The Art of Journaling: Inside the Mind of a Master Journaliser

Picture of By Gabby Rialland

By Gabby Rialland

Dear diary…”, writing down these two words takes me back to my childhood when a pink Diddl book with scented paper used to hold my deepest secrets – which at the time probably included the name of my crush-of-the-day and my future wedding plans with said crush. 20-something years later, I still have not been able to keep a journal for more than a week and, to be honest, I sometimes believe that the art of journaling is reserved to the kind of girls on drama series about vampires. But then, I met a Master Journaliser…

Leah Hamilton: A Success Story
This particular person popped out to me when she posted a photo of her journals on social media, with the caption: “4 years. A university degree, a new country, a new culture, love, friendships, family, a business, apartments, many trips and adventures… All in 22 journals.” Twenty-two journals. TWENTY-TWO JOURNALS. In 4 years! Okay…Wow!

It is not the first time that I had been impressed by Leah Hamilton, who seemed to me like the perfect model for success (and she is actually… a model). 

At 22 years old, Leah co-founded her own start-up while graduating from her Bachelor’s degree cum laude and keeping up with her modeling career. And on top of that, she was able to record her life through journals all this time. I had to know her secret. Was journaling the key to productivity and success?

Feeling like Kevin Doyle in 27 dresses, I set-up an interview with Leah, eager to find out more about what it takes to be a Master Journaliser…

A Well-Organised System
The first thing I found out about Leah’s journals is that the 22 books aren’t all the “dear diary” kind. Leah, who is also a master-organiser, explained to me that she has 6 categories of journals that she updates on a regular basis in order to keep track of the events in her life: the scrapbooks, the story journals, the logbooks, the school agendas, the on-the-go tiny journals, and the dream-ideas journals. Each journal holds a function on its own but together they are the pen & paper representation of Leah’s thoughts and are able to form a whole narrative around her memories.

It all started with the scrapbooks when Leah first moved to the Netherlands from Canada to start her Bachelor’s degree.

The Main Journals for Creative Journaling
At first, the scrapbook journals were more a collection of things from Leah’s everyday life, stored away in a folder. Each section of the folder would represent one month of things and would receive anything that had sentimental value such as postcards, theatre tickets, coasters from a bar, or even birthday candles. But as so many different memories were piling up in each sleeve of the folder, it became easier to start writing a narrative in an additional journal in order to accompany each tangible token with its own story.

And this is how the journalling – in the more traditional sense of the word – started. As she would keep something almost every day, she also started writing almost every day and would re-create the story around all the, I quote, “crap that I have”, including insights on particular feelings and special memories of the time. The goal was really to create a story, an almost poetic narrative to recall every single day. Not to ever be published or shared with the world, but simply to have a place to read back the memories and feelings of a certain point in time. Leah also laughed at the thought of letting her grandchildren, one day, read the story of “Grandma Leah” during her time as a fun bachelor student.

The Other Journals for Bullet Journaling
The goal of the story journal is already different from the logbook’s in which she keeps track of every day by listing each activity she does, similar to a bullet journal. And both are also different from the traditional school agendas, solely reserved for school tasks and to-dos. And finally, there are the dream journals, which are a less frequent but nonetheless essential part of the scribbling, where short-and long-term goals are put down. And in order to never miss a thing, Leah also carries mini-journals with her everywhere. She can whip out these on-the-go books of a mishmash at any time to write down a thought, the name of a song, or something to remember to put in one of the bigger journals later.

Tips And Tricks to Become A Master Journaliser
Now, it seems to me that the key to journaling is organisation, but to Leah it’s passion. The feeling of keeping memories tangible, documenting the important moments of life, and being able to revisit-visit them. This is the motivation that keeps her writing. The organisation and dedication required do not need to be inherent to the person writing but can stem from simply starting a journal, as long as your motivation remains. So can anybody start a journal? “Definitely!” says Leah. And she gives a few tips for the readers out there who are inspired to start your own journaling.

First of all, find your own style. Maybe you are somebody who doesn’t need to journal every day, but only once a week. And maybe you do not naturally gravitate towards pen & paper, and that’s okay. Journalling can be digital too. And it does not even have to be words: you can keep a collection of things, like Leah does with the scrapbooks, or keep photo albums organised by theme with additional captions for each picture.

Or maybe you prefer having a bullet journal with your everyday to-do’s, or simply writing your goals once in a while, to subconsciously remind yourself of what you want to achieve (there are actually a few studies on the benefits of writing down your goal regularly). What matters is that you find something that works for you, and maybe that means that you have to try every style before deciding on the format that fits you best.

  • Start with one journal and expand as you go. 
  • Find your own style.
  • Create a routine that motivates you. 
  • Let your creativity flow. 

And there you have it. Here are all the secrets from a Master Journaliser. So will you start your own journaling adventure, too?


Pictures: Leah Hamilton / Edited by Gabby Rialland

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