Start With the Right Tool for Writing In Your Journal

Posted by Sherry Borzo on

If the pen is mightier than the sword, then my pen is particularly deadly—not because of witty prose, but thanks to my wretched penmanship. Over the years, my planners and journals have been filled with an illegible scribble, which serves at the moment for transferring thoughts to analog, but I usually can’t decipher it later.

You’ve perhaps heard the phrase “an ordered desk represents an ordered mind,” and I’d extend that analogy to handwriting as well. A messy, disordered journal or planner will not truly inspire and guide if you don’t want to refer to it later as a tool for reaching your goals in the long-term—and all because you can’t read your scrawl.   

To gain all the benefits of life journaling, which, as bullet journal originator Ryder Carroll states, “can help us decipher our past, order our present and design our future,” legibility of our written work is a crucial component.


My sloppy handwriting came about early when I learned cursive via the Palmer Method in third grade. For those of you under the age of 50, this was a system of learning to write cursive, which involved following the repetition of letter formation along a fluid motion—up, down-and-around—meant to create a tidy, standard and uniform cursive script.

As I learned, I choked down too low on the pencil and applied too firm a grip, which didn’t allow for a graceful turn of any chosen writing tool. Instead of elegant swirls of letters, my handwriting looked jagged and unkempt. Over time, my poor penmanship just became a habit, especially as I’ve largely stuck to writing in cursive.

As I review the journals of my past, I now see how this sloppy scroll might have transferred into sloppy thoughts and actions as well. To turn my old habits on their end, a month ago, I began writing in block print and discovered several things.

  1. I can read what I’ve written!
  2. I spend more time referring back to monthly goals and looking forward to weekly and daily goals to see if I’m staying on target, which is key in terms of bullet journaling.
  3. I’m enjoying the process of recording in analog more.
  4. I feel I’m stepping out of old mental processing habits into a new and energized space since I’ve changed my handwriting habit.

Whether you already benefit from having lovely handwritten text or not, consider changing up which method you use to shift how you think as you journal. But, if you’re like me and you’d like to improve your handwriting (in cursive or print), take a look at this useful video post over at JetPens titled, “How to Improve Your Handwriting.” They offer up five tips, of which I’d say the two I’ve found especially helpful are:

  1. Slow down when you write.
  2. Use a pen that works well for you.

On the second point, I spent some time testing out new pens to see if I could find a product that worked better for my newly-adopted block print writing. In the past, I’ve favored the Pentel R.S.V.P. for its grip and weight in my hand. The pen feels good to hold, which allowed me to write along at high speed, which was okay with my cursive but lead to sloppy writing as well.

My new handwriting style required finding a new tool. I tried pencils and thought colored ones would be fun, and had also hoped I’d find my inner artistic, creative self with the use of them. However, these pencils didn’t create a crisp line and were not easy to write for long stretches of script. I’ll hold onto the stash of pencils to see if my artsy side ever emerges.

For now, I’ve landed on the PreciseV5 (fine) for its precision in generating a narrow line, which affords great control and reasonable speed while writing in block print. A month into this new handwriting style and the experience has been downright pleasant.

The conscious work of creating your journal should be a source of motivation and pleasure. By incorporating a mindful approach to your handwriting style, your journal becomes a more powerful tool to help you reach your goals.   

If you need inspiration for topics to write about in your journal, please check out Tell Me Another. We’ve created the game to help people enjoy great conversation and connection. The prompts also work well for launching ideas you can write about in your life journal entries.

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