Journal Writing Tips

by Kristin Joy Pratt-Serafini


Journal Collage

Equipment List

Buying a Journal:

Get a good journal that you like with unlined paper so that you can draw easily in it (unless you only plan to write). I like Bandelier journals because they are bound like real books, and they have neat fabric colors. On the other hand, spiral-bound journals made by companies such as Canson are good because they will lay flat when you open them. When you are choosing a journal, think about how and where you plan to use it. If you will be traveling a lot, and you don't have very much room, you might want a small book that could slip into a purse or a pocket. If you want to do some serious artwork, you may prefer a larger size to really give you space to work.

Writing and Drawing Tools:

Put together a collection of writing and drawing implements that you will use in your journal. I like to keep my pencils and pens in a little orange box, but you can use a pencil case or a plastic bag if you want. Here are some of my favorite writing and drawing devices:

  • a good, sharp drawing pencil
    I like # 2 because it is not to dark, and not too light

  • a small hand-operated pencil sharpener
    There's nothing worse than a dull or broken pencil tip. I like the hand-operated ones because they don't make noise. Sometimes you want to be quiet - like if you are drawing in a cathedral or a library.

  • a Pilot V-7 pen (black)
    This is a great medium-sized drawing pen. Its smaller cousin, the V-5 is a great writing pen.

  • a few colored pencils
    The brand I use is Berol Prismacolor. They have nice thick lead, and come in tons of colors. To save space, I usually only put 7 or 8 pencils in my box.

  • a small ruler
    Good for making straight lines and boxes to draw in.

  • a kneaded eraser
    You can buy one at an art supply store. They are gray and squishy, and don't leave pink bits all over.

  • a small to medium-sized paintbrush
    I have a few that fit in my orange box. My favorite is called the Dragon Tongue.

  • a small watercolor palette, with some paints on it
    You really don't want wet watercolor paint all over the place. I recommend either bringing a paint set that comes with a lid, or preparing your palette ahead of time, so the paints are dry when you put them in your bag. It is still a good idea to put your palette in a plastic bag, though.

  • a small container of water
    Make sure your container is watertight. You don't want it to leak in your bag.

Protecting your journal:

Before you do any drawing or writing in your new journal, let me suggest you keep in a waterproof plastic bag. You will be very sad if you spill your drink on it, or if you do like I did and drop it in a mud puddle by accident.

Getting Started

First things first:

I always write my name, address and phone number on the front page of my journals. If you lose it, then someone can return it to you. I also like to title my journals. I usually write something like "Caribbean Vacation: 14-19 April 2001" and then draw a little picture by it. Always include the date, because after a while, you might forget when you wrote it. (And, when you become famous, people who write about your life will want to know when you made these amazing journals.)

Selecting a topic:

I like to have different journals for different themes. I have vacation journals, doodle sketchbooks, diaries, and notebooks where I write story ideas. I even have a gratitude journal. But you can put all that into one book if you want, because after all, it's your journal.

If you are having trouble thinking of what to write or draw, click on this link and you'll see some ideas to get you started. You can always add your own topics in the blank lines. If you want, you can print out the list and paste it into your journal. Then you can check all the boxes that describe your journal.

To see what some of my journal pages look like, go to the Journal Gallery section.

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