The Best Journals to Buy in 2020: A Guide for Writers

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What’s the best journal you can buy today?

Like many writers, you probably resolved to make some changes this year. While not all writers have the same goals – getting more private clients, writing a best-selling novel or breaking into a new niche are just a few common ones – there is an almost-universal truth about what happens to most of them.

If you’ve noticed that your goals have been pushed to the side or that something happened and you’ve fallen off the path designed to help you reach them, now’s a good time for a reset. 

Journaling – or freewriting – is stream-of-conscious writing that can boost creativity and thinking. This powerful tool can often be sparked with prompts and is designed to be unhampered by convention, grammar, logic or any of those other things that writers are usually hamstrung by when putting pen to paper. 

Journaling can also be a way for you to be more precise about meeting your goals and unlocking your talents. Use your journaling time to set goals. You can also include the steps needed to achieve them and deadlines to help you stay on track. It can serve as a motivational tool when you hit those inevitable slumps. 

What Makes a Good Journal?

The first step in starting a journaling habit is to find the best literary journals that meet your particular needs. You can put any notebook to use as a journal.

Specialized journals give you structure, prompts and/or guidance to help with the process. Some people find the blank pages of a notebook to be what stokes their creativity. Everyone is different, and you might have to try a few different types before you hit on the right one. 

When you think about what might make a good journal for you, consider the following:

  • Size: Will you shove it in your backpack when you head out or will it live on your bedside table instead? You also want the pages to be large enough so you can pen lots of thoughts but still small enough to feel good in your hands. 
  • Material: A journal that is going with you everywhere needs to have a sturdy cover. One that won’t see many outside adventures can probably be made of more delicate material. 
  • Design: While ruled line journals are probably the most common type, there are also dotted journals, unlined, squares, and others. While you can make drawings and lists in any journal, doing so with one that is unlined allows you to visualise your ideas more vividly. 
  • Specialised or Not: Does the sight of a blank notebook make you want to fill it up with your thoughts or does it paralyse you with feelings of being overwhelmed? If it’s the latter, a specialised journal that gives you specific areas for making charts, lists and writing, for example, might be a better fit. 

What Is the Difference Between a Journal and a Notebook?

The beauty of a journal is that it’s a completely flexible creation. If you want to start journaling and all you have is a notebook, you shouldn’t hamper your creativity processes by insisting to yourself that a notebook isn’t the same as a journal. 

That being said, a typical notebook is a fairly generic and lined affair that has a pretty fragile cover. Journals tend to be smaller with sturdy covers. Some come with an elastic closure, a place for a pen, stickers and other fun motivators. If you’re serious about journaling in 2020, opt for a specific journal that’s dedicated only to that activity. 

What Is the Difference between a Journal and a Diary?

A journal is a place to allow yourself to free-write whatever comes to your mind during your journaling time. If you’re like many people, you get stuck on what to write so turning to prompts that start the flow of ideas is common.

On the other hand, a diary is more of a place to record what happened throughout the day. It’s a way of chronicling events in your life, goals you want to attain and other daily minutiae. 

That being said, some people have better luck having a separate place for journaling and recording their dairy entries. By doing this, it can help keep you on track with journaling without making you feel guilty about not writing in your diary or overwhelmed by the thought of having to do so. 

Journal Buying Tips

The best journals for writers aren’t one-size-fits-all. With literally hundreds of specific journals already available today, cool journals continue to be released on a regular basis. To make the search for the best journals even more difficult, you can just as easily use a notebook that you have on hand if you don’t want to wait for one to arrive in the mail. 

This curated list can help you sort through the hundreds of journal options available. Also included in the list are some of the best paper notebooks.

1. Leather Journal

This Leather Journal features a warm, antique look as well as a closure and tie that keeps its contents under wraps. Measuring eight inches by six inches, its paper is environmentally friendly because it’s tree-free and made of recycled cotton. The blank pages are acid-free with no bleed through so you don’t have to worry if you use pens that are different colors. 

Leather Journal Writing Notebook - Antique Handmade Leather Bound Daily Notepad for Men + Women Unlined Paper 7 x 5 Inches, Perfect Gift for Art Sketchbook, Travel Diary and Notebooks to Write in

2. Classic Notebook

If you’re the kind of writer that likes to stay within the lines, this Thick Classic Notebook features 180 wide-ruled pages just for you. Available in four classic colors – gray, brown, black and blue – as well as mint, you’ll like this journal because it lays flat, has an elastic band to keep it closed and a place for a pen so you’re always prepared to write your heart out. 

Thick Classic Notebook with Pen Loop - Lemome A5 Wide Ruled Hardcover Writing Notebook with Pocket + Page Dividers Gifts, Banded, Large, 180 Pages, 8.4 x 5.7 in

3. Spiral-bound Journal

This slender Leather Writing Journal is refillable so you can easily remove pages and swap them out for new ones. Unlined paper lends itself to mind maps, charts, freewriting and more. The PU leather cover is soft and supple in your hands. Its nautical-themed accents add a sense of adventure and wanderlust to your journaling experience. Available in five colors, there’s also a lined-paper version if you prefer that route. 

Leather Writing Journal Notebook, MALEDEN Classic Spiral Bound Notebook Refillable Diary Sketchbook Gifts with Unlined Travel Journals to Write in for Girls and Boys (Sky Blue)

4. Tree of Life Writing Journal

Add sophistication and elegance to your journaling time with The Tree of Life Writing Journal. Measuring five inches by eight inches, it features refillable papers, a faux leather cover, a slender ribbon bookmark, and 200 lined pages. Best of all, it has a magnetic strip that instantly closes it. Small enough for you to slide into your backpack or purse, you can choose from brown, white or blue for this popular journal. 

The Tree of Life Refillable Writing Journal | Magnetic Faux Leather Journal, 5 x 8 Inch, 200 Lined Pages Travel Personal Diary, Quality Notebooks and Journals for Men and Women from The Amazing Office

5. Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice

Former First Lady Michelle Obama is the impetus behind Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice. It’s filled with more than 150 questions that are designed to inspire you to find your authentic self and own your power. There is plenty of room to explore the thoughts, feelings, and ideas her prompts generate. 

Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice

6. Gratitude Journal

If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to be more grateful for the good things in your life, the Good Days Gratitude Journal can help you focus on them. Available in both paperback and spiral-bound, this journal offers a 52-week guide of self-exploration, reflection, and gratefulness. 

Good Days Start With Gratitude: A 52 Week Guide To Cultivate An Attitude Of Gratitude: Gratitude Journal

What Is a Bullet Journal? 

If you’ve spent any time at all researching journals, you probably ran across the term “bullet journal.” While it is a journal like many of those highlighted above, there are certain elements that make a bullet journal stand out from the rest.

Conceived by Ryder Carrol, a bullet journal contains particular elements – such as an index, future log, collections and more – that let you turn your ordinary journal into a planner for the future and a tracker of the past while focusing on the present. 

A bullet journal is such a versatile system that you can turn virtually any blank journal into one. It’s important to note, though, that not every planner is able to perform the same functions as a bullet journal. 

Not surprisingly, bullet journaling comes with its own language that you’ll want to grasp so you can make the planning system work for you as well as possible. A spread, for example, is most often referred to as two side-by-side pages. These often house collections and monthlies. 

Migration is a key element of bullet journaling and vital to keeping you moving forward. Any tasks on your to-do list that didn’t get done can be migrated to the current daily page. This helps to keep it relevant. A tracker, on the other hand, is used to keep track of certain information for a particular time period. You can choose to track the number of books you read for the year, how many times you exercise each week or if you’ve reached your journaling goal for the month as some examples. 

The Best Bullet Journals for 2020

Many of the best journals for bullet journalling come with dotted paper. This makes it easier to be creative with spreads and trackers. The best bullet journals for 2020 are listed below:

7. Minimalism Dotted Grid

If you like a no-nonsense approach to bullet journaling, then the Minimalism Art, Classic Notebook Journal is a good pick. Available in 10 colors ranging from vibrant to the classics, it features 192 dotted pages, a hardcover made of PU leather and an inner pocket. The pages are heavy and thick so there’s no bleeding or feathering when you’re writing. There are also ruled, squared and plain paper versions if they suit your whims better!

Minimalism Art, Classic Notebook Journal, A5 Size 5 X 8.3 inches, Yellow, Dotted Grid Page, 192 Pages, Hard Cover, Fine PU Leather, Inner Pocket, Quality Paper-100gsm, Designed in San Francisco

8. Bamboo Bullet

Bamboo is all the rage so why not journal on it too? The Bamboo Bullet Journal features 120 sheets of thick, sturdy paper. Because each page is already numbered, you can easily create an index without having to add that extra step. The bamboo cover is elegant and highlighted by genuine leather binding. Two ribbon bookmarks help you keep track of where you left off last. 

THE BAMBOO BULLET - Journal Featuring 240 Dotted Pages Of Thick 160 GSM Paper! No Ghosting! Genuine Leather Binding With An Elegant Bamboo Cover. Numbered Pages- Printed On Bamboo Paper!

9.  Bullet Dotted Journal

Choose this bullet dotted journal and you’ll get plenty of extras that make it a perfect choice. In addition to 220 numbered acid-free pages and a convenient 5 inch by 8.3-inch size, you’ll also get a gold-metal stencil/ruler that has its own pocket so it won’t get lost. There are three-page markers, four index pages, and an expandable back pocket – all in a lay-flat design that won’t stymie your creativity. 

A5 bullet dotted journal dot grid notebook 220 pages 3 x page markers 160 GSM extra thick paper bujo specific metal stencil ruler page numbers pen holder in spine 4 x index pages 8 perforated pages

Buying The Best Journal

There is no perfect journal for every writer. Taking the time to set up a journal so it works well for you, though, can make the difference between journaling becoming a habit for life and it just being something that falls off your radar in the coming days and weeks. 

A bullet journal is often a good tool for beginning journalers. It’s easy to customise to suit your needs, has plenty of options to fulfill your creativity and can be expanded at any time. Choose one that includes some fun stencils to help you get started. Add a few coloured pens and some stickers to personalise it even more. 

If starting a bullet journal sounds like a lot of work or if you’re into a more minimalist approach, stick with a classic notebook or a spiral-bound journal. A journal with prompts can be a good tool that sparks creative thoughts if you tend to have a difficult time generating your own ideas for journal entries day after day. 

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