I'm not eager to add. The zipped up case with journal already weighs close to ... um ... 2.5 pounds? 4.5? 5.0?


Yeah, it's a good bicep workout if you're interested. Just remember, you can bulk up with low weights/high reps.







And past the left hand flap that hides my pen shop, is .... my utility folder.

What can I say?

The kitties made me buy them.



Peeking out of the folder is a Kokuyo template ruler calibrated for the 3.5mm (or was it 3.7?) graph ruling for the Jibun Techo Weeks. It's juuuuuuuust a teeeeense off from my 4mm grid, but I only use it for the circle/clock shape anyway.




What, you thought I freehanded the clocks on my two-page weekly spread?








While I'm here, here's a look at my go-to workhorse minion (that shiny thing sitting on top of the journal cover):


THAT is a shitajiki, a Japanese pencil/writing board. It's *supposed* to under the page you're writing on. Now, I believe if you're writing on super thin paper (Tomoe River, anyone) in a bound notebook, you're gonna want something that a) gives you a firm, no-bounce surface so that b) the bounce doesn't mess up the itty-bitty character strokes of your kanji or Chinese characters or otherwise incredibly-detailed work.


Which is way cool--I love that the Japanese found a way to make writing as frictionless as possible.


Me? I use it as a flexible ruler/guide. The sheet is basically 1.5mm thick but it's flexible enough to use its edges as a see-thru ruler when I'm doing my layouts. All those columns and top/bottom margins don't draw themselves.






Here's another of my workhorse tools:  the spacing template I made from a plastic window salvaged from a package box of something (I forget what). The washi tape has marks that measure out how wide to make my columns and calendar boxes.


Cuz who has the time to count 9 bitty squares for the columns x 7, or 8 squares by 8 squares x 31 for a calendar spread?


Not me.





Under my journal notebook is the right hand flap--under which I have waaaay too many stickers that I actually don't use.


I  just like having them there.


TBH, I could shave off an easy 3/4 of an inch of bulk from the entire kaboodle if I just emptied out that right hand flap but ... yeah no. I'm just too sentimental for my own good.


(The flap)



(The stash)





Closing the flap on the mess and putting my loose journal on top of that copper-shiny flap, I get to zip it all up and trap--um, protect--everything inside. Here's what it looks like, all innocent-of-misdeeds and stuff:



It's a leather zip case intended for a bible. My husband got it for me. It's real leather, gold foiled, and from the Czech Republic that he'd found somewhere, thought was pretty, and bought for me.


It took me nearly 10 years to figure out what to do with it (as I don't have a Bible or a church to use it in). When I started journaling/Bullet Journaling, it was the PERFECT case to carry everything.


Which just goes to show: sometimes being an art/journal supplies hoarder pays off. I love this case and to date, I haven't found a reasonable replacement. I'm treating the one I have gently to make it last. 


(This pic is from 2017, before I found a handy buckle strap I could thread through the spine. It makes a really convenient handle to get a grip on the zip case when I pull it from my messenger bag. Did I mention that thing is about 5 pounds? Yeah, and my hands are small. I can barely get enough finger surface on the cover to grip it and remove it from my bag. So that strap? Saved my wrist. Worth every bit of the nothing I spent to upcycle it from [can't remember].)




And that's pretty much it.

For now.


I may be back later.


Til then, a word of advice, hard won:



Comparison is the Thief of Joy.




What does that even mean?



You will find a metric butt-ton of pretty pictues on FB, IG, Tumblr, Reddit, and so on. You'll look at them and think:



"My work is sh*t. Why bother? I'll never be as good as they are."





Don't go there. Cut that sh*t out. Do you. Spend time with your supplies. Use them. Love them. 


And there will come a day, soon or late, where you will realize that they love you back.


Don't agonize. Just play. And the reward will outstrip the effort.


I promise. ♥





[Edited to add--so that you know I'm not blowing smoke out my a** with the closing encouragements--here are some pics of my early attemps at journaling in my MQ notebook.]


(Page-a-Day format. Felt like drawing a cat. Cuz ... cat!)

(TBH: It looks more like a puppy.)




(Another day. Cute little animals on the banners. Oh look, Trash Panda!)






(Early Weekly Review format. Started in the middle of January that year. Come to think of it, I generally start in the middle of January pretty much every year. I need two weeks to recover from the holiday excesses.  What? Doesn't everybody?)





(Early two-page weekly spread. Loved drawing the little whatchacallits--cartouches?--beside the days of the week. I never did figure out what to fill them with. If I go back to this format, I'll put my daily doodles in them.)





So, you can see I started out pretty rough and simple. It's okay. It's a process you get to fine tune at your own speed.


This is the reason I haven't bought a pre-printed notebook for my journaling in YEARS. I like the freedom of drawing my layouts as I need them and changing them as I go.


Experiments happen. Some fail. Some don't.


Success isn't the goal. Discovery is.


Besides, if I go through a patch where I don't write anything for weeks (or months, yikes!) it's not like I'm going to be out of synch or lose any paper over it, like I would with a preprinted journal. My BuJo will be there when I get back to it and we can pick up where I left off.


Just open her up and go. ♥




[Edited for typos. Cuz ... Yikes!]


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Thank you for sharing your wonderful journal(s?). The joy you have in doing this leaps off every page. It made me very happy to have been part of this thread from the start. I love looking at all the different ways all of us use our paper, pens, and creativity.

Thanks everyone for sharing.

a fountain pen is physics in action... Proud member of the SuperPinks


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10 minutes ago, mhguda said:

Thank you for sharing your wonderful journal(s?). The joy you have in doing this leaps off every page. It made me very happy to have been part of this thread from the start. I love looking at all the different ways all of us use our paper, pens, and creativity.

Thanks everyone for sharing.


Hi there, mhguda!


You're welcome and thank you for your kind words.

This thread is off to a great start and I can't wait to see what others will post in it.


And yes, I've several of the MQ notebooks as my journals. At the moment, I have two years back-to-back in a single notebook, and at the moment I have three black-covered notebooks for that task (2017 - 2022). Years that are divisible by 5 (2020, 2025, 2030, etc) will be placed as a single year in the red-covered notebooks. All other years will be doubled up (or single) in a black-covered notebook.


The reason: I have more black covers than red. Also: when lined up on a shelf, all my journals can be quickly sorted visually. With a red volume every 5 years, it will be easy to find the exact year/two-year volume I'm looking for. Just count off the red-covers and pick out the black cover I need.


Of course, for that visual system to work, I must first mount that shelf.


(Drat. It's always something ...)

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Waiting for another post in this thread .... ♥



The suspense is killing me.




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