To have been asked to write this is, in truth, a shock. Sure, I post my stuff on Instagram and sure, I appreciate likes and follows like anyone else, but for someone to have contacted me and asked me to write about my journaling journey based on that is just insane. Nonetheless, here I am, and I’ll try not to bore you too much!
The first thing I would say about journaling is that it is so personal.
When I say it’s personal, I mean everything about it is: the reason you start, the reason you carry on, the journal you use, the style you adopt, the stationery collection you accumulate as a result and, above all, the purpose of it: why you do it and what it does for you.
The reason you start
I started in lockdown 1.0 back in April 2020 – I’m a teacher and lockdown had the potential to hit me seriously hard; I was disconnected from my students, my colleagues and, frankly, my entire personal identity. Teaching doesn’t have to be an all-consuming profession, but it certainly is for me and I wouldn’t change it. That said, when you’re cut off from it (usually during the summer holidays or, in recent times, due to national lockdowns) everything can feel pretty bleak. Chuck on top of that a history of mental health problems, and it was a recipe for potential disaster… I needed something to keep me grounded and inspired and getting out of bed in the mornings. I developed a routine for my days (which actually was my first journal spread) involving running (also a lockdown addition to my life!), creative time, video calls, schoolwork and housework. It served a purpose. It worked. I stayed sane and developed a new skill.
The reason you carry on
When the world returned to some semblance of normality and school became more structured and my identity as a teacher was reinstated, it would have been easy to give up journaling, for it to fade out of my life and for everything to go back to how it had been before. However, I carried on. There were several reasons for this: 1) for the first time in my life, I felt vaguely good at something creative which was no small thing for a girl who had been told in no uncertain terms that Art GCSE was not remotely an option…; 2) it had become part of my new identity – I was now a creative person who went running; 3) I loved it! Here was a calming, harmless coping mechanism that fulfilled me and never failed to bring up my mood, why would I stop?!; 4) in January 2021, I set myself a goal of creating one picture quote a day, and to get through the lockdown one picture quote at a time, which was where the Instagram identity was formed. A platform that was initially for me to post my creations away from my private account (mainly to not bombard people who didn’t care about my silly doodles) has become a supportive community of like-minded people and has broadened my creative horizons immeasurably and irreversibly. It’s now become a part of every single day and I can’t imagine getting through any day, bad or good, without it.
The journal you use
At the beginning of my journaling journey, I used an A4 dot journal. I’ve always favoured big notebooks so this seemed logical. However, as it became more part of my daily routine and I started using it for to-do lists, for weekly routines, for reminders, it became clear that I couldn’t keep lugging that around. Also, the more I looked around for inspiration (Pinterest and Instagram are wonderful!), the more I was drawn to a smaller format. My first real journal, which at the time of writing is about 4 spreads away from full!, is from @ottergamipaperco and I love it. When it’s full, I’ll have to replace it with another from there. Since then, I’ve invested in two other bullet journals (from @scribble_n_dot and @tittlenjot.co) and a couple of less formal journals (dot journals from @thehealthiertrack and @paperwrldshop) and an art book that I picked up at @heatoncooperstudio when I visited this summer. They all have different uses (my journaling, a lot of the time, isn’t traditional bullet journaling, as I’ll explore more in a minute) but my original @ottergamipaperco is the closest, with weekly spreads and monthly plans and habit trackers. This was where my journey started and will always be part of my creative time, but it only forms a small part of my overall style…
The style you adopt
This, for me, is the part which is still constantly evolving… As I’ve said, I have different journals for different purposes. That’s mainly because I have no idea what style I want to use or what I really want to create or what medium I even want to predominantly work with. As a result, I have a bullet journal, an art/junk journal, a quote journal, a to-do list book and a health journal. There is some obvious overlap – quotes sneak into most of them, art is integral to quotes and bullet, lists come up all over the place and health crops up in bullet for trackers… Ultimately, I don’t have a style. Even my bullet journal spreads are radically different from one week to the next. Some people have a monthly theme and all their weekly spreads are based around that. Some people go for a vintage aesthetic, or a scrapbook theme, or a minimalist vibe. My style ricochets around all over the place and even my quotes have no set theme. Some are lyrics, some are historical quotes, some are from TV shows, some are things I’ve read, some are happy, some are not, some are motivational, some are morose. I’m easily influenced by things I see so my style flip flops depending on where I’ve been, what I’ve seen online and things people say to me. Ultimately, I suppose that’s what I mean by personal – all of my spreads give a tiny insight into a little bit of me.
The stationery collection you accumulate
Quick one this – journaling is a world that can suck you in!! I’ve invested an incredible amount of money in washi tape, paints, pens, journals, scissors, stickers, stamps… and, as a result, storage! I’ve dedicated half of my office to journaling and it truly is my happy place. As with journals and styles, some people stick to one type of stationery medium, e.g. acrylic paints, brush pens, watercolours, etc. I didn’t and don’t. I dip in and out of all of it which is possibly why I can’t settle on a style, but I’m not in any rush to try!
Why you do it and what it does for you
This is the most personal part for me. I journal because it brings me peace, joy and inspiration. Everyone is different, but for me, journaling gives me time where I’m just getting out of my head. It’s linked me up with an incredible community of people and even just scrolling down my feed and seeing the incredible things everyone else has done is calming for me. Journaling has changed the way I organise my life and has lit a creative fire in me which encourages me to reflect, practise gratitude and step out of my comfort zone. I would say it’s not for everyone but I genuinely believe it can be: it’s so personal, so unique that it’s whatever you want and need it to be.
If you would like to see more of Jess’ work, go to her Instagram @onepicturequoteatatime.