"How I Journal" with Crystal Holmes

"How I Journal" with Crystal Holmes

We've always preached there's no wrong way to journal. Regardless if you're a natural wordsmith recording countless entries or simply doodling, we admire the fact you're carving time out of your busy day to dive deep into a journal. And as hectic as our daily lives can get, it helps to stay organized. That's what makes Bullet Journaling so appealing. It's a creative fusion between to-do lists, calendars, journaling, planners and adding your unique touch.   

Recently, we stumbled upon @kaystaal's beautiful and fun bullet journal designs and became instantly mesmerized. Naturally, we knew we had to connect with her to share her dazzling art in our blog series, "How I Journal." This is her story.

When did you start Bullet Journaling?

I started my first journal during my senior year of high school, almost 20 years ago. I was at the mall with a friend and I saw a journal that had a teddy bear sitting on a patch of grass beneath a starry sky. For whatever reason, that really spoke to my 16 year-old self =). I bought that journal and have been keeping one ever since. A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to start scrapbooking and making lists and using my journal for other things. There are so many ways to record experiences and I’m attracted to all of them. When I found bullet journaling last year, it seemed to combine two of my favorite things: journaling and list-making. So I’ve been working on ways to meld them ever since.

What does it mean to you?

One of the things bullet journaling is really good for is tracking habits. I always have a self-improvement To Do list: Drink more water, run more, go to bed earlier, etc. And I’ve found that being able to see my progress or failure really motivates me. So, for instance, I’ll keep a calendar and put a smiley face on each day that I eat a healthy diet. I get really excited about those smiley faces. I love seeing lots of them back-to-back and knowing I’ve done well. There are some days where I’ll resist the temptation to eat something crazy just because I’m looking forward to putting up the smiley face at the end of the day. So I decided that the same method could work for other habits. Now I have a bujo layout where I track my personal, health, and professional goals from day to day.  

Describe the perfect journal?

It’s impossible to imagine one perfect journal. As a stationery addict, I’m obsessed with discovering all the lovely new things I might try and incorporate into my writing. So I start a different kind of journal every time I fill one up. But the one thing that a perfect journal would absolutely have to have is great paper. For those of us who like to incorporate creative elements like sketching and stamping and painting, really good paper is essential. The paper in most journals doesn’t hold up to markers and liquid inks very well. So when I do calligraphy on one page, it kind of ruins the next page, which is unfortunate. For my next journal, I plan to make my own inserts out of kraft paper and sketch paper. Then I can experiment more freely with giant blocks of text and bold lettering, without it bleeding through to the other side of the page.

Other than paper, I have a soft spot for leather journals. I’m constantly picking them up in stores and running my fingers over the material. I love everything about good leather, especially the way it smells. I’ve been looking for a nice leather cologne for like three years. Actually, when I got the Expedition, one of my favorite things about it was the way it smelled. I used to randomly take it out of my bag and have my friends smell it. It was so good. Nine months later, the smell is almost gone. Maybe when I find my cologne, I’ll use it on the journal.


What advice would you have for a Bullet Journal beginner?

My advice for starting any type of journaling is to really look around and explore lots of things before committing to a style/method. I follow a lot of journalers on social media and there are just so many people doing cool things. I’m always seeing things I want to try. And don’t assume that just because you love someone else’s layout that it’s going to work for you. I’ve tried a few layouts that were beautiful and inspiring on Pinterest, and that were absolutely horrible for the way that I write and record things. Even when I find something that works for me, I tweak it to match my style and needs. The weekly layout I use most often was inspired by one @bujostudy post. It incorporates lots of my favorite things: a to-do list, washi tape, calligraphy, stickers. I actually spent a lot of time looking at ideas on social media before I decided what I would actually try. And I think it paid off. I didn’t have too many fails before I found my style.

What tools/materials do you use?

The things that make it into every spread are my Pilot Hi-Tec-C 0.3 and Pilot G-2 0.38 pens, my Tombow Fudenosuke calligraphy pens, a mechanical pencil for sketching, a small ruler, and some kind of washi tape. Classiky washi tapes are my favorite, so I use them often. The super fine point pens are essential for keeping things neat and leaving room to fit all the elements on the pages. For my journal I have the Rustico Expedition in saddle. Besides that stuff, I incorporate other things based on the feel I’m going for. Sometimes I’ll use watercolor markers to do calligraphy. I recently starting making custom stickers, so I use those, too. But honestly, the washi tape is my favorite embellishment ever. I wish I had discovered it sooner.

What do you think about the dot grid pages in the Expedition?

The dot grid pages were a challenge for me initially. The grid is tighter than college rule paper, which is what I’m used to. So at first I had a hard time writing comfortably within the grid. But now that I have the right pens, and I’ve had some practice, it actually works really well. Having smaller print keeps things looking clean and also makes sure that the writing doesn’t take up all the space. I’m constantly adding elements to my journals. I do a lot of doodling in the margins of my layouts. I need space for that. Now that I’m using blank pages for my traditional journal, I constantly have to remind myself to keep the text small so I’m not filling up the pages too fast.

You said you like to travel, do you have a favorite destination? How do journaling + traveling mix together?

In the summer of 2008, I traveled with friends to Salvador da Bahia, in Brazil. I had never heard of the city, but my friend put it on the itinerary. I actually wasn’t expecting to like it, because going to Brazil, I was just thinking “Rio, Rio, Rio.” But Salvador was amazing. I fell in love with it instantly. The moment I found myself stepping out of a fabric shop onto a walkway along a cliff overlooking the city, I just thought, “I need to spend a lot of time here.” It’s special. It’s on the ocean. The people are amazing. The city is saturated with creative energy. I was only there for a few days, but of all the places I’ve been, it’s the one I most want to revisit.  

On your Instagram bio you mention you love t-shirts. is there one that stands out among the rest? 

I absolutely have a favorite. It’s one I got at a thrift shop for 6 bucks and it’s a cream-colored short-sleeve tee that says “After a few hours, the plane landed and the scenery changed completely.” It’s such a random and inspiring thing to find on a t-shirt.


If you're looking to start a Bullet Journal we hope this entry can give you that nudge to get started. If you'd like to share hacks that worked best for you, drop a comment below. What we've found is each bullet journal design is unique to your style and preferences. Enjoy the journey and have fun!

For more bullet journaling inspiration, crafty stationery tips and keeping up with Crystal's adventures, be sure to follow her page on Instagram

Have an artist in mind to nominate for this series? We're all ears: retail@rustico.com. 

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