I just finished reading the letters of Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolf (as edited by Leonard Woolf and Lytton’s brother whose name I’ve just forgotten). I am endlessly fascinated by the journals and letters of public figures–Colette, May Sarton, Simone de Beauvoir just to name a few.

I started journaling my sophomore year of college during my study-abroad trip to Padova, Italy. I bought a beautiful journal covered in Florentine paper, appropriately enough from a market in Firenze. Here’s from my first entry:

here i am cruising back on the train from firenze to padova. What a day, what a day, what a day. Missed the 9:00 train, had to wit for the 11:00. Missed the change at Bologna, had to go to some place named Prato and then to Firenze. Didn’t get to Florenze until about 3:30 Madonna! I’m sooo tired! Ah, Federico, dearest Federico—what a sweetie! Too bad he’s with Alex. & Antonio—voglio un bacione. who cares if he’s too young?!? I had a strange day but a good day. It felt good to be alive. I love the hills of Tuscany. Che bella! Che buona e la vita, sa! Si, certo!

I continued to journal on and off, but my early journals are notable for long stretches of time between entries. And lots and lots and LOTS about boys. Sigh. I read Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way in the mid-1990s and started working on morning pages, and that’s pretty much the model I’ve kept since then. I prefer to journal in the morning, so if I have a string of late nights or asthma days, sometimes things are sparse, but I still think you can get a fairly good sense of what’s going on in my life in any given month. I also tend to start poems in my journals,  take notes from church, write about scriptures that strike me, make Christmas shopping lists, and, of course, capture my list of 25 things to accomplish in a given year. I think about my journals as a record of my entire life, so nothing’s off limits. And I sign each entry with some variation of “Love, Paulette.” If I had to say who the implied recipient is, I’d say it’s God, part of how I talk to him every day and hear from him in return.

When you’re a professed writer, an occupational hazard is that people give you journals as presents all the time. But the truth is I’m not a huge fan of embellished journals. They’re gorgeous to look at, but I’m very particularly about how the book lies when open, whether the pages or lined or not, and how the paper actually feels under my pen. I feel bad about the number of blank journals I’ve donated to Goodwill over the years, but really it’s the tools of my trade, so I’m allowed to be particular.

For a long time, I was a huge fan of regular old 3-punch spiral notebooks from the drugstore, the kind that you use for school. I also liked marble composition books like I used when I was a kid. These days I’m a huge Moleskine fan—they’re sized perfectly for fitting in my purse and best of all, they lie perfectly flat on the writing surface no matter where you are in the book. I also like that the covers are plain cause then I can embellish them myself. Though I admit that I’ve fallen by the wayside on that front. They can be somewhat expensive but I try to stock up on them when I have a coupon from Borders or Plaza Art Materials, and well, they work so well, it’s absolutely worth the money.

Here for your viewing pleasure are some of the ones I’ve collaged over the years…

A gorgeous Marilyn Monroe photo by Richard Avedon. (Thanks CDT for reminding me!) and I”m embarrassed to say I can’t remember the photographer although it’s someone hugely famous. Sigh…

This is a piece by the fabulous Carrie Marill. I really want every single print in her House Plant series!

Why yes, that is a very young Russell Crowe.

Frida and Tom Cavanagh. I’m both perplexed and mortified by the “American Idol” snippet.

I can’t believe it took me six months to get through this notebook. I know Moleskines are way smaller than a spiral notebook, but still I generally use ’em up a month at a time. Unless it’s a month when I’m hitting the snooze button A LOT.

Posted on May 31, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Love this! I keep a hand book journal, with some of my sketches. Want to see my sketches at

  2. I completely understand what you mean about the journals! I often get sketchbooks as gifts, and usually they aren’t my favorite for various reasons. For me, simple is good. I like moleskines too, but lately I’ve been really enjoying simple spiral bound sketchbooks since I can flip the front over to the back, and use it like a tablet.

  3. It’s by Richard Avedon. Cheers!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: