Before I journaled as regularly as I do now, I used to write in “flip” pads of paper and cheap ringed binders from office supply stores.

Unsurprisingly, over these years my writing did not feel like a particularly “artful” experience.

But when I discovered that “artfulness” was a personal value of mine, I realized why my journaling practice had never really provided me a true sense of fulfillment: because it wasn’t a truly nuanced, artful or creative experience.

From that point forward, I pledged to treat my journaling practice like an artful experience.

Today, I’m sharing another simple way to make your journaling practice feel more artful, more nuanced, more creative, and more rewarding:

Change what you write in!

Your journal is an opportunity to experience values and intentionally express your beliefs, even more than just the words on the page.

After all, writing is an experience of communion with the self. When we write, we can treat it like it’s just about the task of putting words on paper. Or we can treat it like it’s really special. We can intentionally assign more meaning to our writing process.

Here are my favorite journals for making your journaling practice even more special.

#1. Moleskine Classic Notebook

Large (5 x 8.25), Line Ruled, Red Hard Cover

Price: Under $15
Brand: Moleskine
Quality: 5/10

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Moleskine is a popular and widely accessible brand that boasts a decent quality for an affordable price, all under $15.

(Unfortunately, I’ve had to bump my overall rating of Moleskine notebooks from a 7/10 to a 5/10 as their quality (paper, binding blue, etc.) has seemed to decrease in recent years.)

Moleskine notebooks feature sewn spines (so they can open and lay flat), a single ribbon attached to the spine so you can bookmark your journal page, an elastic to hold it all together (you can tuck your pen in there, too), and a little back-flap folder to hide away scraps of paper, notes, and more.

The Italian brand was born in the late 1990s and has grown worldwide, now easily be found in most bookstores and major box stores.

Moleskines are a great affordable option if you’re looking for a consistent notebook that can handle rough and tumble use (whether traveling abroad, or to the local cafe).

I wrote in Moleskines consistently from around 2011 to to 2015, before upgrading my writing utensils to fountain pens, which required a finer and stronger paper.

I prefer the traditional flat colored notebooks and used to rotate colors from red to green to yellow to suit my mood.

Final Verdict: Go with Moleskine if you’re looking for a safe bet entry into personal journaling, and want something that’s functional and fun for housing your musings at home and on the road.

#2. Leuchtturm1917 A5 Notebook

Medium Size, Hardcover, Ruled Pages, Orange

Price: Around $20
Brand: Leuchtturm1917
Quality: 10/10

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A few dollars is worth the upgrade from the Moleskine notebook to this, the Leuchtturm1917.

The Leuchtturm1917 is an organizational nerd’s dream journal.

The German-made notebook is engineered with obsessive quality and precision. Featuring numbered pages, an empty table of contents page that you can fill yourself, stickers for labeling notebooks’ spines, and a deep pocket in the back for keeping hold of loose papers or notes.

The Leuchtturm1917 has the heavy-duty construction of a full-on automobile with two differently-colored ribbons for marking pages, a wider page frame than Moleskine, and better quality paper.

This is my business brainstorming and creative organizational space notebook.

Final Verdict: For around $20, you can’t go wrong with this super cool, nerdy notebook! Get one and see for yourself.

#3. Midori Traveler’s Notebook

Brown Leather, 6.4 ounces, 8.4 x 5.1

Price: Around $30
Brand: Midori
Quality: 9/10

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Meet the DIY of travel notebooks! Whereas Leuchtturm1917 has thought of everything that could possibly be included in your journal, Midori, a Japanese brand of notebooks from the Traveler’s Company, is a fully customizable journal.

The Midori Traveler’s Notebook is really a leather cover that you thread journals into using elastics.

You bind, organize, and can reuse the notebook cover endlessly, making it very possibly your very last journal.

Designed in Japan and constructed in Thailand, Midori’s cult followers have invented countless ways to customize these notebooks.

You can fill the leather case with one notebook, or upwards of 5 or 6. You can choose inserts and add-ons like zip-up plastic pockets, credit card holders, or a passport slot. You can change out (or make your own) colored elastics to bind the book, too.

Final Verdict: The Midori is my go-to for personal journaling, being so light and convenient to travel with. I fill mine with 2 or 3 notebooks (my preferred paper listed below!), and a single plastic zip-up slot that I use to carry spare currency and backup travel docs while on the road.

#4. Midori Traveler’s Notebook Refill #13

Lightweight Blank Paper (128 pages)

Price: Around $7
Brand: Midori
Quality: 10/10

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This ultra-lightweight paper is dreamy, and what I use to fill tons of writing space into a single notebook!

These unbelievably thin pages are strong enough to hold heavy inks from fountain pens, and masterfully so!

No bleed. Barely visible from the reverse page.

If you’ve ever had ink refuse to dry on cheap paper, you know how annoying (and messy) it can be when you’re trying to write, find some flow, and feel artful.

Midori’s Refill #13 (around $7) is probably my favorite paper to write on, ever.

And, because the paper is oh-so-thin, you can pack an absolutely ludicrous number of pages into a single Midori Traveler’s Notebook: with my 2 or 3 notebooks in a single leather binding, I can carry anywhere from 512 to 768 blank pages with me wherever I go.

And it fits into my back pocket!

Does the journal you write in really matter?

Of course, it doesn’t. Unless you want it to matter.

Your journal won’t make or break your writing, make you a better writer, or make you look like a “real” writer.

But these journals really have changed my writing practice, because they’ve made my writing more personal. More creative. More “my own.” A nice journal — like a nice fountain pen — can help your writing practice feel more artful, and turn the art of self-expression into something more than just a skill to build.

If the journal you write in helps you feel more expressive, then your writing will certainly be better for it.

Happy writing,