Introduction to journalling by the The Paper Sparrow

So what actually is journalling? 

Guest post by Ian Megrath - The Paper Sparrow, who hosts our monthly Journal Club at our Hunter Paper store in East Belfast.

Follow Ian's journalling on Instagram @the.paper.sparrow

Traveler's Co Journal

Above: Ian's Traveler's Co Journal

It’s a question I’m often asked, both with curiosity and slight derision or scepticism. It is like “Dear Diary…”? Is it like scrapbooking? Is it like project management? 

The answer to all these questions is yes, and more. Journalling is recording, chronicling,  capturing moments on paper. It is long-form writing; it is concise bullet points. It is planning and forecasting but also reflecting and considering. 

Journalling is a Venn diagram of crafts and practices, pulling from scrapbooking, photography,  calligraphy, sketching & design. It is a place to write your deepest inner thoughts or to jot  down your to-do list. It can be a useful tool for planning and organising or a safe space to share your hopes and worries. 

Decorated journal

Above: one of Ian's journal spreads

I sporadically kept a journal in my teens. I always went into it with the greatest of intenions,  buying myself a new diary to eagerly start in January. I’d be committed this time, I’d write in  it daily, documenting my achievements and experiences, the emotions I couldn’t say out  loud. It would be a testament to the turmoil of my teenage years that would be a valuable  tool when I got older. It would last around 2 weeks. I didn’t have much of a social life and I  lived in the (probably unfounded) fear of it being found and read. I didn’t write about my emotional journey; I wrote about what I had for my tea.  

But I kept that romanticised notion of committing my life to the page for years, amassing a collection of notebooks that were too good to use. My handwriting, my drawings, my life  was too messy or mundane to share on these pristine pages. Lockdown 2020 came around  and I was placed on a long furlough which left me with too much time and too many  thoughts, so I turned to the Traveler’s Notebook my husband had bought me the previous  Christmas. Again, I had barely used the inserts for fear of ruining them with my derailed train  of thought.  

But I came to the realisation, it’s just paper

Decorated journal pages

Above: Ian's favourite fountain pen - the Kaweco Sport

Stationery purists will scream into the void at this statement as paper is a very important material and should be respected. Agreed, but ultimately, it is made to be used. Whether writing a letter or making an aeroplane, it’s just paper. It’s there for you to use as you need.  This epiphany meant I lost that fear of the blank first page. My journal was my journal, to  write, draw, decorate as I wanted. I leapt wholeheartedly into the rabbit hole, discovering, or  rediscovering, my dormant love of stationery. 

I describe my journal as a mirror, not a window. My journal is for reflection, not looking  forward. As an anxious person, seeing a list in front of me engages my procrastination reflex  and I will avoid it. But let me complete the tasks and write about it after, no worries.  I think I need the time and perspective to process my emotions, thoughts or feeling of the  moment and journal about them later, that could be later that day or even that week.

I will decorate my pages with ephemera, like tickets or labels – mementos of a day well spent.  Collaging these fragments with stickers, washi tape, stamps and scraps, they create a canvas  for me to write on, write around, write through. I let my feelings be reflected in the colours I  choose if I don’t have the words or courage to write. If I don’t have my own words to  describe my day; I’ll use someone else’s be it a song, quote or poem. 

This is not everyone’s method and that is the joy and wonder of journalling. There is no  correct way to do it. As individual as we all are, our journals are going to be also.  

Hunter Paper Co Journal Club

Above: Our journal club in full swing

I have tried many forms of journalling over the subsequent years, from the highly functional and organised bullet journal method, to junk journaling – crafting my own messy creations  from scraps of paper. I’ve found a supportive, inspiring and encouraging community who  share ideas and their own journals to help others join the movement. It has allowed me to  move way beyond my comfort zone, as I started to host the monthly Journal Club here in  Hunter Paper Co. It’s been heart-warming to discover like minded folks who return each  month to share our comfortable safe space, chat and reflect and get lost in the simple  pleasures of pen and paper (and washi tape, stickers, stamps…)



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