Introducing journal guides!


A5 Journal Guides are available at Common Room (for Manila-based peeps) and now online at Vanness! You get a suggestions sheet, and four guides printed on thick, high-quality, laminated cardstock. (I can try other materials in the future, but this feels better under a thin sheet, for some reason.)

And now on to the original blog post:

The blank page. Intimidating, yet full of hope. I’m a fan, but understand how intimidating emptiness can be. My usual coping mechanism is to hazard a beginning – ink spatters, a dash of watercolor, smudges of graphite, the word “the” – and then the rest settles into place.
Guides exist to neaten handwriting and provide order, with lines and grids.

Simple line guide

Simple line guide

Journaling, though, is more than note-taking. You can organize memories, reflect on the day, plan grand futures, scribble “What a happy ink!” over and over again. A journal is no longer bound by time and day; you can fill it with loop-de-loops, washi tape, photo stickers, utterly delightful nonsense. It can be full of import, your intellectual legacy. It can be pure fiction. What it cannot be – John Cage to the contrary – is blank.



These A5 journal guides have just enough structure to inspire, and leave just enough to the imagination. I was inspired by Tarot card and rune spreads, which aid storytelling through the use of structures that can be interpreted differently depending on the question asked. Journaling prompts usually come as questions or instructions. Think of these as structure prompts: ways to visualize your thought process in ways that help you be more insightful, and make the most out of your journaling time.

Journal guides: basic formats

Journal guides: basic formats

I designed this one to be silly. But it might not be as silly as it looks, after all.

Journal guide: worlds

Journal guide: worlds


This guide is based on the three-card spread. Past, present, future.  Physical, emotional, spiritual.  Maiden, Mother, Crone. Do this, do that, do nothing. Short-term, mid-term, long-term goals. Three things I’m grateful for.

Journal guide: three-and-one

Journal guide: three-and-one

Ink notes: complementary colors. (You can also do this for a set of primaries, or warm/cool/neutral, or pale/mid/dark.)

Journal guide: three-and-one

Journal guide: three-and-one

What about a washi tape collection organizing guide?

Journal guide: three-and-one

Journal guide: three-and-one

Or even a record of lettering samples.

Journal guide: three-and-one

Journal guide: three-and-one – Luthis pens writing samples

We’re all familiar with writing down pros and cons in two side-by-side columns. The side-by-side column structure is good for straightforward comparisons but doesn’t encourage insight into the middle ground. What if the answer is neither purely for or against? What if there are great ideas or solutions that lie somewhere between?


This guide is meant for richer pairing and comparisons. Here’s what a pros-and-cons process looks like. The middle space encourages actively searching for points where pros and cons can meet or be resolved differently.

Journal guide: the middle way

Journal guide: the middle way

Sometimes, life’s pros and cons are really just tops and bottoms.

Journal guide: the middle way

Journal guide: the middle way

You don’t have to use this for pairs. You can also think of this guide as drawers in a cabinet. Below, it’s used to put together a price list, a doodle, and business cards after a trip to a Sunday bazaar.

Journal guide: the middle way

Journal guide: the middle way


The postcard layout just divides the page into structured and free-flowing.

Journal guide: the postcard

Journal guide: the postcard


Let’s go back to the silly guide, the one with circles. As it turned out, this was the most conducive to doodling.

Journal guide: worlds

Journal guide: worlds

Journal guide: worlds

Journal guide: worlds

I’m thinking of having these printed on soft plastic (for comfortable writing) and selling them as a set together with a journaling guide. What do you think? I’d love your feedback.

(Thanks to Jake and Marnie for helping me with the prototypes!)

  • Dan Smith

    Put me down for a set!

  • leighpod


  • Mary Collis

    Me, too! : )

  • T E Coke

    That would be great!

  • MidwestDreamer

    This is absolutely inspired…the perfect nudge for those who want to journal but, when confronted with that daunting blank page, have no idea of where to start- especially when they’ve seen examples of others’ work. I especially like your idea of using three panels for pros and cons because, as you point out, there’s almost always that grey area in between…and your guide provides the perfect way to explore it. I also like the worlds guide; for me, I think it would be great for exploring my Zentangle practice, and the line guides would provide a great space in which to (neatly!) identify the patterns and/or any thoughts that rise up as a result of that meditative mindset.

    Whew! A very long winded and roundabout way to say yes…it’s a spectacular idea! 😀

  • Fred Pilarczyk

    I definitely would like to have a set!

  • Carolyn

    On soft plastic? I’d buy a bunch for me and my friends. What a great idea (and I’m looking at my unlined, blank Nanimi A5 journal!)

  • Becoming Sleek

    Awesome idea Leigh! I wish this could also work with pocket size, but I can always adapt it. Thanks for sharing!

  • Azizah Asgarali

    Brilliant! I love this idea, for myself and to gift to others!

  • Lesley L

    This is a wonderful idea. Hope you do have these printed as I would certainly buy them.

  • Smithman

    It would be great to have a set of these. Plastic for durability is good idea. I appreciate the brief but thoughtful descriptions you give of the thought process for using them. A fine example of your creative and open approach to things.

  • WellAppointedDesk

    I love these all and a durable plastic version would double as a writing board. I’m in!

  • WellAppointedDesk

    And I meant to ask, are you using a cover for your A5? If so, which one?

  • Dave Busse

    Great idea! I’d buy a set.

  • Shubhranshu

    Very cool… Will definitely use these to bring some much needed pizzaz

  • Hummingbird5

    Yes, please!

  • Rusty StoneZebra

    Yup, me too. Love this idea of changing things up and ready-made guides would make it so much easier to just go for it!

  • Tami Sagher

    I would love to buy a set too! Also I love that you’d do them on soft plastic. Please do it!!

  • Maya

    I would totally buy a set! Love the layouts.

  • Kristine Westney Ritter

    I think they’re awesome – but would love to see them in different sizes in addition to A5. 🙂

  • kp

    These are fantastic! Put me down for a set, too!

  • Daniel Taub

    I would definitely want a set.

  • Robin Seydel Ryan

    Yes! Yes! Yes!

  • Matthew Carr

    I may have already stolen this idea, though not in plastic.

  • Prodyut Banerjee

    Hi Leigh,

    Brilliant idea. Please put me down for a set and the journaling guide please.

    Please keep up the great work of inspiring us !

  • Margana

    What a great idea!

  • Pingback: Sunday Reads From Pens To Cursive | An Inkophile's Blog()

  • Cassie

    Yes! Please put me down for a set as well. Thank you for this article. This is so awesome!

  • Pamela Keown

    I need a set too.

  • Elaine Pang

    Might also be good to have a comic panel layout…?

  • 3grrls

    Sign me up!

  • I S

    I would love these, but I would also prefer to have them in either A6 or standard TN sizes (or both! ☺️) –Penemuel from IG

  • farmkiti

    Yes, on soft plastic, please! Not that hard stuff. Something that is just a tiny bit cushy to give a little padding behind the page. Example: imagine a very thin, single piece of smooth leather laying across a desk. It’s soft but not limp; kinda firm. Imagine putting a page on top of that and writing with any pen. Imagine how the pen feels as you write and it has that tiny bit of give behind the page and underneath. OK, I know, I ask too much…. I guess what I’m looking for is that feeling of softness and padding that you get on the first page of a Tomoe River notebook, with all those soft pages behind it. With any notebook, I hate coming to the last few pages, because there you have the hard cardboard behind your paper and you can feel it; there’s no “give.” I’d love to have soft plastic guides that would provide that feeling of “give” anywhere in the notebook. Oh, in A5, please. Sign me up!

  • farmkiti

    I agree with Dreamer on all the stuff I understood! hahaha Seriously, a well-thought-out comment. I also love the various types of formats that encourage journaling creatively and productively. To have something that would help me to figure out exactly what’s bugging me; or that would encourage me to doodle and use color. Something fun! And these look like tons of fun. And I like your idea of soft plastic. I’m ready to buy now. And oh: just think, if you’re selling these in sets, you could come out with new formats every year! Gift sets for the holidays, a format to organize your Christmas shopping, one to help you with an upcoming move; I can envision all kinds of options, brought out year after year for devoted journal-guide junkies!

  • Debbie Musick

    I would order a set! What a lifesaver!!

  • bree

    I purchased these as soon as I saw your post. Thing is, all the notebooks I have have lines or dot grids on them and not blank pages. Going to remedy that soon!!