Fixing the Messed-Up Journal Page

You’re working in your journal and one of the pages doesn’t work out. You don’t want it to mess up the rest of the journal, so now what? You’ll know what I’ll say first–that your journal is not a piece of perfection, that some pages will work out better than others. And I’ll know your reply–tell me how to make it work. Here are some ways to fix a journal page that didn’t work out:



1.Cut it out. Trim the page out about an inch from the spine stitching. Put a sturdy piece of cardboard or a cutting mat under the page and cut with an art knife. You’ll get a better cut than with scissors. You now have a stub left in the book. You can attach another page here. Complete the page first, so you know it’s exactly what you want in this part of your journal. Attach with tape or glue.

If you use glue, you’ll want the stub to be on the back of the insert. Put the glue on the stub, after putting a protective page underneath the stub. No sense gluing pages of your journal together.

2. Take notes. If there is room enough on the page, make notes about what you would do differently the next time. This helps you feel better about the mistake. It also helps you learn how to avoid repeating the mistake. If there is not enough room on the page, cut out small rectangles of paper, make your comments on them, and glue them into place on the page you don’t like.

3. Cover it up. There are thin papers that will hide the work, but translucent enough to add interest. Parchment or tracing paper, and some kinds of washi–rice paper–do a good job. You can also add a piece of transparency film or mylar. Transparency can be colored by running it through your printer to put a colored image on it. (Make sure your printer will take transparency film first.) Transparency film can also be dyed or stamped with alcohol inks. Mylar can be tinted with colored pencils or inks.

4. Paint over it. If you don’t mind a thicker page, cover the page with collage or paint. If you are going to paint, use a heavy body acrylic or gesso to start. You’ll get muc better coverage than watercolor or thin acrylics. You can also cover portions with masking tape and paint over the rest of it. Collage works well because you won’t be able to write on paint very easily.

Your inner perfectionist should find one of those methods the right way to keep loving your journal.

Quinn McDonald is a journal writer and creativity coach.

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Writing and Calligraphy: Related

There is something elegant and deeply artistic about calligraphy. It’s a demanding art–patience, practice, an eye for detail–are all part of learning to be a good calligrapher.

I’ve always wanted to be a calligrapher, but it’s been daunting to me. In my first calligraphy class the instructor told me that I was already too old–that there were not enough years left in my life to practice enough to become really good. I felt crushed. And old.

The second time around, Laurie Doctor, the calligrapher and writer, encouraged me to do anything that engages my interest.Because enjoying art is the beginning of learning art.

Sherri Kiesel's Pressure-release Roman Capitals

Sherri Kiesel's Pressure-release Roman Capitals

Yesterday, Anne Law taught a class at the Arizona Calligraphy Society. It always surprises me how warmly they welcome me, knowing I am a writer and not a calligrapher. Anne had a folder for everyone, and the folder contained everything you needed for the class–practice

and R.B. Rives paper, two special pencils, frosted mylar, and a nametag done in the technique we were going to learn.

The technique, “pressure and release Roman Capitals” is one that Anne learned from Sherri Kiesel. Sherri’s example is shown on the left, above.

The pressure and release technique adds depth. The contemporary look is sleek and nuanced.

The technique Anne Law taught is far more than lettering. First, we used suminagashi marbeling on the heavy R. B. Rives paper. Sumi-e ink is used in this simple technique.

The writing could be done on the mylar, with bright pastel stencils applied on the Rives paper. When the mylar is attached to the paper, you get a layered look of nuanced color and delicate, yet powerful writing.

Some of us decided to work first on the paper. Anne demonstrated the formal technique, then several changes that made the writing dance across the page.

The class participants were generous in letting me take a look at their samples. They were incredible, delicate and easy. My own effort showed all the beginners effort–big letters, slightly wobbly, not quite lined up. I can’t make the letters small because the technique–pressure, release, pressure–requires space for me to master. My letters had a slightly

My first try and pressure-release

My first try and pressure-release

Hebrew look to them, because the pressure also varied the thickness.

Why was I pleased with my result? Because I did not expect perfection. I expected the suminagashi to be provide a beautiful background–which it did, and the stencil work to add a different element, whic is also did. My work that showed effort, and an improvement over my first effort. And that happened. Practice will make it better. That made the class successful for me.

—Quinn McDonald is a life- and certified creativity coach. She teaches business communication and personal journaling.

Visit my other website: Raw Art Journaling.

One-Sentence Journaling

Keeping a journal is a way to provide a map of your journey. It can be as private as you want it to be–from a public blog to a journal kept in a locked box.

Handmade journals, (c) Quinn McDonald

Handmade journals, (c) Quinn McDonald

Journal writing is not complicated. While I know journalers who prefer to keep detailed accounts of book plots, movie summaries, menus and restaurant reviews, I also know journalers who keep a bare-bones journal. A few details of the day, and they are done.

Some years ago, I introduced a new journaling experience– a course called “Once Sentence Journaling.” It was meant for busy people, those who collapsed into bed each night, with no hope of creating a deep interior dialogue with themselves.

Interestingly enough, other people came to the workshops, too. Poets who wanted to encapsulate worlds of emotions into a few words, parents who wanted to slow down the race of childhood, people who thought they couldn’t write. The classes filled up with people who had no time, people who never kept a journal, but thought this sounded easy enough, people who had a dozen journals, but never filled any of them.

The classes grew and the content changed constantly. I now teach the class in person, online, and in phone-in workshops. Every time I teach it, the mix of students changes, and we discover new exercises, new words, and new sentences.

Because one-sentence journaling is a door to experiencing your life in small pieces and making meaning of it.

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-Quinn McDonald teaches a variety of journaling courses, including one-sentence journaling, journaling for perfectionists, and wabi sabi journaling. For more information, contact Quinn at

Map Your Life

Maps have always fascinated me. Back in the day, maps were paper, and people found them hard to fold. When I was small enough to have road maps extend beyond the reach of my outstretched arms, I discovered that all the road maps folded the same way, and figured out how to re-fold them in seconds.  When I was at the gas station, I’d go around to people’s cars, folding their maps for them. I earned more than a few nickles.

Maps in your journals don’t have to be precise in distance, just in memories. Here’s a map from a trip last fall. I drove from Phoenix to L.A.


Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach who teaches journal keeping and business communications.  Visit my other website: Raw Art Journaling.

Make Your Own Journal Cover

Links to useful places about journals:

Here’s a great video showing how to make a gusseted pocket on the inside cover of your journal.

Want help on writing on that blank first page?

My  other website, Raw-Art-Journals, is for journal keepers who can’t draw.

You can create your own custom-made journals and covers with a little ingenuity and almost no money. If you already enjoy collage, scrapbook, or other paper arts, you have all the materials you need.

3 journal coversIf not, all you need to get started is a pair of scissors, some good glue (I like Golden’s Matte Medium), a 1-inch paint brush (the kind you get at a paint store, not an art store) and some interesting papers–you can use old maps, pages from abandoned books, even cut-outs from magazines.

journal coverWhat makes these journals easy is the Circa rings.  You will need a special punch.  The portable one is about $30; the tabletop one is about $60. Or, simply use a regular hole punch and use the smallest binder rings available.

Warning: Rollabind also makes those disks, but I can’t recommend them after reading the horror stories about non-delivery and non-communication. Even the BBB rates them with an F and has an alert out about them. The Ripoff report has a steady stream of complaints that go back several years and are added too almost weekly.

I first made the journal by cutting a rectangle of light cardboard 1/8-inch larger than the sheet of paper I wanted to use. (In this case, the paper is pre-punched and from Levenger’s. It’s nice paper stock and you can write on it with markers, felt-tips, and fountain pens.)

Before I punched the holes, I covered the covers with papers. On the front cover, I used pages from antique doll-house books I found at a yard sale. Coat the entire cover with matte medium, lay the pages on it, and as you put down each page, paint over with more MM. Once I had them all down, I painted several layers of Matte Medium over the completed piece, allowing it to dry between each coat. Three coats should do it.journal, inside cover

On the inside, I used art paper, marbled with inks. Simply coat the entire inside cover, place a piece of marbled paper over it and trim to fit. Easy-peasy. If you want to finish the edge of the cardboard nicely, use a chisel-end marker and run it over the edge of the paper.

I added an old library due-date-card holder, again, I found it at a yard sale, although you can now purchase new ones at teachers supply stores. I have the real library card in it, and use it as a bookmark, although you can easily store some punched index cards for notetaking.

Don’t have a Rollabind punch? Here is a link for making covers without any punch at all: Mutant Journals are journal covers made from unlikely, but not uncommon item.

Another Mutant Journal is made with wildly inked and resist watercolor paper. I even give you the name of the poem, so you can enjoy that, too!

You can make these covers from a variety of papers to suit your mood. The papers are expensive, so I made a protective coat for my journal. In addition to being waterproof, it protects the journal cover when I toss it in my bag.

Tyvek journal coverTake a used Tyvek envelope (Fed-Ex or Priority Mail envelopes) and place the journal so the edge with the rings lines up with the short, unopened end of the journal.

Mark where you want to cut the envelope, using the journal as a template. While the journal is in place, mark where the rings are, so you can punch them to match the existing journal.

I put a tab on it, so it would fold over the journal if I’m carrying it in the rain or writing outside on just-washed coffee-house tables, or one that has ice-tea rings on it.

Cut out the shape. Cut open the bottom if it was part of the edge of the envelope, but do not cut open the back. Leave it joined and punch the holes. Doing this creates a spine that is more protective than two separate tyvek cover

I sewed a button on the cover side, and cut a slit in the flap. Now the journal shuts and I can toss it in my bag. It’s not beautiful, but I don’t need it to be. I need it to protect the journal cover, and it does a wonderful job.

Want more articles on journaling? Visit this page, you’ll find a list of links.

–Quinn McDonald is an artist, writer and creativity coach. See her work at All images, Quinn McDonald. (c) 2007 All rights reserved.

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