Shaking Things Up: My Messy Return to Journaling

Keepers of perfectly appointed journals look away now. I’ll wait.

All right, for the rest of us. Why do you journal? Come on. We all have our reasons. What’s yours? (You’re here after all, so if you don’t journal, you’ve at least thought about it.) Venting? Organization? I have journaled on and off for about two decades and for numerous reasons: organization, remembering stuff/things, thankfulness/gratitude, tracking my medical issues, logging my writing word counts, and self-discovery are among my reasons.

Once upon a time I half-jokingly called my journal my “brain” because it was just that, an outward expression of my thoughts and a means of organizing then. But my journal was also more. It was a creative outlet on days when I had no time to be otherwise creative. I journaled as an author, parent, teacher, and artist until I became seriously ill in 2015 then I stopped because writing by hand became difficult, because my hands tremored too much (I have an intent tremor common to certain neurological conditions), because I couldn’t doodle, draw, and be generally artsy-fartsy like I once was. Sigh. I felt as though I had lost a part of myself I’d never regain. Yes, I still wrote but…Then a lovely neurologist, my current neurologist, decided we should address the tremors. My “brain” has returned as a result. No, things aren’t as they once were, but I’m journaling again, and I’m going to take you on a brief tour of said journal as it now exists. Now, again, if you’re expecting a masterpiece of organization or artistic skill like you’ve seen shared on YouTube then you’re in the wrong place. My journal is part of my being. I have mental hiccups brought on by mild Broca’s Aphasia. I sometimes skip words and need to backtrack/ correct. My drawings aren’t anything like they once were (I have an art minor so I could once draw rather well. These days I primarily use digital mosaic [aesthetics] and cover design for creative expression alongside my writing). In other words, I have adapted.

So let’s take a look around my journal, shall we?

The letters are beginning to wear off!

The journal is a simple Amazon purchase, oversized with wide interior lines so I can wedge my sloppy writing in there. I must be thoughtful about how I spend my energy each day, so the cover words, “Choose Where Your Energy Goes” have become my mantra. You can see the full journal here.

The rainbow overtones and tiny unicorns (Um, have we met? If not, read about me in the righthand column and understand.), moons and stars (gives a witchy grin), palm trees, mermaids, balloon animals, etc. because why not? The entire journal is heavy spiral bound. It’s oversized but not too heavy, and I can easily hold onto it with my weak arm while I use my cane with the opposite hand.

I’ve added a clear zipper bag to the inside cover to hold appointment cards and small things I might need.

I also added a zipper pouch, attached to the spiral binding, for stickers, so many stickers, because I’ve learned I like stickers, generally snarky ones because if I am tremoring too much to draw or write, I can at least add a smart ass sticker to reflect my mood at the time. You’ll see one of those snarky stickers when you see last week’s pages below.

A large binder clip holds the past months and paperwork for upcoming appointments. Did I mention that I go to the doctor more than the average person? Welcome to the world of the chronically ill. My spouse and I dubbed this November -ologist month for a reason. I started with seven appointments this month and that has quickly grown to twelve due to scheduled testing and a foot injury. Joy. (Note: I truly appreciate the excellent care I receive in a nation not exactly known for its standard of care. I have not always received such care so I know how lucky I am. Twelve appointments in one month are simply draining on a low-energy body like mine.)

Moving along, my bright green clip holds together the month and opens to the current week.

The rest of the journal pages are held together by a gold elastic strap. Snazzy.

This journal is far different than anything I would have bought in the past. It’s bright, whimsical, doesn’t care what you think of it, believes cupcakes are for breakfast, has no fucks to give, and I love it for all those reasons.

On to the page spread. (Please remember that the pictures were taken by slightly tremoring hands.)

These categories, columns, lines etc. can change by the week depending on my needs. Next week, which I’ve already set up, is a little bit different.

Each Day’s Top Left Block: for whatever.  It often holds doodles or snark, but more on them below.

Each Day’s Top Right Block:

  • Organization – this includes my appointments for each day and where we might be going. I no longer drive so I sometimes need the nudge.
  • Remembering – birthdays, anniversaries, we’re cooking this night, and the like.

Bottom Bullets: Thankfulness/ Gratitude – I try to remember three things each day that I am thankful for. No, this isn’t part of some organized faith. It’s simply finding the good in life, and it’s fun to look back at these later.

Tracking (left column) This is the nuts and bolts of my journal. Tracking is broken down as follows:

Health (because I have issues. I believe we’ve established that fact.)

  • Weight (WT)
  • Blood Pressure/Pulse (BP/P)  – well controlled so I don’t check every day
  • Blood Sugar (Blood Drop) – again, well controlled so I spot check
  • Steps (Badly rendered shoe print)
  • Calories (CAL)
  • H20 (measured by 20oz) I average 100+ oz per day in water, meaning other beverages, liquids need not apply here.

Artistic Endeavors

  • NaNo (NaNoWriMo word count for the day) Other months this line simply reads words and there is sometimes an additional line for edits where I list how many pages I edited. There is always something going on.
  • Creativity: (I think I forgot this one this week, go figure.) This is where I list aesthetics, covers, doodles, banners…  whatever I’m doing for the publisher I work with.


  • Frugal (How was I frugal this day?) My spouse and I live on a fixed income. Enough said.
  • Read (Because I thought I wasn’t doing as much as I should. I was wrong.)

Errors and Blanks: I sometimes forget to fill in space. My writing is sometimes so trembling or sloppy I can’t read it later. Both are okay. I’m trying. That’s what I want.

Old phone. New journal. My new camera and a new tremor medication help things along quite nicely.

The Doodles: I’ve always been a doodler and, yes, they were once much more complex. These days I can complete one or two quick ones before the intention tremor sets in and, with medication, it’s far less of a tremor than it once was, but it’s still enough to disrupt my efforts. My artistic preference was pen and ink, charcoal, and line drawing, which my tremor… yeah. I don’t need to explain, do I? I have a tablet I’m learning to work with, but it’s a love-hate relationship at this point. Again, I’m trying. And before someone comments on how about my lack of skills. Yeah, I know, my hand drawing skills have pretty much left the building, but that’s no reason not to try if I want to. Besides, I like to draw so I’m going to if I wish. If you don’t like it, well, look to the right at covers (all my design) then under the categories under Aesthetics all Sort then kindly escort your judgemental self out the nearest exit. One skill comes to replace another.

Back to the journal  I slip in random things wherever I find the room: These are frustration notes, teeth-gnashing, and general fuckery. I’m no longer in a classroom so I don’t have to worry about a young student reading the content so I fire at will.

Why am I sharing my less-than-perfect journal with the universe? A reality check. When I began journaling again, I examined the trends and tried, I really tried to make my journal resemble what I saw on YouTube and on websites. I tried and failed four times to be honest, and now those journals are in the trash because I couldn’t keep up with them.

Lovely journals are just that, lovely, but they aren’t realistic for everyone. Neither are bullet point journals written on graph paper, their every letter perfectly formed. If you are lovely or bullet-pointed – great. Good for you. I’m neither. “Choose Where Your Energy Goes” is me in all its messy, well-worn, doodly, tremoring, writerly, chronically ill, no fucks to give goodness.

I’ve come to not only accept but appreciate the fact and hope that you, if you choose to journal, can find what works for you as well.