The 14 Best Notebooks For Journaling in 2020

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In my apartment I keep almost every journal I’ve ever written, from first grade on. I’m not an obsessive journaler; actually, I’m consistently inconsistent about the frequency with which I write. But I’ve always maintained a notebook in some way, especially as I’ve grown older, and in 2019 I finally committed to a serious journaling practice. It is largely this reflective writing that keeps me somewhat grounded amid the insanity that is 2020. I highly encourage you to consider starting a journaling practice too, however big or small, as a reminder that each day was a whole, entire day that you lived, breathed, felt, grew, grieved, laughed, and loved, often in great emotional waves. I have a feeling you’ll need it heading into the chaotic final quarter of this year.

Listen, I totally understand that journaling seems time-consuming or overwhelming or like one of those things you always mean to do but never get to, like therapy or meditation. I felt that way for a long time too, because I hadn’t figured out the kind of journaler I am. Looking at my notebooks from my teens and 20s, there’s this progression from lined pink diaries that I used sporadically to small black unlined Moleskines, to even tinier, expensive delicately papered ledgers that I ultimately never wrote in, since everything I wanted to write seemed too mundane (“Went to Trader Joe’s. Bought mochi. Went home”) or childish (“Does everyone hate me?!”) for its fancy pages.

At 28, after a diagnosis of stress-induced epilepsy, I experimented with different types of journals as a way of managing my anxiety and also to help improve my memory, which has grown spotty with the anti-epileptic medications I take (and with age). At 30, I landed on my magic combo: I now keep two journals.

The first is a red page-a-day Moleskine planner in which I quickly note everything that transpired on that date, including the “boring” stuff. I also note my mood (on a fluctuating, subjective scale of 1 to 10 for anxiety), things I’m grateful for (a rare night of good sleep, my cat’s purr, a memorable meal, a new dress), and the weather.

My second journal is a larger, 9″ x 12″ Strathmore “visual journal.” It’s unlined, with thick paper that’s substantial enough that my markers and inks don’t bleed. In these pages I let myself really breathe. I doodle, paint, get mad and write mad things in big, mad letters. I scribble down quotes, story ideas, lists, jokes, complaints, letters to myself, purposefully disregarding formal structure. This is my “feelings” journal. It’s less of a record and more of an imperfect unpacking of the chatter inside my head.

I like looking back at my journals periodically to see how much has changed, what the headlines were, how I was feeling. Certain themes and behaviors pop out over time, certain moments, conversations, exchanges with strangers on the street, that I’d forgotten and am thankful I saved for later reading. Even flipping back to January of this year, so much has changed, and carving time for reflection feels so important.

New journalers, try not to let a fear of writing or fatigue deter you. Your journal is a safe space, and it can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Perhaps you just list bluntly what you did that day or draw an emoji. Perhaps you let yourself lose it over how messed up the world is. Or maybe you write a novel.

Below, I share notebook options for those who want to begin a practice or become more dedicated. Consider whether you want lines or no lines, whether you’ll be writing inside or on the go, or whether you prefer something large or portable. It’s up to you, but the important thing is: Just start.

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