About a month ago I completed my first full year of journalling in my April-start Hobonichi Techo Cousin. In fact, I couldn’t wait to start it on the official day-per-page pages, so I got a headstart in February, but that’s by the by.
Like most people, I’ve tried and failed to keep a diary many times. A few half-hearted entries and it’s another abandoned book in a drawer.
My Hobo has an entry on every single damned page. The “worst” I’ve ever done is postpone an entry to the following day — for instance, when I’ve been out drinking and got back late (some nights, I simply wrote drunk. Those entries are illegible, hilariously so). For me, the habit has stuck and I’m a loyal Hobo user for life.
Why did it work?
I think there are several reasons why journalling stuck this time. Some simple, some a bit more complex.
I love Japan. Japanese pens, Japanese inks, anime, food… you name it. The Hobo is undeniably Japanese, particularly in the Cousin size, which still has the little quotations at the bottom of each page untranslated. This is more than just a bog-standard diary you picked up in Smiths or Rymans. This is exotic!
I love Tomoe River paper. I know I bang on about Tomoe a lot, but it really is pretty special. Thin as onion skins, completely immune to bleeding, makes ink look amazing. I always carefully choose which pen I’m going to use for journalling because it’s such a treat.
I made space and time for journalling. Now I’m in my 30s, life isn’t so hedonistic. Most evenings, after work and kid bedtime are over, I can sit down in my corner by the lamp and open my journal, just for half an hour. Any life coach will tell you that routine is essential to making a habit stick.
I invested in it. Anyone who has bought an expensive gym membership and never gone will argue with me here, but… I spent a lot of money on my Hobo and even more on a custom tweed cover for it. I didn’t want it to sit on a shelf unused. I wanted to justify that investment.
Most importantly, I gave myself help and structure to write, but I didn’t beat myself up about hitting some arbitrary standards of journalling excellence. And believe me, if you take a look around the internet’s Hobonichi communities, you’ll find some journals that are simply works of art. Mine is no work of art, but it’s mine, and I love it.
So, for example, I included some printed photos every now and again, using my LG Zink (zero ink) photo printer. But I didn’t sketch, do watercolours, or fancy calligraphy. It’s basically just text.
But it’s not just about the visual appearance. I also didn’t hold myself to standards of writing excellence. Often my entries are simply dull. They’re chronological recountings of my day. They’re not funny, or witty, or articulate or concise or comprehensive. Often they’re not even chronological because I forget things and have to go back. They’re a way for me to get the day out of my head and on to paper.
And that’s important to emphasise: for me, I wanted a journal, not a planner. I don’t really use my Hobo to track the future at all. I have a computer and phone for that. You may think differently, of course.
Sometimes, when I’m feeling down or having trouble getting going, or when even I think I’m too dull and factual, I’ll use a writing prompt. My favourite is to make myself write down three (or more) good things that happened that day.
The way I wrote changed during the year. I actually started out with pretty complex, structured entries. I wrote a main narrative and created a kind of “sidebar” where I tracked the music I listened to, food I ate, tie I wore, etc. Over time, I simplified and today just write the page the way I feel.
So my advice to you is give yourself a break. Your work is judged all day by your friends, colleagues, customers. Your journal is one place where you can do exactly what you want and nobody has a right to say you’ve done it wrong. Embrace that.
What am I going to change this year?
The 2017 Hobos have a new top-100 list at the end, which I’m using as a catchall for films, books and places that I want to try this year.
I’m also planning to better use the month/week views — either as an actual planner for fixed dates (holidays, insurance renewals, etc) or as a one-line summary of each day.
I know that other people track habits like running (although that might be better in a dedicated pocket notebook run journal). That’s something I’m still considering.
Worth the price?
Hobos are expensive. I was lucky and missed a customs charge this year, but my Cousin still cost me £40. That’s a lot for a diary. There are plenty of other high quality diaries out there for half that. And I sometimes consider using a blank book instead, for instance the excellent Tomoe River Taroko Enigma that’s sitting next to me right now. That would let me write shorter or longer than a page as needed.
But I quite like the constraint and rhythm of a page a day. And the Hobo has more to it than just bound paper — and it’s that little extra that helps me keep writing, every day. I think it’s worth the price.