Writing a Journal: Electronic or Hard Copy?


Mead notebookIt’s that’s time again.  I need to buy more notebooks to use for my journal writing.  My favorite Mead notebooks — 3 subject spiral notebook, 150 pages, college-ruled, 9.5″x6″ — have disappeared from the office supply stores where I shop, and as yet I haven’t found them anywhere online.  Some of the generic notebooks that are the right size have really cheap paper that bleeds ink.  The big question now: am I going to have to find some other alternative for my journal writing?

I’ve kept a journal since I was 11 years old.  My choice at the beginning was a brown-covered school notebook to use for my journal.  As time passed, I tried other kinds — a locked journal, blank books, different sized notebooks.  Then I found the Mead notebooks that were the perfect size to carry with me, especially on trips, with high-grade paper and a reasonable price.  I used them for years.  I prefer to hand write my journals.  My computer is powerfully connected to work.  Writing by hand is more personal, more intimate.

However, I have thought of an advantage of typing my journal on my computer: I would not have to type it from a handwritten notebook.  In the past, I’ve typed my journals and put the typed copies in 3-ring binders to use as reference books on my life.  I consult them more than perhaps you’d expect.  For example, when I went to see Apollo 13 in the theater with a friend whose cousin had worked for NASA, we talked on the way about already knowing how that story ended because we’d lived through it.  That made me wonder: what had I been doing during the Apollo 13 disaster?  After the movie, I pulled out my journal from that year and month.  To my surprise, I barely mention it.  But I complained a lot about school.

A journal is a documentation of a person’s life, experiences, people he knew, places he went, and his thoughts.  We are fortunate to have journals from the past to help us understand what life was truly like at that time.  I love reading other people’s journals, whether they are writers or not.  It is a personal, highly specific, perspective on living and the world.  It’s interesting to see how other people think.  I’ve not read old journals but I am grateful the historical societies in each state keep old journals for reference use by researchers, writers, historians and the curious like me.

So, if I were to change from a handwritten notebook journal to an electronic one on my computer, what does that mean for the documentation of my life?  First of all, a researcher would not see how my handwriting changed over the years, especially after taking shorthand.  Or the colorful inks I used.  The personality evident in my handwriting and the words I use to express myself.  My choice of what contains my journal also says something about me.  Sure, I could print out each entry after writing it on the computer and file it away.  But somehow, now that I think about it, that’s not the same as finding a treasure of handwritten journals in storage boxes in someone’s attic.

No, it’s not that I’m old fashioned or reactionary.  It’s just that some things are just better created by hand…..

Addendum: Ironically, as I searched online for a photo for this post of the kind of Mead notebook I prefer, I stumbled onto two, possibly three, suppliers!  Yay!

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8 responses to “Writing a Journal: Electronic or Hard Copy?

  1. I agree, writing by hand is more personal, more fun to stumble upon, and more meaningful. I’m glad you found some suppliers…because that work you’re doing is important!

  2. When I read my journal years later, most of the time, I am exasperated by what I could think younger. I complained about school, about my family, about people… That’s terribly boring! What’s fantastic is to see how I could change but it’s not very pleasant to remember what I was sometimes. Do you see what I mean ?

    • I understand what you mean, Julie. What I chose to write about when I was in school often frustrates me. But I understand, too, that I wrote about what was important to me at that time, just as I write now about what is important to me. It’s rarely about national or world events, unless they relate to my life in some way. Also, I didn’t write my journal for eventual publication. I don’t expect any of them to see the light of day. My journal is where I can spend some time with myself, work through problems or conflicts I’m having, work through decisions I need to make, or just complain. I can’t imagine it any other way….. Thanks for your comment!

  3. I used to use those kind of notebooks for my journal. I would paste in pictures, write poetry, design lesson plans, and gripe. I finally destroyed them because I didn’t want anyone to read my gripes in case they found them. I have the parts that I copied. Now I do all my journaling online. Your journals sound precious. I did consult mine a lot as well especially as I was completing it – about 3-6 months. Thanks for bringing back memories. 🙂

  4. I loved this post. I didn’t think many people kept journals anymore, at least not the handwritten ones; & I thought this post was cute and insightful all in one.

    • Thanks for the comment! You’d be surprised how many people, usually writers, maintain journals that are as individual as they are. I’ve even seen a painter’s journal of drawings, clippings, and photographs. Journals can also be addictive, both to read other people’s and one’s own.

  5. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed surfing around your blog
    posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!

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