AAAGGGHHHH!!!! Journal Demons!

Posted by RichD | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 02-10-2009


A few weeks ago (Over a month actually) I made a beautiful new journal.  I love it.  I love it too much!  I have not been able to make myself make a single mark in the book!  This isn’t the first time this has happened.  Several times in my journaling life I have purchased, been given, or made a book that seemed just too wonderful for me to write in.  This really tanks for the journal process.  Over the last month I have been journaling, of course, I can barely think or function in an organized manner without scribbling notes and drawing diagrams.  The problem is, lately those notes and drawings have no home.  Scraps of paper, legal pads, sticky notes, envelopes!  Its everywhere, and probably will never be gathered in total to a nice, safe home.

Do not fret.  There is a solution for this (and the sister problem of “my life isn’t exciting enough to write down”).  Its actually a two part solution.  The first and most important part is…..


When I first had to move from my wonderful southern Florida home back to Tennessee, my life/journaling took an excitement nose dive.  What did I have to record?  Did I care for future generations to see my Tennessee life?  So for about six months—no journal.  But soon the hypergraphia itch set back in.  I had to do something.  I grabbed a bunch of printer paper and put together a slap-dash Japanese stab binding book.  I promised myself that I could make it as ugly and unappealing as possible.  It was the ugliest journal I every carried.  On the other hand it was freeing.

Because the journal was so “ugly” and “unimportant” I was able to re-establish the daily (hourly) habit of keeping thoughts and ideas in one place.  As it turns out, the wildness of the entries in that book made it one of the most interesting in my collections.  I just hope the binding holds up. (the good thing about stab binding is that its easy to re-bind). It definitely helped restart my journaling life.

The second part of jump-starting your journal…


Let your prospects of Leonardo type journaling rest for a while.  Do some basic diary work.  Put down the date and one or two events that happened.  Or better yet—start with yesterday or the day before.  After you get a few days down on paper the habit will kick in.  Don’t over write it.  Just jot something down before bed.


Oct. 2 2009
Finally made PJK post for the week.  Better late than never.  Weather beautiful.  Heard from John.


That’s all you need.

For my situation I grabbed a Moleskine from my dresser and set it next to my bed.  I promised myself 30 days of basic diary, then I will get to the other book.  Ill probably keep up the basic diary in that book as well.  Just until the new wears off the book and I can go nuts.

And the Secret Word Is…

Posted by RichD | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 29-06-2009


I am in the process of rethinking the posting schedule for Practical Journal Keeping.  I am gonna add more stuff.  More posts during the week and more information coming at all times.  Unfortunately all the planning for the new stuff  ate up my weekend for getting the regular stuff ready for the post today. (By the way, if the Google spiders are looking for the word “stuff” I should hit the number one spot, right?)
The tentative plan starting next week is a normal, informative journal technique or hack on Mondays, then a book or journal review on Wednesdays, and finally a link fest on Fridays (where I will spotlight some of the other great journal related sites on the web.

Now for something at least a bit informative and journal related:

The Pig Pen Cipher, Masonic Cipher, or Templars Code.  A classic.

The Pig Pen Cipher, Masonic Cipher, or Templars Code. A classic.

Care to guess what these people have in common?

Beatrix Potter, writer of children’s stories
Charles Wesley, founder of the Methodist church
William Byrd II, colonial writer, patriarch, planter, and leader
Leonardo Da Vinci, inventor/artist
Samuel Pepys, 17th century man-about-town

Well, yes, the easy answer is that they all kept journals.  More to the point of this post, however, they were all famous for keeping their respective journals in code.  Many of them weren’t deciphered until long years after they died.

Does this sound familiar?  “I can’t keep a journal, what if someone finds it”? So…put the juicy bits in code.

I’ve found that keeping your entire journal in code can be a bit cumbersome.  I am all about keeping your journaling as practical and useful as possible. Sometimes, however, you just can’t risk it.  It’s just as effective to encode a name or a place or (certainly) a Christmas list.

I became interested in codes and secret writing at a very early age.  At one time I had an entire journal dedicated to collecting secret writing systems.  If I found a coded message in a mystery novel I would jot the key down in the book.  I had codes from The Shadow and the Dancing Men from Sherlock Holmes.  I transcribed the fictional alphabets of Tolkien, and Krypton, and the Disney movie, Atlantis.  I copied the rune systems of the Celts, the Vikings and the Dwarves of Middle earth. I was well suited to keep any secret I needed to.

Codes need not be so very complicated.  Leonardo simply wrote backwards. A very useful code, that is easy to remember and yet will foil the casual observer might go something like this:

an ythin gyo umigh td ot ofoo lth eey ecoul dthro wof f acasua lsnoo p.

I’ll leave it up to you to decode this message.

I had my trusty book of collected codes to draw from at any time.  You don’t need one.  You can, of course, use a bit of personal creativity to hide your secrets, or, if you are like me and interested in the methods of the rest of the world, there are many websites dedicated to codes and ciphers.

The site I check out constantly is basically an online version of my old codebook.  It’s called is a fantastic collection of writing systems from around the world, throughout history and literature and even from the imaginations of people out there today.  Admittedly some of the writing systems are a bit complex (one I’ve seen recently actually has animated, spinning letters), but there are plenty that can serve as a code for your journal or at least as a jumping off point for creating your own.

Collecting Your Thoughts

Posted by RichD | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 11-05-2009


waxtabletThe ancient Egyptians didn’t write directly on the walls or papyrus .

The Romans and Greeks rarely sat down with a blank scroll and just started writing.

Even Leonardo DaVinci didn’t pull out a pristine book and start making notes and drawings and just trust his luck that all of his thoughts would come out in the order he wanted them published.

The Egyptians (like many ancients) would make notes on pot-shards (broken pots were a dime a dozen and you could scratch on them with anything) then later collect the important information in a more usable format.

Likewise the Romans did day-to-day note taking on wax tablets.  These were shallow frames of wood with wax melted into them that could be scratched into with a stylus.  These notes could be later transcribed onto a scroll.

The “Notebooks” of DaVinci didn’t start out as actual books.  He made notes on separate leaves of paper and then organized them as to topic.  It was years after his death that his followers managed to have them bound into books.

As much as I love having my clunky journal around to write and scheme and make notes, sometimes (actually quite often) it’s just not that practical to pull out and start scribbling.  At the same time, if I don’t write these things down they may become watered down in memory or even forgotten before I can get to my book.

My advice for journal keeping on the go is to take a lesson from these great thinkers of history.  Use something else to collect your thoughts.

I don’t carry pot-shards or a wax tablet but I do carry a small spiral notebook, or, four or five 3×5 index cards in my back pocket.  I can get a lot of information on two sides of a single index card.  I write small and do a lot of on the spot shorthand but later I can expound on the notes and ideas.

You can even get a sheet of the printable business cards and separate out a couple and keep them in your wallet for a more elegant solution.

You could try a folded sheet of paper like a Pocket Mod.  Go to their website an you can create and print a small book that is blank or has lines, grids, columns, calendars …  just about anything you can think of to help you stay organized.

Lately, however, I have been utilizing my cell phone as a collection book.  When journaling on the spot or making notes I can pull out the phone and start typing away.  Then just email or texts the notes to myself and I don’t even have to re-type them.

Think texting yourself a few notes is too tough.  Check out Robert Bernocco.  He managed to knock out an entire science fiction novel on his cell phone.

Okay, I admit that I am actually using an iPhone with an Evernote app that stores all sorts of information, including voice recordings and photos.  In any case, it’s actually become quite trendy to be typing into your cell phone when out and about, whereas scribbling in a notebook might actually be considered rude.  Go figure.

Just because you don’t have your journal with you doesn’t mean you have to stop journaling.  You can use almost anything to collect your thoughts or notes on the go, and then transcribe them at your leisure.