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April 08, 2021 8 min read 11 Comments

Think of the last time you hung out in your favorite café for a drink, dessert, or a delicious snack. Do you remember the heady scent of coffee? The calming music playing softly from the speakers? How about the unique way sunlight or streetlight poured into the room from the windows? Were people on their own or in little groups? Was the noise level gentle and intimate, or louder than usual and fun? Was everyone on their smartphones or laptops? Were any of them using a pen and paper? 


Now hold on - let's be honest here. If anyone had a pen and paper on them and were using it, they would've been easy to remember. And why wouldn't they be memorable when most of us are on our electronic devices nowadays, eyes glued on a glowing screen? You'll be hard pressed to find anyone not tapping away on a keyboard, may it be analog or virtual - so anything that's the opposite of the norm is bound to stand out. For a lot of different reasons, harnessing technology is just easier and more convenient. But when it comes to the benefits of journaling, which one is really the best medium:


Is it digital or paper?


It's worth noting that journaling by paper has been done for thousands of years, one of the earliest accounts being a diary from the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius in the 2nd century AD. In contrast, the first digital diary was written between 1994 and 1996, called "Open Diary" and posted on the MIT Media Lab by Claudio Pinhanez. Undoubtedly, the analog form has been the top choice for a longer period of time, but is it only because technology wasn't quite as accessible then and more of a recent thing we've only really started to utilize? Given the chance, would Marcus Aurelius have used a cloud-based app on his iPad to bemoan the life of a Roman Emperor who was in the middle of campaigning and administration?


We'll never know of course, but here's what we do know: there are pros and cons to consider whichever medium you decide to go for. Depending on your preferences, let's take a look at how one or the other can make your journaling experience as fun and meaningful to your life as ever. 


DIGITAL

Who needs notebooks when you have your smartphone, tablet, computer, or iPad? You never have to run out of paper or ink, and you can journal wherever you want the instant you want to. Taking note of thoughts and ideas has become so much easier since the digital option came to be: no more struggling to remember what you were supposed to write about once you have your paper journal with you. But as in all things, there are two sides to a coin. Let's list down the reasons why going digital may - or may not - work for you. 


THE PROS

  • It's the perfect way to declutter. There's no better way to stay organized than going for a digital journal. Physical journals tend to pile up over time, and before you know it, you've got a ton of used journals taking up precious storage space, or worse, just lying around. A digital option, on the other hand, has all of your entries as files that can be sorted and tagged as you please. No more lost or fraying bookmarks and pages: everything is stored in the cloud. 
  • Adding images is a breeze. Say goodbye to  your printer (but maybe not for good)! With digital journaling, including an image or two in your entries is just a matter of uploading it from your device. This can change your entire journaling experience altogether: it will be so much more special to look back to find your precious words and memories paired with relevant photos. 
  • The Search option is your friend. Looking for something in particular? A quick thought you jotted down months ago perhaps? As opposed to a paper journal, you don't have to flip through a whole lot of pages reading through past entries just to find what you're looking for. Most of the digital journaling apps available today allow you to find something with a quick search - all you need is a keyword, and you're good to go. 
  • You have access to your journal virtually anywhere. As long as you have a compatible device and an internet connection, you're ready to journal on the go! It doesn't matter where you are. That and, there's nothing to leave behind at home, at work, in school, or in other public places. Since everything is stored on the cloud, you're free to access past entries anytime. 
  • Provides confidentiality and enhanced security. We can't stop people from snooping around and reading our journals once they find it - but not if we have a password! Digital journaling provides us with the option of adding encryption to keep our most honest thoughts to ourselves, ready to be shared only once we choose to. So unless you want someone to take a peek into your brain, they're not going to have access to your journal unless it's with your say so. 

 

THE CONS

  • There are customization limitations. No matter how amazing your chosen digital journaling platform is, nothing beats personalization when it comes to a traditional journal. Sure, customization digitally is probably easier thanks to preset themes and the copy/paste function, but it has limitations that you can't do anything about. Short of contacting the developer hoping they can add a feature you have in mind, you have no choice but work with whatever functions your chosen platform already has pre-installed.  
  • The distractions are plenty! The thing about digital journals is that they share the same space with your other apps - ones that are designed to keep your attention away from anything else but scrolling through them. Get one or two notifications from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, etc., and you're done; before you know it, you've stopped journaling midway to scroll through one of your feeds for hours instead. 
  • It can be impersonal. Digital journaling can feel a little like typing up a report for school or work. You have the blank space, the blinking cursor (for some), the perfect font and spacing... and while it's still you, the digital format makes your journaling experience feel somewhat distant and cold - almost as if you're writing or reading about someone else's life and thoughts. 
  • No internet means no access. Since most digital journals need internet and cloud access, you won't be able to journal in places that have no such connectivity. These may be rare nowadays, but you'll be surprised by how many of these places, devoid of the noise of fast-paced living and upscale technology, can actually inspire you into writing an entry in your journal. 
  • You can run out of battery. If it’s not connected to the internet, one hard drive crash erases all of your data.

PAPER

Ah yes. Good old paper journals. With many years behind it that has helped in its refinement and development, no wonder traditional journaling has become a type of art on its own. It has evolved from simply writing down our thoughts and ideas down to keep a record of them into an amazing system that helps with therapy, productivity, and creativity, as well as a means to find our way to reach goals and form good habits. Unlike digital journaling, paper journals are special in the way they're unique and one of a kind depending on the owner. But is it worth the time and hassle when a time saving option has become available for everyone? Let's list down why you should - or shouldn't - stick to paper journaling. 


THE PROS

  • Increased memory. Many studies, especially on students who type on laptops instead of using a pen and paper, have shown the benefits of writing over and over again: it improves memory and information retention, and helps people figure out and focus on what's important in their lives. This aligns with what most of us use journals for: it's a means to record and keep track of things that matter so we can gain better insight about life. 
  • The pleasure of using a high quality writing instrument. Writing in your journal doesn't have to be a chore. A quality writing instrument, like a finely crafted fountain pen, can turn writing into a luxurious ritual, Standard ballpoint  pens can be  tiring to use over time, especially if you have a lot of writing to do. Writing with a fountain pen, on the other hand, is a whole new level: without needing any pressure, the nib glides across the paper surface, making writing a pleasant experience. When using a fountain pen, though, it helps to have a high quality paper. That’s why we chose the world famous Tomoe River paper for our notebook refills. It works extremely well with fountain pens or any other writing instrument. 
  • There's no need to charge a journal! A paper journal never runs out of battery the way a phone does, so continued use isn't an issue. All you have to do is bring your journal out and write away without worrying about where to plug it in to recharge later on. 
  • Customize it and make it yours. Since a lot of journals are mostly blank slates, this means you get to decide exactly how to customize your own in order to make it more personal, which helps give your creativity a boost. Instead of being limited by the configurations of a single app, which is commonly the case for the digital option, you can make your journal look any way you like it. 
  • Hand it down as a memento. If you're using your journal for more than just diary-like entries, say as a collection of recipes or a guide of things that you've built or new and innovative thoughts that you've had, all the wisdom and knowledge inked on the pages of your notebook will become something precious that you can give to your children, who can pass it down to their children, and so on. 

THE CONS

  • It's time consuming. Unlike its digital counterpart, paper journaling requires a lot more effort: you'll need to write your thoughts down by hand, but not before finding the best place that will allow you to really get to writing. And if you're the type who likes to go arts and craft on their journal, then that adds up to the amount of time you spend on it even before getting any writing done. 
  • Privacy is an issue. Short of locking it up in a safe hidden behind a nondescript painting in your bedroom, paper journals can't really guarantee your privacy. Once someone else finds it and decides to read the contents, there's nothing much you can do. 
  • You can't back it up. In the event your journal is damaged or gets lost, there's no way to retrieve everything that you've ever written. Digital journaling has the option of backing up your entries, but that's just not the case with written journals unless, for some reason, you also encode what's written on paper into a word processor. 
  • Oh, the clutter. You're bound to run out of writing space, which leads you to buying another notebook, and so on. Before you know it, you've got twenty different journals, all filled to the brim, taking important storage space away from you. Being the precious home of your thoughts and feelings, you probably won't want to throw them away either. 

At the end of the day, you get to decide which medium is best for you not just based on the upsides and downsides listed here, but also considering your own preferences. In fact, you can simply journal using both: digital and paper share a lot of good benefits that are too awesome not to take advantage of, so why not? Our Field Journal can house not just your notebooks and refills but an iPad Mini or your smartphone, too. Or, if you want something a little smaller and easier to carry around, then consider our portable Pocket Journal; it can accompany any device of your choosing as you journal your way through life. 


Which of these two have you been using for years, and how has it helped enrich your journaling experience? Do you prefer one over the other, or utilize both methods? No matter which one you use the most, our only hope is for you to find the clarity, peace, and comfort that most of us enjoy out of keeping our own journals. 


As always, happy journaling! 


11 Responses

Thomas Clarence
Thomas Clarence

May 10, 2021

It was really interesting when you explained that it is easy to stay organized when you use digital journals. I am wanting to follow sports more closely in the fall, and I am thinking that some kind of journal subscription would help me achieve my goal. It seems like it would be a good idea for me to find a digital subscription so that I can stay organized. https://www.lincolnjournal.com/subscriptions/

LOCHBY
LOCHBY

April 15, 2021

We’re glad that your LOCHBY journals are well-loved and serving you well, Geoffrey! And you’re right about journaling on paper being a kind of meditation; it’s calming and that feeling of needing to rush things just disappears, most especially when you’re writing with a fountain pen!

Geoffrey Schumann
Geoffrey Schumann

April 14, 2021

Back in the 90s I used to use the Franklin Covey to keep track of time and such. I am a avid fountain pen lover and recently that spark re-ignited in me. I am loving the A5 Lochby journal as each page can be used in landscape as a calendar for different aspects of your life. It’s a blank book that you fill out as you see fit. Over time, new habits form. In the end, as we all are inundated with technology, going back to a simpler form of writing is almost a meditation in its own right. It also re-connects us to something that I think we all have lost along the way. I work in the IT field, and I have to say, there’s a time and a place for everything. A journal is more common in certain circles then most think. Lastly, the products here are not made of leather, which is important to me… It is a simple, clean, no nonsense A5 book, which I am making my own.

LOCHBY
LOCHBY

April 13, 2021

Glad you’re thriving with journaling on both platforms, Dany! As for more fountain pens, let’s be honest: one can’t have enough fountain pens!

Dany
Dany

April 12, 2021

I couldn’t even guess how many times I’ve attempted keeping a journal or a diary. Both on paper and digital. I’ve always been very good at keeping notes for my work and switched to digital for that 25+ years ago. But the desire to keep a paper journal is always there. The number of notebooks with only a few pages used or completely blank that I have is ridiculous.
Then a couple of months ago your Field Journal caught my attention somewhere on social media. As I watched some of the videos about the Field Journal, someone mentioned Bullet Journaling. This in turn sent me down the Bullet Journal path.
I’ve been at it now for a few weeks and it just feels good. Last week I received my Lochby Field Journal which now houses my bullet journal, pens, and ruler. I do use a fancy fountain pen for most entries, somehow that really adds to the experience. Life is GOOD!
I fear, however, that now my fountain pen collection may need to grow ;-).
I still do digital form my work with a notekeeping app that I really enjoy.

LOCHBY
LOCHBY

April 12, 2021

Same here with pen and paper being a first choice, Dianne! But having the digital option when you need it is great too. Glad we have all these options nowadays.

Dianne
Dianne

April 12, 2021

My preference is always a nice Tomoe Riiver notebook with a fountain pen. However, because of issues with carpal tunnel, I sometimes have to turn to my laptop because it’s hard to write when your hand is tingly and almost numb. The other time I will turn on my laptop is when my brain is overloaded and I can’t write fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. But my first choice will always be pen and paper. I do like the idea of a separate notebook as an index, though. I may have to try that.

LOCHBY
LOCHBY

April 12, 2021

Journaling is such a great way to make sense of a lot of things, and to pass on a wealth of wisdom to people we care about. Keep safe and thanks for sharing this, Bryan!

LOCHBY
LOCHBY

April 12, 2021

The separate A5 notebook as an index is a great idea, especially for people who want to keep using paper! Thanks for sharing, Bud S!

Bryan Lee Walker
Bryan Lee Walker

April 12, 2021

Over the last couple of years have been going through some personal issues, so keeping a daily journal has helped to keep me grounded and sort out things. During the pandemic, it has given me a place to capture the events that have taken place and my thoughts/feelings regarding how i went through it. I hope to one day leave it all for my son so that he can see what life was like and he can take some learnings from what I have been through and apply to his own life.

Bud S
Bud S

April 12, 2021

This decision takes considerable thought and experience. I’ve switched back and forth, many times, for the different reasons that you suggest. But, once you make a decision, it’s good to stick with it for awhile. For me, my unstructured musings are all paper-based in A4 notebooks – with fountain pen. I have a separate (A5) index notebook for key words that include page references back to the specific journals (as you’ve said, they do add up after awhile). I like this manual indexing. It’s good to go back through my writing, weeks later, and pull out key words to insert into the index. And it’s good to browse the index, from time to time, to see what key words interested me in the past. Other, more structured notes such as research and project planning, are done more efficiently online using a really handy outliner app, with fabulous search and tagging capabilities. Right now, I think I have the best of both worlds.

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