Ending 2016… & A History of My Journal Habits

As 2016 comes to an end, I’m sitting here doing what I do every year: planning out a new journal, unwinding from the hell that is dealing with my family during a tumultuous December and looking forward to that ‘feeling’ of being able to start anew in January. I have plans this time and I have a system designed to help me follow through. If any of you remember me back in my LiveJournal days, I was apart of a few mixed media journal communities – most popular was the Embodiment community. It was there that I learned what you could really do with those 30$ Moleskine journals and a whole world of possibilities opened up to me. Rather than reflect on the year, I would like to take the time to talk about history with journaling.

I’ve always been one to do collages and little ‘artsy’ things to customize everything I could. From my first Barbie journal at age 8 (with the little lock whose keys I kept losing) to the hardcover journals my mother would pick up for me at the pharmacy, adorned with flowers and other things a Marilyn Manson-loving me did not want on their journal. I wanted to customize things and make them my own. This was in the late 90s, early 2000s, when you couldn’t find a website like Etsy or find fandom merchandise like you could today. I would buy those 3 ring binders that you could slip things into the front/back covers of, and make collages from my favorite TV shows (Buffy the Vampire Slayer was one of them) and if I ran out of magazine photos to collage together, I started printing off black and white images from the internet at the library and using those.

Start of my 2017 bullet journal.
Start of my 2017 bullet journal.

To become more creative, I would use old material and glue that in. At one point I had an entire denim binder with the character of Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer – I had black denim which I used bleach and a qtip on (and do not do this in a bedroom without the windows open, you will become ill), designed the denim to have Spike’s name and some quotes, as well as some distressing of the denim. I ‘laminated’ the photos I had chosen with thick clear packing tape and then glued those on. I slipped both front/back cover designs into my binders and had customized binders for school. Despite being made fun of, the ‘popular kids’ began copying me by making collages of their crushes’ faces from yearbook photos. Who was the real ‘weird one’, hm?


When I discovered the mixed media journaling community, it was 2005 and I had just come back from a hiatus on LiveJournal. Previously, I would design my journal covers much like I did my binder covers only with more glue and tape (and too much duct tape), as well as paper clips and binder clips to hold in clippings, notes, cards, etc. Little snippets of my year that I didn’t want to ruin by gluing into the pages. At the end of a year, normally my journal would be held together by thick rubber bands used to hold cabbage and broccoli together. Sometimes I would get hemp or twine and have to tie the journal closed otherwise it would burst. My journal’s spines would split and be held together with duct tape and the pages would be taped back in with clear packing tape.


Upon joining the online community of mixed media journaling, I developed new techniques and figured out that the best journals weren’t the cheap ones, but were ones that went by a brand called Moleskine. At the time they were iconic within that community: their black cover that ‘looked’ leathery, the rounded corners and creamy textured, ivory colored paper were irresistible. They came with an orange bookmark and a black elastic band to hold it all together. In the back was an envelope where you could store things.

When I bought my first Moleskine it was much like the time I bought my first book: I walked into the bookstore and approached the wall dedicated to journals. I looked around at them for a bit but then I stopped in front of the display of black Moleskines in all their different sizes. A few new colors had been introduced but those were rare at the time (red, brown) – now there are a slew of colors. It’s crazy! I remember looking through the various paper types: sketch (plain, blank sheets), graph, dotted or ruled (lines). I grabbed the ‘classic notebook‘ which is lined (ruled) and ‘large’ (the normal sized, one up from the pocket sized) which measures at  (13 X 21 CM / 5 X 8.25 IN) according to their website. It cost me 29.99$ but I was content with it. I picked up some pens at Staples (a Canadian office supply store) and I remember hugging those two plastic bags holding my new journal and pens the whole bus ride home and for the first time, not having anxiety on the bus because I was too excited to be home with my awesome purchase.


At home I settled down with my pens, my scrapbooking paper and my new journal, setting out to design some of my early collages. I no longer have my first few Moleskines but I do have some I have used in the years since (from 2010 onward). Some of the pages I remember doing were inspired by something I was watching or currently really obsessed with. While watching Ghost World I did a whole page of glued-in Skittles wrappers and rainbow, high-contrast blues, greens, reds and black inspired by the movie itself. Another time, during my worst depressive episode (shortly after being diagnosed with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder II), I filled a week’s worth of pages just black with Sharpie, front and back. I left little squares on the bottom right-hand corners free for the date. Another time when I was angry I filled an entire page with little circles (about the size of a pen tip) using .38mm sized pen to draw them and filled them in with red pen later. I believe I was manic that day as well as angry (or aggressive). I still would make collages of celebrities, TV/movie characters, musicians I liked and sometimes I just wrote quotes. There was a time where most of my journal was inspired by the print copy of one of Kurt Cobain’s journals. Another journal of mine was simply filled with daily entries, no doodles, no collages, nothing.


Now I do a mix of the both but I was bored with that. I no longer find fun in making collages so I stopped journaling besides writing about my day. Until I heard about the Bullet Journal. It’s system is unique in the sense that it’s meant to help you plan out your days/weeks/months with a system you create yourself, to maximize your productivity and minimize time spent forgetting things or stumbling around trying to sort out what to do with your time. It’s surprisingly great for those who are absolute rubbish with organisation (myself) and struggle with focus (myself, with ADHD) and at the same time, the ability to create these spreads is helpful for those easily distracted. I can doodle and it’s productive as I’m designing spreads for my weeks. The spreads are actually called collections. I’ve begun making a Pinterest board for BUJU (the bullet journal short form/acronym) which you can find here, and I’ve begun an Instagram account for my spreads as well.


My plan is to create the ultimate BUJU set up for tracking mental health care, self care while catering to those of us who don’t necessarily have things to ‘plan out’. For example, I don’t work, and most of my day is spent sitting around, but by trying to plan out my day and doing so in an aesthetically pleasing way, I’m more likely to remember to turn to my journal and see what I should/could be doing rather than sitting around and feeling like I’ve not accomplished anything. I want to incorporate all of the things I have learned with DBT (dialectical behavior therapy, used for treatment of borderline personality disorder – BPD), CBT (cognitive behavior therapy, used for a variety of anxiety disorders), and CPT (cognitive processing therapy, used for CPTSD (complex post traumatic stress disorder). I hope that this can be helpful to those who are struggling to stay afloat with recurrent or treatment resistant/long term mental health disorders as well as being able to remind ourselves that hey, today we did the thing.


I will likely also be reviewing products as I use them, showing off some of the best of my spreads and sharing some downloadable spreads as well. I’m planning on using 2017 to tap into my creativity and do the things I’ve always loved doing, but more effectively. I hope you’ll join me on this journey. Some of my next posts will be getting started on making your own bullet journal, as well as what techniques I am using in the early days of mine. Happy end-of-December and see you all in 2017!

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