Creating a Journal: by Suzy Leopold

Can you guess what Andrew Carnegie, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, and Theodore Roosevelt all have in common? They all kept journals. All of these famous individuals wrote in a personal notebook on a daily basis.

Did you know that Leonardo da Vinci kept over forty notebooks? He wrote about his activities, and recorded plans for his engineering projects. If Meriwether Lewis had not kept a journal, while exploring across North America, we would not have a glimpse of his travels, during the time he lived, nor the geographical information that he recorded in his journal. The beloved, world class diary, The Diary of Anne Frank, was written while Anne and her family hid in an attic, from the Nazis during World War II. Reading her remarkable child diary connects the reader to the horrors of the war. President Abraham Lincoln, our sixteenth president, kept a kind of diary. On little scraps of paper, he jotted down thoughts and sometimes referred to these notes in his speeches. Our beloved president was a powerful orator. His love for the written word was evident in his love for books. As a young man, Abraham always had a book stashed away. He read whenever he found a chance to do so, sometimes finding a moment in between chores on the farm. On a page from Abraham’s schoolbook he wrote the following poem:

Abraham Lincoln
his hand and pen
he will be good but
god knows when

Do you keep a journal? I hope you do and if you don’t, consider the fact that journaling promotes good health and wellness. Journaling expands our minds. Journaling increases vocabulary, while improving on one’s creative writing ability.

A journal can be kept for a variety of writing topics and a variety of reasons. Perhaps you want to capture a new experience or record something special, exciting and memorable. Perhaps after a crummy day, you may need to vent, solve a problem or unload your thoughts. Do so, in a journal. Jotting down favorite Bible verses, quotes, poems and sayings are all wonderful ideas for a personal journal. A journal can be used to generate a shopping list, make a wish list, or even produce a To Do List.

As a writer, brainstorm thoughts and make lists in a journal. Use a journal for pre writing that is spontaneous and written in a first draft form. Try a strategy referred to as quickwriting. It is an informal ramble of words on paper to develop and generate ideas. Jump start your writing with some writing prompts that may spark creativity. Make a list. Doodle. Sketch. Create a graphic organizer. Think of bold beginnings, mighty middles, and exciting endings. Add mementos and ephemera. Jot down words and more words. Keep on writing. Just focus on your thinking and ideas, not grammar and spelling. The revisions and editing can follow later. Use a variety of writing implements. You can use more than a pencil. Try writing with colored pencils, markers, or even a collection of rainbow colored pens.

Consider sharing personal thoughts, dreams and hopes, as you write. A journal can record whatever is on your mind. Just like reading, writing should take place every day. So grab a writing instrument and a notebook and begin to record your thoughts.

 Materials Needed:

One composition notebook or student journal
Three pieces of 12 X 12 inch scrapbook paper
Glue stick
Hot glue gun                                        September 2010 040
Paper cutter (optional)
Di cut letters or letter stickers
Ribbon or Rick Rack


1. Using three sheets of scrapbook paper, cut two pieces of scrapbook paper 8 X 12 inches.           journal pic

2. Apply a generous amount of glue to the journal, position the scrapbook paper and smooth out any bubbles.

3. Wrap and fold the extended edges of the scrapbook paper, creating mitered corners and secure with a generous amount of glue.

journal 5journal 74. Cut two pieces of scrapbook paper 9 X 6 inches. Using a glue stick adhere to the inside covers of the journal.      journal 8

5. Open the journal to the middle section of the notebook that reveals the stitching. Hot glue two or three 14 inch pieces of ribbon on the top edge. Drape the pieces of ribbon across sections of the notebook to become a bookmark. Tie a knot at the bottom of each piece of ribbon.       journal 9
6. Time to embellish your journal with scrapbook stickers and cutouts, etc. Use additional scraps of scrapbook paper. Recycle greeting cards. Use buttons and babbles. Be creative.




Suzy Leopold is delighted to offer the opportunity for one reader to win a personalized journal. She will create and mail the journal to the winner. Just leave a comment on this post and I will enter your name in the give-away. If you tweet about it or share it on FB, I will put your name in again. If you reblog, you get another chance. Just let me know what you’ve done so I can put the correct number of names in the drawing. Give-away ends on Friday April 3, 2015.

Follow Suzy and her writer friends on their group blog:
Word Press:    suzy pic
Twitter: SuzyK5 Facebook: suzy.leopold

29 thoughts on “Creating a Journal: by Suzy Leopold

    • Thank you, Robin. There are so many benefits for keeping a journal, or two or more, from self reflection to writing favorite quotes. Journals serve a purpose for making plans and jotting down goals.

      • Many writers keep writing journals as well. I’m not that organized, though I do journal; my writing thoughts are usually on scraps of paper that I keep in a jar.

  1. Pingback: Creating a Journal: by Suzy Leopold | Through the Prairie Garden Gate

  2. I tried keeping a diary as a kid, once or twice, but it didn’t last. I tried a couple of times as an adult, too. Can’t keep up with it. I have too many other things I’m doing and that just never was able to become a priority. I do wish I’d done it more, but I didn’t. This project does look like fun, though 🙂

    • Hi Donna Marie, I don’t keep a diary either. I do keep journals. Diaries and journals share some similarities, however, they serve different purposes. A diary tends to be writing about events and happenings of what took place during the day. A journal is about examining your life, as if it is a roadmap to your spirit. It is a place to share your thoughts and ideas and favorite words. And since you LOVE words, and share these words on your blog, “To write well takes education and practice,” I encourage you to consider keeping a journal for the many words that you love.

      • Suzy, how sweet that you would check out my “About Me” page 🙂 I DO love words and I’m constantly using them and typing them, largely for comments! lol I appreciate the encouragement, but can’t imagine I’d be able to work in the habit at this point. I couldn’t do it then, and now my life is even more overwhelming *sigh*

  3. Thanks for the reminder to journal, Suzy. It is such a wonderful way to tap into one’s creativity. I haven’t journal-ed in a while but, I’m getting a notebook right now. My goal is to reestablish my old routine of journal writing – today!

  4. These look adorable. Many years ago, I covered composition books for my students using contact paper. It was extra work and $$$ for me, but the results were handsome and the students loved using them. So all in all, a good investment of time and money!

    • I too, Juliana, made these journals with my students throughout the years. My ELLs [English Language Learners] from preschool to eighth grade made and kept journals. I shared the idea with my students in an Integrated Language Arts class at The University of Incarnate Word College, also. My public school kids created their own personalized journal with materials that I supplied for them. The journals were used to *publish* their final writing creations written during Writing Workshops. In May, administrators and teachers were invited to our classrooms as the kids read and shared their writings in their journals. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and memories of your journal making with students.

  5. I love your journals, Suzy! I’m inspired to make them for my friends! Darlene, I tweeted about this post. Thanks for the chance to win one of the journals!

  6. Cousin Prairie Garden Girl!

    I love your journals, especially the one you made for me many years ago. It has a yellow flower flopping around on a black and white polka dot front cover. I’ve kept a journal for the past decade or two. Each year starts a new journal. All the journals are titled “Advice to Myself.” Some journals are fat, others are skinny. Some journal entries are scary to look at years later. Why did I think I needed to tell myself that piece of advice? Oh, then I remember. It served a purpose at that particular time and that particular place. Other entries are borderline profound. Did I write that? Must have. It’s in my handwriting. The good, the bad, and the ugly advice… it’s all there for whatever it is worth.

    I think it best to resist rereading journal entries. In fact, I am thinking of destroying the journals. Life is a process, not a destination. The journals of previous years have served their purpose. The transforming power of the “advice to myself” is in the entry, not in the revisiting. Am I wrong to think this way?

    • Hi Gaylene,
      I have a number of journals from when I started back in college. I haven’t reread them – yet…but don’t have the heart to throw them out. I feel I’ll know when the time is right to either give them a read or a heave. no right or wrong either way as I see it.

      • My greatest fear is that my journals will outlive me. Since I do not know the exact day I will die, the chance that they will outlive me is pretty high. I cringe at the thought of somebody pawing through them. They hold no secrets, however, it seems a violation of my personal identity to have no
        control over them after I’m dead and gone.
        “Honey, where do we keep the matches?” she asked, hoping her voice would not betray the act she was about to commit.

    • Cousin Gaylene,
      As I am sure you know, journals serve a variety of purposes. Many choose to keep a journal for the therapeutic, healing benefits and to express one’s thoughts and feelings through the written word. Some prefer to document experiences both positive and sweet along with the negative and difficult.

      I understand when you share, “I think it best to resist rereading journal entires.” Of course you are not wrong to think that way. Those are your thoughts and feelings. Perhaps there are some journal entries that should be considered for reflection after the entry is written. This will to give the writer a deeper insight and a better understanding and an opportunity to grow and learn.

      Think of Grandma Seibold’s crazy quilts . . . Thread sews together a variety of fabric scraps, both bright and dark. Words written in journals can be both bright and dark.

      Remember as I always say, “Everyone has stories to share.” In time, as Darlene suggests, you will recognize if it is time to repurpose the pages of a journal. Just know that the past journal entries served its purpose at the time, as you stated, and was part of the process of your life.
      ~Cousin Praire Garden Girl

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