I hand-wrote 467 pages in various journals during 2015. This is actual pen-to-paper stuff. For years, I have been keeping five separate journal types going at any given time. I number each of the journals in order (Health Journal #14, Work Journal #46, etc.) and I try to be as honest and contemplative as possible as I write. Here’s a page breakdown and a general take on what I wrote:
I’ve kept this journal since I started my recovery from alcoholism. It’s where I write down facts about and what I think about the status of my physical, emotional, and financial health. I put everything from raw recitations of weight to plans for less spending. Over the last year I spent, believe it or not, circa $1,000 less of coffee than the year before. Just by planning and writing. I fucking love coffee.
I wrote 114 pages of in these three journals: 35 pages in #14, 56 in #15, and 23 in #16.
This is where I write directly to my children, documenting what’s up in our lives, how we’re doing as a family, and how they are growing into men. I started it in 1997, before they were born, and when I became a stepfather. The most important thing about this journal is to not try to hit a home-run blog post every time I pick up a pen. I just drive it with pure documentation— down to the names of the rides we rode, in order, when we went to Cedar Point a couple summers ago, or everywhere we went one day in Chicago during Spring Break (Pompei, grandma’s house, bucket of balls on Diversey). You will see how fast patterns change, and why. My mother is now dead, and Diversey is no longer in our emotional geography, but I’ve got it, it’s mine, downstairs on a shelf in a notebook, contemporaneous, and true, forever.
I wrote 71 pages here: 7 in #22, 64 in #23.
I used to be a real poet (proof). I still keep a poetry journal, though, and it’s where I put anything that I want to fly, anything I think might be stitched into real art someday. Representative passage, from October 14:
This pen seems weak
beneath the bold blue
But push forward.
I am a poet, and I
know I am demonstrable
on this front, and ably
so: this word front can be
weather or violence or
The phrase “The Front”.
It’s fraught with
World War II decapitation
and 1980s punk rock and
and cold push wind on the
Iowa scarred-farm tree
Oh Lamar Odom drug
addict you just had to be at
the Bunny Ranch, couldn’t
collapse at a nondescript
whorehouse had to be at the
one with a show on
HBO, we get addicted
to life on Earth.
I wrote 81 pages in my poetry journals: 44 in #48, 37 in #49.
My method for maintaining work journals is the most sophisticated system I’ve got. I developed it over the course of the last few years at Smart Chicago, where I work on lots of different projects and fiscal accountability is paramount. I keep a record of literally everything I work on throughout the day— every meeting, every deliverable, every conceptual model.
Though I’ve had a lot of different types of notebooks over the years for work, I’ve standardized over the last five years on the Clairefontaine # N 63125C stapled notebook 21×29, 7cm 40sh. Lined + margin. It’s got a great heft, it holds up to months of active usage, and they don’t wither under the weight of ink.
I wrote 201 pages this year in three work journals: 75 in #46, 80 in #47, and 51 in #48.
Lastly, I wrote in parts of 4 train journals. I don’t number the pages of my train journals— they are more casual and list-y. Basically this is where I put down the items I want to get at Container Store. I call it the train journal because if I want to capture something surreptitiously on the train, I can’t be pulling out a big fat notebook out of my bag.
There is a joy to pen and paper. I’ve never regretted a moment I’ve spent scratching into my pages, and looking back at my river is always good for the miles ahead.