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

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What are the best journals 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 pushed your goals to the side or something happened and you’ve fallen off the path designed to help you reach them, now’s a good time for a reset.

What you need to get started is a good journal. 

Journaling – or freewriting – is stream-of-conscious writing that can boost creativity and thinking. This powerful tool can often spark off with writing 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. 

In this post, I’ll elaborate on which journals to buy in 2020 so that you can meet your writing and publication goals with ease.

This post contains some affiliate links, meaning I earn a small commission if you purchase the products I recommend.

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 book stokes their creative ideas. For others, a grid notebook works better.

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 notebook 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 to-do lists in any journal notebook, doing so with one that is unlined allows you to visualize your ideas more vividly.
  • Specialized or Not: Does the sight of a blank book make you want to fill it up with your thoughts, or does it paralyze you with feelings of being overwhelmed? If it’s the latter, a specialized journal that gives you specific areas for doodling, making a bucket list, or a chart or a list and writing, for example, might be a better fit.

Ready to start? Let’s see some of the best journal options for writers.

The Best Journals To Buy In 2020

The best journals for writers aren’t one-size-fits-all.

There are hundreds of specific journals that you can access from makers like Lemome, Leuchtturm1917, and BestSelf Co. And cool journals like a Moleskine journal, Wreck This Journal, The Self Journal, or a freedom journal by John Lee Dumas continue to be released regularly.

To make the search for the best journals even more difficult, you can just as easily use a book that you love if you don’t want to wait for one to arrive in the mail. 

This curated list with pros and cons can help you sort through the hundreds of journal notebook options available. Also included in the list are some of the best quality 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 good quality, environmentally friendly because it’s tree-free and made of recycled cotton. You will love the blank pages that are acid free with no bleed through so you don’t have to worry if you use fountain pens or different colors. 

Pros: Firm hand-stitched coptic leather binding, 365-day replacement promise for damages.

Cons: The paper is not the best option for sketching or coloring.

Price: $22.95 

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 – just like a Moleskine Classic ruled notebook. Available in four classic colors – gray, brown, black, and blue – as well as mint, you’ll like this journal notebook because it lays flat, has an elastic band to keep it closed and a pen holder, so you’re always prepared to write your heart out. 

Pros: Durable hardcover notebook, has an expandable pocket to hold business cards, notes, etc.

Cons: The binding could be tighter than it is.

Price: $13.99

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. 

Pros: Perfect size for a handbag and a schoolbag, perfect for sketching and art.

Cons: Need to make sure the rings that hold the paper don’t flatten out.

Price: $14.99 

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 notebook. 

Pros: Lies flat, has a convenient pen holder.

Cons: The cover is hard to clean.

Price: $29.99

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 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. 

Pros: Thought-provoking writing prompts, individual messages on each page to motivate you.

Cons: The pages don’t stay flat. It is not suitable for article writing.

Price: $9.99 on Amazon

Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice

6. Gratitude Journal

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

Pros: A tool to inspire gratefulness – a great habit to cultivate, simple and straightforward prompts, inspirational quotes for each day.

Cons: Some people may find the prompts repetitive.

Price: $6.99 on Amazon. 

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, certain elements make a bullet journal notebook 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 daily planner can 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 that 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 lists 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 period. You can choose to track the number of books you read for the year, your social media posts, blog publication schedule, 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 grid notebook 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!

Pros: Inner accordion pocket, no feathering, and bleeding.

Cons: The binding could be stronger, no numbered pages.

Price: $8.95 on Amazon.

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, high quality 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. 

Pros: Thicker paper than most other journals (240 pages of 160 GSM), no bleeding.

Cons: Heavy because of the bamboo cover, tight binding may make it tough to keep open (at first).

Price: $24.95 on Amazon.

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. 

Pros: 160 GSM thick paper, pen loop in the spine.

Cons: Suitable for micron pens, but may bleed with brush markers. 

Price: $24.95 on Amazon. 

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

Benefits of Journal Writing

Besides inspiring your creativity and cutting down your time spent on social media, journaling can help you in a few surprising ways. 

The impact factor of journaling for writers is massive. (When I say impact factor here, I mean the transformational effect that freewriting has on a writers’ skills. This has nothing to do with the impact factor of academic journals.)

  • Goal-setting: Journal writing helps you to be more precise about goal-setting  and unlocking your talents. Lay down the steps needed to achieve your goals and set deadlines to help you stay on track. It can work as a motivational tool when you hit those inevitable slumps.
  • Training your writing: It helps you train your writing through constant practise and self-reflection. In the end, your journals become a keepsake of your journey.
  • Stretching your IQ: Science proves that it stretches your IQ since “writing as part of language learning has a positive correlation with intelligence.” 
  • Boosting your memory: Journaling increases the ability to retain and understand concepts – much better than taking notes on a mobile app.
  • Relief from stress: Journaling can relieve stress as it makes you slow down, and cultivates mindfulness.

How to Make Time to Journal

It may seem difficult to make time to journal every day of the year. 

But set aside a fixed time on at least three days of the week to write your journal. Ideas may strike you at odd times – so keep your Moleskine journal handy so that you can pen down those gems right away.

Time yourself so that journaling doesn’t affect other activities, and you don’t end up feeling unproductive at the end of the day.

In case you miss a day, just catch up the next day. It isn’t like submitting a manuscript or having a publishing deadline set by editors – so don’t pressurize yourself.

What Is the Difference Between a Journal and a Notebook?

The beauty of a journal is that it’s an entirely 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 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 an article, poem, or 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 said, some people love having a separate place for journaling and recording their daily 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.

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 notebook is often an excellent tool for beginning journalers. It’s easy to customize 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 colored pens and some stickers to personalize 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 useful 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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2 thoughts on “The Best Journals to Buy in 2020: A Guide for Writers”

  1. Hey Bryan,
    Thank you for this.
    Well, I write a lot these days but I’m writing more of science-related stuff and frequently referring science journals like Nature, PLoS ONE, etc
    Hope the ones you shared will help people who write more on science to wake their ‘Inner Writer Up’!
    Keep sharing and keep inspiring

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