Creative Uses for Notebooks and Journals

Updated on January 7, 2019
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Sadie Holloway writes about enjoying the good life while living on a modest income. She loves finding creative ways to save money.

If you have a collection of beautiful notebooks and journals you're afraid to write in, here are some creative ways to fill those pages up with ideas and insights that will make you feel happier, healthier, and infinitely more organized!

Creative Uses for Notebooks and Journals
Creative Uses for Notebooks and Journals
  • Do you have a mismatched assortment of cute notebooks and journals that you haven't used yet?
  • Are you hesitant to use them because they're so pretty that you want to make sure you only put really important things in them?
  • Do you think that your handwriting will be too messy, your ideas too frivolous, your thoughts too personal?
  • Are you looking for creative uses for those pretty notebooks and journals?

Whoever gave you that pretty notebook as a gift would probably be sad to know you aren't using it!
Whoever gave you that pretty notebook as a gift would probably be sad to know you aren't using it!

How often do you write in a journal or diary?

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If you can't decide on what to write in a blank notebook your mother, your sister, or your best friend gave you, perhaps this list of things to write in a pretty journal or diary will get your creative juices flowing.

A list of classic movies you want to see. How many times have you and your partner complained that there weren't any interesting movies available through your streaming subscription? There are hundreds of great movies to watch if you aren't hung up on watching the latest blockbuster that has yet to be released on pay-per-view. Fill an empty notebook with a list of classic films everyone should see at least once.

Wines you've tried and would like to enjoy again. Make notes in your empty notebook about the meal the wine was served with, what you liked about it and the special occasion when the wine was served. Jot down notes on the wine's price and where to buy it; this will come in handy when you want to serve it again.

A daily record of one new thing you learned. Fill an empty notebook with all the trivia starting to fill your brain! What you write in the notebook doesn't have to be a mind-blowing piece of information, or a lengthy summary of what you learned in chemistry today. It could be as simple as a card game your child taught you or a fun fact about your next holiday destination. Keep your entry short and sweet so that you're motivated to write in your journal every day. Taking a moment at the end of the day to reflect on something you learned will also condition your brain to me more mindful and observant throughout the day.

Witty tweets and funny Facebook status updates. How often has one of life's funny moments caught you by surprise, and then vanished from your memory the moment you signed into Facebook. Keep a little notebook on hand to record those cute and quirky moments that are perfect for Facebook status updates.

Things that you love about your husband or wife, or boyfriend or girlfriend. Recording all of the things that you love about your spouse is a wonderful way to honor and appreciate the one you love. The next time he's feeling blue and in need of support and encouragement, you'll have a wonderful list of things to share with him. After an argument, reading your list of what you love about your spouse can make it easier to take the first step toward making up after a big fight.

All of your current online passwords. A pocket-sized address book that can be stashed in a secret spot is ideal. You can organize the sites alphabetically for quick and easy reference.

A self-portrait mood diary. Choose a small sketchbook or journal with unlined pages and doodle a picture of your face to illustrate how you're feeling that day.

Books you plan to borrow the next time you visit the library. Look the call numbers up online and then record them alongside the book title and author. If the book isn't available when you visit the library, you'll have a handy list of new books to search for when you return the borrowed ones.

A file folder for odds and ends. Who says that you have to actually write or draw in your notebook? A creative way to fill up a pretty journal is to simply use it as a place to hold small photos, clippings, pretty photos from magazines, newspaper articles, headlines, colorful used stamps that caught your eye, ticket stubs from a memorable event. A small notebook is a pretty way to organize all those little bits of paper that tell the story who you are, what you did, how you spend your time, and what you find beautiful.

A laughter journal. Write down everything that made you laugh that day. The more you write in a laughter journal, the more you'll be able to see and appreciate all the joy and humor that everyday life has to offer. Keeping a laughter journal is a great anti-dote to stress and boredom.

Keep a notebook of classic movie titles next to the remote control. Next time you can't decide on what to watch, open your journal and find an "I've been dying-to-watch this" movie title!
Keep a notebook of classic movie titles next to the remote control. Next time you can't decide on what to watch, open your journal and find an "I've been dying-to-watch this" movie title!
Have you sampled a remarkable wine lately? Write it down in a handsome book for future party planning inspiration!
Have you sampled a remarkable wine lately? Write it down in a handsome book for future party planning inspiration!

You don't have to limit yourself to writing traditional diary entries in your decorative notebooks and fancy journals. Sometimes writing simple lists in a beautifully embossed book can elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Here are some more ideas for what to write in your collection of "too pretty to use" notebooks:

  • A list of self-care gifts and instant mood boosters that you can buy for yourself for under $10.00
  • Beautiful words or strings of words you stumbled upon
  • Favorite quotes
  • Romantic date ideas
  • Creative boredom busters
  • Restaurant reviews
  • Things that you're grateful for
  • Tips on how to save money
  • Helpful household hints and tips
  • A random acts of kindness To-Do list
  • Compliments you received that made you feel good about yourself
  • Charitable contributions you have made and/or would like to make this year
  • Cute and adorable things your child does -- Instead of posting your kids' antic online where it can put your child's and your family's privacy and safety at risk, create a keepsake notebook of all the sweet, funny things your children do. Imagine how much fun you'll have sharing those stories with your grown-up child and his or her new fiancee!
  • A room by room home inventory list
  • Foods you love but always forget to buy at the grocery store because you're too focused on healthy eating or shopping for meal ingredients
  • Words, greetings, and phrases in foreign languages
  • A list of treasures that you want your relatives to have after you've passed on. If you get this notebook notarized, you can probably add it to your will and estate plan.
  • A list of minor home repairs that can be done in one weekend
  • A romantic fantasies journal to share with your spouse when the mood right

If none of these journaling ideas appeal to you and you still don't know what to write in your pretty notebooks, perhaps the featured video below will inspire you! Just because your notebook may be filled with lined paper, there's no reason you can't fill it up with colorful drawings, paintings, and mixed media collages! The possibilities are endless when you can let go of yourself go and just start using your new notebook!

Use your new notebook as a mixed media journal.

Here's another good reason to write in a pretty notebook: you will feel better mentally and physically, and science has the proof to back it up. A research paper written by Karen A. Baikie, Kay Wilhelm, and published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, asserts that engaging in expressive writing can result in overall long-term improvements emotional and physical well-being. You can read more about the study here: Emotional and Physical Health Benefits of Expressive Writing.

Researchers also believe that writing on a regular basis makes you smarter! Writing in , Dr. Judy Willis posits that "The practice of writing can enhance the brain's intake, processing, retaining, and retrieving of information. Through writing, students can increase their comfort with and success in understanding complex material, unfamiliar concepts, and subject-specific vocabulary." To learn more about how a daily writing practice can enhance a student's academic performance, read The Brain-Based Benefits of Writing for Math and Science Learning.

So whether you crack open that pretty notebook and start writing expressively, or you use your journal to track your finances, manage your health, or map out your long term goals, your daily writing practice can help organize your thoughts, and in turn make you feel more emotionally and physically balanced!

Pretty notebooks should be displayed!

Use a wire basket or decoratove box to keep your mismatched and odd-shaped journals in plain sight where you're more likely to pick them up and start writing in them!
Use a wire basket or decoratove box to keep your mismatched and odd-shaped journals in plain sight where you're more likely to pick them up and start writing in them!

One of my favorite ways to fill up a pretty notebook is to turn it into a daily gratitude diary. Gratitude journals are a way to get to your happy place. In fact, scientists have been studying the impact that gratitude has on our lives. The late neurologist Oliver Sack published a book on the power of gratitude before his death in the summer of 2015. Check out his book on Amazon or at your local library.

If you're still not convinced that you have anything important or creative to write in that fabric-covered diary you received as a gift, imagine your heirs or future great-grandchildren reading your list of favorite household tips in one of those journals. It may seem ordinary to you today, but your little notebook filled with your writing will be transformed into a miniature time capsule for future generations!

Is your pretty notebook the right fit for your writing style?
Is your pretty notebook the right fit for your writing style? | Source

Even if after reading this list of things to put in a journal you still can't make up your mind about how to use your new notebook, maybe it isn't you, maybe it's the book. Perhaps the reason you haven't started writing in your notebook is that the physical layout and feel of the book isn't right for you. For example, some people don't like to be hemmed in by lines and margins when they write expressively and so a lined notebook might not be the right fit for them. Some people like to write in a book that opens up easily and can be laid flat on a table without having to hold the pages down. In this case, a hardcover spiral journal would be best.

Ask yourself if the physical feel of your pretty notebook is the reason you haven't started using it. If it turns out that the book doesn't match your writing style, perhaps consider passing it on to someone else if you haven't used any of the pages. Then, go out and find yourself a pretty notebook that does feel right to you and start writing your heart out!

If you want more ideas on what to put in a pretty notebook or journal, you can go online and check out some of the interesting organizational tools for turning your notebook into a day-timer, goal tracker, or super-organized to do list to suit your lifestyle.

What's holding you back from writing in your new journal?

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Have you got a suggestion for this list of what to write in a fancy journal or notebook? Please share it in the comments!

© 2014 Sadie Holloway


Submit a Comment
  • profile image


    11 months ago

    I always find that making a scraps diary works well in a blank notebook. For that is, just get scraps of fabric, wallpaper, paint etc and then write next to it where it is from price etc. When you want to redecorate, make something or are just looking for inspiration then you have all of the ideas you need.

  • Cyndi10 profile image

    Cynthia B Turner 

    3 years ago from Georgia

    Thanks for some great ideas for using those pretty notebooks. I gravitate to notebooks all the time and have a difficult time resisting buying them. The results: a lot of very pretty notebooks that are blank! A few of the ideas I've had, but failed to execute, so again, the notebooks sit looking pretty. I even have one of the notebooks in your basket. That one I did use. Again, a very useful and well written article.

    Take care. Cyndi


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