Keeping a Messy Journal

Somewhere in your head is the vision of the perfect journal. Maybe it’s all online, on a beautifully decorated page. Or maybe it’s all written in fountain pen, in a lovely Palmer penmanship. It’s a nice thought, but it’s unlikely.

Image from

Image from

Life is messy. Your journal will be, too. Unless you create separate pages and include only those you like, (and whose life is that controlled?), you will have pages that are neater than others. If you use your journal daily, you will write in various pens, include things torn from magazines, and in other ways, create a journal that looks like your life–messy and busy.

It’s a much more realistic approach to journaling. There are people who tell me that they are waiting for their lives to “quiet down” before they start coaching. They never get around to it. Coaching, like journaling, takes place in the middle of messes, tears, joy, and confusion. That’s how life is.

If you hate a messy journal, here are three saves.

1. You can cut out an annoying page, leaving about an inch close to the spine. Then tape another page, one you have completed and like, into your journal.

2. You can gesso over the page you don’t like, and re-create it. Now you don’t have to look at the annoying page.

3. You can neatly create a list of things that you would do differently, and tape it over the page so it covers most of it. That way, you take notes on what you’ve learned, cover the offending portion you don’t like, and still have it in case you want to refer to it.

Or, you can enjoy the journal exactly the way it is, knowing that you are a recovering perfectionist, and your journal is fine the way it is.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer who keeps a messy journal. Several of them, in fact. She is also a life coach and creativity coach.


2 thoughts on “Keeping a Messy Journal

  1. Or use a spiral bound book, and tear out the pages you don’t like.

    But I prefer to leave them in, to remind me of the bad days, for the most part. I did tear out one page from an art journal since I’m trying to make it more of a calm retreat book. But that’s a rare exception for me.

    I also have, at this point, about 9 journals sitting around, only one of which is full. They are for different things, or made at different times. One is just a dream journal, by my bed. Some are art journals, some are from when I was doing Artist’s Way (including the full one).There’s also my blog, of course, which is a mish mash of all kinds of things! Someone would have a very hard time piecing together all the bits of my life.

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