woman writing in a black journal on a white table with a blue pen

Getting Started Journaling: Considerations for Buying a New Journal

Journaling has been a life-saver for me.  It’s a place for me to “talk out” my thoughts on paper, to brainstorm, to pray on paper, to make notes on projects, and to work through parenting and life challenges. 

Technically journaling can be done anywhere on any material that feels right for you. You can open a Google Doc and type away. Which  I often do for freewriting and work related projects.   

But there’s something special about sitting with a cup of coffee and my physical journal book and my favorite pen, and letting words flow, ideas bounce around my brain to be captured on paper.  

Over the years, the style of journal I preferred as changed. There’s been some lessons I’ve learned about myself and what type of journal I prefer.   And what type of things I record or keep in my journals.

My thick, every day journal is my mainstay. It acts as a commonplace book – a place where most things go.  But I also buy a journal specific for specific studies I’m doing.   For example during my six months Abundance study, I used the Tree of Hearts journal from Peter Pauper Press exclusively for the entire study.    

Every time I look at the stack of Tree of Hearts Journals I’ve filled over the months, I think of Abundance, and what I learned during that study.  

As you get started journaling – or return to journaling – you’ll learn what your preferences are, and how you want to use your journals.  

For me, there are two elements I look for in every journal I buy.  It must be wide-ruled, and the lines must be light.  I tend to draw and doodle a bit when I’m thinking. And I map things out.   I want light guidelines that don’t detract when I draw.  My friend Lorri also likes light lines, but she prefers narrow lines.  

There is no right or wrong. Just what is going to work best for you.   

It’s always best to choose a journal that you want to write in, that you feel good writing in, that enhances your flow.   

We are already have too many sticky points for writing. It’s best to choose what works for you in this season.  

Here’s a few considerations to think about as you choose your new journal: 

1. Purpose: How will you be using your journal?  Will you be drawing or doodling like I do?  Will it be used for personal reflection, goal tracking, creative expression, or something else?  Considering how you expect to be journaling will help guide your choices.

2. Size: Consider the size that suits your needs. Do you prefer a compact, portable journal or a larger one with more writing space? Think about where and how you plan to use the journal.  Does it need to fit in your purse or travel bag?  What size book do you prefer to hold? That too will help you determine what size you might like for a journal. 

3. Binding: What type of binding do you prefer?  Do you like spiral-bound, so you can wrap the cover and previous pages behind while you write?  Do you prefer the binding to lay flat?  Or do you like something that allows you to move the pages around – like a mini 3 ring binder or a disc-bound journal?   Do you like the binding on the side or on the top?    

4. Paper:  The quality of the paper, the weight, feel, and even the color of the paper, can make a difference in your journaling experience.   If your journals are heirlooms for the future – a record for others to some day read, then consider archival-quality, acid-free paper.   If you are journaling just for your eyes alone, then choose whatever paper that feels good to your writing flow.

Also consider the type of pen you will be using.   A thicker, acid-free paper that resists bleeding helps when you are using markers, watercolors, or a fountain pen during your journaling process.  

5. Page layout: Here’s where line style preference comes in. Your options range from lined – wide ruled or narrow (college) rule, blank pages, dot grids, graph paper, and sometimes a combination  Also consider if you like having quotes or prompts at the top or bottom of your journal pages.  Do you like a spot to record the date or day of week?     Your preferred writing style and preferences matter more than you might think.  

6. Page count: How many pages do you prefer?  Or another way to think about it is, how thick do you want it? How long do you want the journal to last before you run out of pages and need a new one?  

Thin moleskin notebooks might be about 80 pages,  whereas journal i use for a study are between 160 and 192 pages.  But for my every day journal, I prefer a journal 1.5 inches thick, usually about 720 pages (360 sheets).   

Considering how you extensively you will be using the journal, and how you will be carrying it around and what bag or accessory it needs to fit into also matters when considering your page count.  

In my case, I ended up buying a crossbody bag that exactly fits my thick every day journal, plus a few supplies.  But you may want a journal that will slip easily into your existing accessories. 

7. Cover: Covers are interesting because sometimes we can choose a journal with a cover that is so pretty, we don’t want to write in it.  So really, it’s about finding a cover that inspires you to write, or  that you feel good about having around you and maybe carrying around.  

For me, my thick black book is purposely black and neutral, and purposely a vegan leather.  It looks nice, and professional, no matter where I take it.  That matters to me.  And yet my personal study journals are pretty and my own little bit of lovely – like this gorgeous Tree of Dream journal I’m using for my latest study – a beautiful pieces of imagery and printing that I feel good about revisiting each day of my study, and I can look back at just the cover, and remember.

What makes you feel good and confident about your journaling?  What cover fits who you are right now and who you are becoming?  Do you like the idea of a leather bound journal?  Or a moleskin journal?  Do you love a beautiful inspiring picture or phrase to greet you every time you pick up your journal?    Choose what feels right for you, what inspires you. 

8. Extras:  What extra features would make your journaling life easier?  The little inspirational quotes or prompts I mentioned earlier?  A sewn-in ribbon bookmark or two?  A little pocket in the back to hold photos, sketches, or loose notes?  An elastic band to hold it all together when you aren’t writing? 

What little extra conveniences will help you keep writing?  

For me, I love a pen holder or a cover that I can easily clip my pen to (some journal cover materials are too thick or thin for this.)   If a journal you like doesn’t have a pen holder, there are self-adhesive elastic pen holder loops you can add to any journal or book. I’ve used these on several occasions, and they’ve worked great for me. 

9. Price: Ah the realities of life.  Not only do prices for journals vary depending on the brand, quality, and features, but also where you purchase your journal from. Choose a journal that is going to make you feel good about using it, feel good about writing in it, and feel good carrying it around.  And that includes from a price point.     

You don’t want to choose a journal that prices you out or that you are so worried about protecting it’s beauty that you aren’t willing to write freely. Buy something at a price point where you won’t mind getting a coffee stain or ink smudge in, that frees to write, not holds you back.

If you are on a budget, be sure to check your local thrift stores or resale shops. You can sometimes score some beautiful journals that have never been used.  Also, some budget stores carry some cute and practical journals. It’s worth checking out and finding a journal to your taste and budget. 

If the price point isn’t an issue, there’s some really beautiful and wonderful journals available out there.  Take a look around for the qualities you are looking for, and when you find a winner, enjoy! 

When shopping for your new journal online, be sure to read through the reviews and recommendations online.  Other people’s experiences and feedback will give you more information about whether the journal will work for you.   

And since everyone’s preferences are different, a journal that doesn’t work for one person, might be the perfect journal for you. 


Disclosure: Some links may be affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate. I earn from qualifying purchases.

Shannon Stoltz

Shannon Stoltz is a writer, trainer, and entrepreneur. But her favorite role has been that of work-at-home mom to four fabulous, homeschooled, and now grown, kiddos. Shannon is fascinated with how humans learn, grow, and communicate, and passionate about the importance of embracing our unique gifts, talents, and individuality. She lives in the countryside outside Houston, Texas, with her family, and their menagerie of rescue animals.