Starting a new journal

Finished my old journal (Filed Notes) and starting a new one.

This particular Field Notes journal took exactly one month to finish. Quite an achievement for someone who tries to fit everything in neatly, with as little overlap as possible.

It’s also the journal I started drawing in. It’s taken me years to finally put brush to paper. I bought my water brush in the US in 2008, way before the local stationery boom, and even though I’ve used it on and off since then to decorate my planners, it’s only now, 12 years later, that I’ve taken the plunge into making illustration part of my journaling practice.

I’ve been using planners since high school, starting with the tiny Hallmark monthly planners they still sell in National Bookstore. I now mainly use a Travelers Notebook (size will depend on the year), though this year, I’m using the Field Notes Resolution planner. The journal in the photo is actually one of the list notebooks from that three-pack.

I’m using up all the notebooks I have before getting new ones. More than just recording thoughts and events, writing in my journal helps be get over my fear of the blank page, while drawing in it is teaching me not to be afraid of negative spaces. The second part is slow going, not only because as a writer, I’m trained to fill in all spaces, but also as the child of a hoarder and a Chinoy person in general, I’ve been raised to think of empty space as a waste of resources.

Go into a Chinoy house and more often that not, you’ll find every surface filled with stuff. It’s as if our ancestors declared that to leave a table, or even a chair, empty is to shame them for eternity. The houses aren’t dirty or messy, it’s just that every surface has to be filled with stuff. Books. Toys, Magazines. Laundry. Exercise equipment is not spared. A treadmill can also be used to hang laundry.

I don’t know what it is about negative space that is so unappealing to Chinoys. Perhaps it really does come down to practicality. What’s space for if not to put stuff on?

In any case, that mindset has followed me onto my journal pages, where at the moment, words crowd around illustrations and ephemera as if wanting to invade and overpower them. I’m working to change that. I believe that even space can convey meaning, and I would like to express that in my journal, even if my eyes are the only ones to ever see what’s in it.


Yvette Natalie U. Tan is a multi-awarded author of horror fiction and the Agriculture section editor of Manila Bulletin.