I keep a few different notebooks. A personal journal, a daily worklog, and for the last year a pandemic journal. It's satisfying when paper meets a pen. And when the pages in a notebook begin filling up and the sheets get little imperfections in them that causes them to take up more space than an unused page. It's like the pages get bigger because they now have stories in them.
I also have a lot of unused notebooks. Because they're fun to buy. Each one has waiting potential. But I have aspirations for each one of them, and I don't want them to become a scratch pad, or trashy and unorganized. So sometimes they sit unused while I wait for the perfect inspiration.
Two tricks work for me to get over the mental block of beginning a journal. One is to use journals that aren't very special or expensive but are still enjoyable. That notebook for me is the Grid-lined Midori MD. It's stylish, durable, and the paper takes fountain pen ink very nicely. If I start writing and don't like the direction it's going or if I abandon it or whatever - I don't feel bad because it's only a 10 dollar notebook.
The other trick is to just dive in and do it. Not really a trick, but rather embracing the imperfection of it. Just get in there and do it. I watched an interview with Bill Hader recently and he talked about the terrible stage fright that he would get when doing Saturday Night Live skits. He said that he would intentionally mess up his first line and then would instantly feel better afterwards because he saw that it was ok to mess up. It was ok to go off script. It was ok to simply move forward. Nothing bad happens! Do that with your journal. Just move forward and don't sweat it. Each page is a memory that can't be edited or deleted.
Once you start using a notebook that you like you're going to want a pen that's fun to use. Fountain pens and gel pens are what gets me there. The Lamy Safari Al-Star is a great starter pen. It's a great non-starter pen, too, but it's so affordable that it's a great first fountain pen. Get the converter and a jar of ink and that's all you need. For disposable pens I love gel pens. They can be super smooth. Find the brand and color you like. I like the Sakura Gelly Roll pens.
What I look for in a Notebook
I like A5 notebooks. They're small enough to carry around and big enough that I don't feel cramped. They do not fit into your pocket, though.
Dots are great! You can write as if it were lined, but you can easily make lines and drawings and graphs.
Notebooks that don't stay open on their own bother me. Everyone has their own preference on this, I suppose.
Some paper takes ink better than others and will bleed or smear or show through on the other side. Look for paper that works with the pen you like to use. The Tomoe River paper is pretty well loved and works great with fountain pens.
How Many Pages? How thick is the notebook?
Some have printed page numbers and even an empty index for you to fill in.
Does it include a bookmark or a ribbon? An elastic strap to keep it closed? An inside pocket? Hard or soft cover?
Notebooks I Like
This notebook is inexpensive and easy to write in.
They make a "6 month" and a "1 year" notebook that have either 180 pages or 365.
I like to use these as my daily journal. I write down what I do every day in these. They are dated and have a page for every day.
A nicer (I think) Moleskin type notebook that's easy to find and not expensive.