This is the one thing I recommend for basically everyone, keeping some format of a journal where you write some lines a day. 

In a stationery shop where preferences and details are so personal and vary so widely, from nib sizes to pen sizes to paper smoothness to mixing technology and analogue, so much of what we try and do is find just the right thing that you’re looking for. There are relatively few things that I would suggest for everyone in a blanket way, but this is one of them. 

This one below is the Midori 3-year, and there’s also a Midori 5-year. They are terrific and hardcover, with high quality paper, and it’s held up well, especially considering I’m not particularly careful with it. They also look great. When Caleb gets a bit older, I hope for him to keep one of these. There is also a Leuchtturm Some Lines a Day Journal, which would be great for people who already use Leuchtturms—all the spines matching nicely on the shelf. 

I have been keeping the Midori 3-year diary for three years now, finishing up at the end of 2020, and it is something I completely love and one of my most cherished journals. I read and re-read it all the time, and it’s one of the things I would save in a house fire. 

The main difference between the Hobonichi and the Midori is that the Midori doesn’t give you a blank facing page, although every once in a while you get a blank page for the month (each page is one day, and it’s divided up into three, or five year blocks). No surprise, the paper in the Midori is very good for fountain pens. 

Here’s an example of a blank monthly page. Sometimes I scrounge around to find something to tape in, or other times I have something that I’d like to keep, like a good photo of the kids, or a scrap of something Caleb has written, and I find a blank page that is close by in date for it. 

After three years with the Midori, now that it’s filled, I’m switching over to a Hobonichi, which feels a bit weird. I’m trying to take my own advice and not let the lack of uniformity bother me, but I am looking forward to the smooth Tomoe River paper and seeing how it holds up. 

The Hobonichi 5-years, both the A6 and the A5, give you space for a few lines for each day on one page, and then the facing page is completely blank. I’m still considering how I’m going to use the blank page on the right, but I feel pretty confident that over the space of 5 years, I’m going to be able to find photos, drawings, receipts, writing out longer memories, have the kids draw a picture. 

In any case, whichever journal you choose, I think the tools are less important than the practice. No matter what stage of life you’re in, it’s something to look back on—it can be so small (just a few lines! Just one even!) and it is so utterly rewarding. 

You do begin to build a habit of it, although it takes some time, so it does get easier as you go. After three years, I find myself thinking about things I’d like to put into this diary when I get home—stuck in traffic behind 4 broken TTC streetcars, or hearing something Caleb says to Naomi at the park. The idea of the whole thing is very generous though even if you miss a whole whack of days in a row, although perhaps I’m injecting that generosity into the spirit of things myself. 

There are some dates which I would like to keep accurate: what did we do on Naomi’s first, second and third birthdays? Or what did the kids dress up as on Hallowe’en? On this day we...closed the shop, re-opened the shop, closed the shop again. But for the most part, I’m writing down funny, silly, exciting things that we did that are so small, and also completely irrelevant to the actual date. Value Village had a sale on books and Jon had to wait outside in the rain with the kids? Sometime in August. If Caleb said something silly on January 14, does it really matter if I write it down on the 15th or 16th or I backtrack and put it into the 12th because that was a blank date? I just want to remember the fact that Jon and I had an argument about buying plant food and the argument ended with him having to buy me three gallons of it and my plants became extremely lush as a result of my advocacy. 

I backfill when I have missed dates, which I do not consider at all sacrilegious. I tape in photos of the approximate month, or I tape in a drawing or piece of writing that one of the kids did, or I write a list of the books I’m currently reading, what I’m reading with Caleb before bed, now that we’re reading chapter books. I love reading old entries out loud, mostly with Jon, but now even Caleb, who doesn’t actually remember a lot of the older ones especially, sees how they were funny or silly.

I’ve heard of some people doing creative things like using a specific ink for all of one year, and then switching to a different ink for the next. Over time, each page becomes a rainbow. 

For me, this is a book of inside jokes and the tiniest treasures of memories. Naomi falling off the bench and lying on the floor belly laughing while Caleb blithely reads his book. Surprise discoveries, books that changed the way I think, eventful days. 

But I’ve also heard of people using this in different ways, to track health and fitness goals, meal planning, which is fabulous because then it also gives you some inspiration on what you’ve cooked in the past, gardening, tracking medical treatment or recovery, quotes, gratitude journaling, kids’ milestones. But just life alone is enough: a map of where you’ve been—work accomplishments, day trips, great meals, good conversations with friends, moments that made you pause. 

Life moves quickly enough. 

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October 30, 2020 — Liz Chan


Jeffrey Bain

Jeffrey Bain said:

I am glad you won your argument… ;) (for the plants’ sake). I like your post on journals. I wish I’d started one earlier when my daughter was born.


Debra said:

Thank you for an inspiring post. You’ve hit on the perfectionism that may arise when facing a ‘daily task’. When the intention for the diary is set to personal, one can approach it differently:-)


Amberly said:

I just started a 5 yr journal at the beginning of this month (which I hand bound with fountain pen friendly paper) and I already am loving the practice of journaling a few lines a day. It’s not overwhelming or time consuming, but it’s a nice way to bottle up your day and save it (and to show off pretty fountain pen inks).

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