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Saturday, May 14, 2016


Customizable Journaling System

As most writers do, I keep a journal.

Sometimes many journals.

And I stress over whether I should keep separate journals or combine them into one.

(Side note: The first time I openly discussed this dilemma was with one of my creative writing graduate school professors who told me I should read The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, which I immediately purchased, have started several times, have not yet finished, but it is still on my bookshelf, thoroughly taunting me.)

Of course, there is no right or wrong way to keep a journal, so that makes this decision even more difficult.

I am an impulsive notebook buyer, so I have plenty of empty journals stacked in various drawers, closets, and floors of my office. They beg me to write in them, which is how I usually end up writing in multiple journals.

But I rarely, if ever (?), fill a notebook completely from start to finish for myriad reasons. My journals are not just places that I write with a pen or pencil – I also fill them with collage and stickers and lists written in Sharpies and even occasionally mark them up with paint and spray inks. Your $1 composition notebooks don’t hold up well to this kind of treatment. The bindings of many notebooks collapse with all of the expansion from glue and collage. And I refuse to even consider using a notebook that I can’t lay flat.

After a bit of research – and a bit of stress – I just made my next journal purchasing decision: the Staples Arc Customizable Notebook System. This is similar to other customizable notebook option such as Create 365’s Happy Planner or Mead’s Five Star Flex, but I chose the Arc because of its array of accessories for the 8.5” X 11” size and its option to NOT buy the Arc paper.

Let me explain: I bought a poly cover, a set of 11 rings for the binding, a special hole puncher that allows the papers to move easily from one location in the notebook to another, and a clear pocket to store supplies. Then I punched holes in the card stock and heavy-weighted printer paper I already had at home to fill the gap between the front and back covers.

And voila! A notebook that meets all of my specifications for a journal:

  • Lays flat
  • High-quality paper
  • Expandable binding
  • Portable yet...
  • ...Large enough for all of my journaling needs

I wondered if it would be cheaper and easier just to get a three-ring binder and fill it will paper of my choice, but I have tried that before, and although that works pretty well for affordable scrapbooking, it loses the bendable notebook feel I love for my journals.

So here it is, my customizable Arc journal in progress:
Disc binding that allows me to move pages and even swap covers.
Glimpse of the blank pages inside the journal with tabbing system.
Tabs by Roben-Marie
Clear storage pocket and May cover.
Have you used this or anything like it? Are you as picky about your notebooks and journals as I am?

Written by: Anne Greenawalt, writer and writing instructor

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Blogger Sioux said...

Anne--I am not too picky. I DO like it my journals to lay flat, and I don't like lines on my paper. Other than that, anything goes (more or less).

However, like you, I have lots of journals--some started, some still untouched. (I do have one journal that I write in AND zentangle in.)

I'm glad you found something that works for you. Do you get a residual for any journals that are bought from Staples because of your recommendation? ;)

4:21 AM  
Blogger Judy H said...

I am someone who would rather have a shopping spree at an office supply store rather than at Tiffany's! I use Arc also and enjoy it. Of course, I also buy anything 'new' too!

6:03 AM  
Blogger MonetteChilson said...

I am drawn to journals because of how they look and feel, and I tend to designate each for a specific purpose—you are the gratitude journal, you are for chronicling my sacred pilgrimages, you are my yoga journal and you are for my inner work. Sometimes, though, I want to write something that defied categorization, and I can get so stymied about where to write it that, sadly, sometimes it doesn't get written at all. I am inspired by your inclusive approach and the way you put it all in one big book. Thanks for getting me thinking about my journaling habits!

11:05 AM  
Blogger Jolene said...

I currently have four journals: my person journal, my baby journal (keeps track of daily activities), my prayer journal, and my book reading journal. Glad to know I'm not the only one who enjoys lots of journals!

7:40 PM  

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