Calling all bookish folks who have stashed their finest notebooks in a cabinet never to access them. Your old blank journal isn’t too nice to use. So let’s talk about what you can do with it.

a latte next to a brown leather journal with the text "7 Things to Do With an Old Blank Journal"

Now, before you come for me, please know that I’m not above stashing notebooks. I do have a whole cabinet of them. But it’s not because I don’t intend to use them. It’s because I simply haven’t gotten to them yet.

You know how it is. If you’re slightly bookish or writery, you’re going to get a ton of notebooks as gifts. And I’m not complaining. But I’d say that the first six or so months after Christmas, I have a surplus.

Then they dwindle, and by November I’m left wondering if I’ll ever have a blank notebook again.

Thank goodness Christmas comes every year!

Anyway, I know that it can feel like there’s a lot of pressure when it comes to starting a notebook. In fact, I’m willing to bet that you’ve started some notebooks, gotten a couple of pages in, and then never picked up that notebook again.

It happens to us all, and it tends to make us gun shy. Er, notebook shy.

Let me explain.

Why Do We All Have an Old Blank Journal?

Notebooks are great. You need them. Except when it’s time to throw out all your old notebooks.

But sometimes, you start a nice notebook, and then you don’t finish it. Then you have some really intense notebook guilt. You feel like a bad person for not letting this notebook achieve its full potential.

So when you get another really nice notebook as a gift, you let it sit there until it becomes the old blank journal you never touched. And then the guilt compounds because you feel bad about not letting this notebook live its true purpose.

And with that much guilt, it can be hard to start a new journal. So you leave that old blank journal in the cabinet just collecting dust and stacking newer old blank journals on top until you have so many that you feel you can’t ever use them.

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That’s crap.

Let’s talk about your next steps so you can finally fill those pages.

What to Do With an Old Blank Journal

Notebooks don’t have to have special purposes. Sometimes, you just need a commonplace book on your dest to keep little bits and pieces. But if you’d like your old blank journal to have a special purpose, I have 7 suggestions for you.

001: Morning pages.

It’s a well-known fact that I love morning pages. I do them nearly every day.

If you have brain chemicals or just a general state of “OHMYGODTHEREISSOMUCHTODOGODHELPME” buzzing in your head, then I recommend morning pages. It’s a great way to get your head out on paper before you go about your day.

You can do them first thing, but I always do them after a workout and breakfast while I have my coffee.

Morning pages come from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and the idea is to just write three pages by hand. You don’t have to have a purpose or a theme. You’re only writing what pops into your head.

It can be a hard habit to build, but I’ve been doing it consistently for a couple of years and I love it. Seriously. It’s kept me sane through the pandemic.

002: Make it a writer’s notebook.

I’ve talked about how to start a writer’s notebook, as well as what a writer’s notebook is. But maybe you need a little reminder about why you need one.

If you’re working on a story or you’ve got some ideas kicking around in your head, or you just want a way to track things that inspire you, you need a writer’s notebook.

I would say an old blank journal that’s on the small side would be good for this purpose. If you have to carry it around, you don’t want some thick 300-page oversized notebook. But then again, maybe you have a really big backpack and don’t mind that.

003: Use it to journal.

I’m always trying to build a journaling habit, but I am not great about it. I need to stack it with another part of my routine to make it happen.

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And maybe I need to go through my old blank journal stash to decide which notebook would be perfect for it.

Journaling can be a great way to write down stuff that happened. If you’re like me at all, you probably can’t remember anything and you don’t know when anything happened. I assume journaling would help that. Especially if you dated your entries.

You could use this journal just for general recording, or to record a very specific phase in your life. Maybe you want to document the process of achieving a goal or just a trip that you’re going on.

Either way, a journal is a great way to get your memories in a place where you are less likely to lose them.

004: Fill it with glue and paint.

I’m Team Art Journal, gang.

So if you’ve got an old blank journal with thick pages that can handle some art supplies, you should join my team too.

Grab your glue and watercolors and markers and old magazines. Make collages and paintings and sketches. Fill every page until the spine of that journal breaks because it’s so full of stuff you stuck in there.

It’s fun. You’ll love it. And you can set a time in your calendar and work on it once a week like a full-on artist date. Won’t that be fun?

005: Turn it into a scrap book.

Okay. So. If the art journal idea was a bit too messy for your taste, but you also like the idea of gluing stuff into a notebook, you may be a scrapbooker.

So take some photos and fun bits of paper. Glue them into the notebook and then journal around them.

If you want to know what this looks like, know that you can easily fall down a YouTube rabbit hole full of people sharing their process. But I’d like to advise you against that, simply because we’re trying to get over the guilt and shame of not having perfect notebooks here. And if you see someone’s immaculate scrapbook, you’re going to feel very inadequate and struggle to get started.

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Remember, you’re doing this for you. Not for anyone else. So just start working.

006: Record your tarot spreads.

If you’ve got an old blank journal made of leather and off-white pages, it’s probably begging for some witchiness.

So use that journal for recording your tarot spreads. You could do this in a number of ways, and there’s no right way to do tarot.

You could use one page to sketch out the spread and what each card signifies in that spread. Then, on the adjacent page, you could write what cards you pulled.

But if you’re not much for spreads and are just learning the meanings, you could journal through the meanings of the cards. I recommend drawing the card on one side of the spread, and then on the other, writing everything you associate with it.

And if you want to journal through the tarot but don’t want to use your old blank journal, you can always grab a copy of The Tarot Card Meanings Journal.

007: Start writing a story and see what happens.

Okay. Spring is here, and your girl is champing at the bit to take a notebook out to a park, set out a blanket, and just write until my hand falls off.

I don’t know what the story will be, and I don’t even care. I think we all deserve a little fun every now and again, and your girl has fun by just free writing and seeing what story ideas come to mind.

Picture this: You carry a nice leather bag to a hill. You sit under a tree. You pull out a thermos of coffee and your old blank journal. You sit there in an argyle sweater, pen poised and looking the part. The muse alights uponst the branch above you. HARK, A STORY!

I’m gonna do it. I think you should too.

How Do You Use Old Notebooks?

What do you do with all the old blank journals sitting in your office? Do you have notebook guilt? Will you be joining me at the park to free write?

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