Recently, I unearthed the password to my high school self. Do you know Livejournal? For the first time in twelve years, I remembered it. The platform was abandoned en masse years ago; it’s amazing the website’s still up at all. Anyway, I logged in to the journal I kept there for five years as a teen. Clicking through random calendar days, I had a strange sensation. It was like reading someone else’s diary. I saw the person I was at sixteen through a frosted glass door; the silhouette discernible but the real person, in all their detail and complexity, obscured, trapped, lost. My own memories felt received rather than lived.
I fell in love with analogue journaling for two reasons. First is a fierce love of paper, ink, and texture. No surprise there. I’m a comics author-artist (I write and draw my own stories) and freelance illustrator who works in traditional media by preference. It’s deeply satisfying to create from a point halfway between control over and knowledge of my tools versus the unpredictable, spontaneous nature of watercolor and ink.
The second reason I’m drawn to analogue: a fear of forgetting and being forgotten, like the self that can disappear with one lost login, one shuttered web domain. I don’t get this existential every time I sit down to journal. And it’s not that I don’t enjoy and appreciate digital tools.
"It’s just that the scratch of pen nib on paper unquestionably and definitively makes me feel more real."
As long as I can remember, I’ve kept a diary in some form. Only two years ago did I start organizing and recording in a Traveler’s Notebook as a daily practice, when my partner took me to Baum-Kuchen’s event at the ACE Hotel. As soon as I started using my Camel TN, I felt a freeness and ease to the format. Clearing headspace this way is so important because as a freelancer I can all too easily get overwhelmed and lose track of my schedule, or worse, my enjoyment of life. “I am more than the money I make, more than the list of things I’ve yet to achieve.” It was a surprisingly hard lesson to learn. But it’s a lesson affirmed every time I flip through my weekly to see steady progress alongside moments of celebration. Writing by hand, I can interpret each day’s value on my own terms.
I consult this every day. It’s used for everything from scheduling work, appointments, and dates to remembering jokes and copying down eerily accurate horoscopes. It’s also my part-time wallet and an on-the-go sketchbook, perfect for drawing or writing observations during lectures or long trips.
The cover is customized with stamps and a stitched leather pocket (awesome for tickets, documents, and ephemera). It wears a Le Petit Prince charm--one of my favorite books. I’ve kept Little Prince-themed planners for several years, so at this point, it’s a tradition.
For journaling with light pockets. On-the-go observational drawings, quotes, phrases, poetry, and prose go here. To inspire my writing, I’m getting titles of favorite works of literature embossed on the cover. I’ve got HOWL by Allen Ginsberg so far. Inside I keep a TSL x BK Travel for Life Wallet. A gift from my partner, it’s stamped with “14”, our lucky number and anniversary date.
The newest addition, bought to commemorate a new chapter in my life: as a published comics author! You’re only a debut once, so I want to mark this time well. The tiny space granted to each entry makes me carefully consider what to carry forward each day. As someone who tends to write TOO much, I feel like this journal is a brutal exercise in honing skills of self-evaluation, honesty, and appreciation. Four different “me”s of the future are watching, after all...no pressure.
The other “lung” vital to my analogue system is made up of my sketchbooks, too numerous to list here. I reserve one large sketchbook for concept art and research for my graphic novel. There’s also a Moleskine-like book designed by my partner, which I use to draft proposals, pitches, emails, social media posts, etc. (seeing the weird tigers Emil drew on the cover makes me less reluctant to deal with the businesslike tasks inside lol). But the majority of my sketchbooks are a total hodgepodge.
Maybe it’s because I arrange and fill little boxes on a page for a living, but my natural tendency is to draw from corner to corner on compositions and use lots of lines. It’s an effort to simplify. Sketching from life is great for that, especially ephemeral subjects in constant motion like birds, people or the view out of a plane/bus/train window.
"You only have so much time to look and determine what’s important. Such is life."I’m really happy when I manage to capture the essence of such things.
Still, I keep going back to inventing characters and drawing structured, elaborate things like architecture, airplanes, plants and historical clothing. It’s just so fun to get lost in the details. This carries over to my journaling style too. No matter how much I try to limit the papers I keep or pare down a layout or a spread, I still end up with journals fat with paper and layers of material. Such is life!
"Pen blots, unfulfilled plans, things I wish I hadn’t said, done or experienced, all stay visible when written on paper. But that makes it possible to react to and hopefully grow from them."
"A year from now, or five, or twelve, what a joy it will be to open up these books, like doors, to meet again a self that is certainly past, yet has been present all along. No password required."
You can find Catherine at:
BK Products mentioned or shown in Catherine's story:
Travelers Notebook - Camel
Travelers Notebook - Blue Passport
Lamy White Pen
TN Archive Binder
Tools to Live By Binder Clips (currently sold out)
BK Truly Yours - TN Customization (please email email@example.com)