Notebook Review: Leuchtturm 1917 Some Lines a Day

1 - Leuchtturm Some Lines cover with wrap

Review by Tina Koyama

A lifelong journal keeper, my mom used various diary and journal formats throughout her life. One I remember her using when I was a child was a small, five-year diary. Each page was headed by the date, and below that were five small spaces, one for each year. My mother, a practical woman, probably liked the five-year format because it was small, compact and less expensive than keeping a bunch of single-year diaries.

She wrote in Japanese so I couldn’t have read it if I had wanted to, but I had the impression that she noted things like the weather, which of us had a cold or stomachache that week, current events, the books she was reading, things like that. Sometimes she also used it to have the final word: If someone whined, “I can’t believe how cold it is! It’s never this cold in October!” she would pull out her diary, refer to the same date a few years prior, and say, “No – it was even colder than this back in 19__.” End of discussion.

A lifelong journal keeper myself, I’ve tried many different formats, too. Every now and then I have looked at the five-year diary format, but I never made the commitment. I already keep a DIY journal/log book (here’s what I’m using this year), but I prefer to keep a single year in one volume with more space for freeform writing when needed. What would I write in a five-year diary that would be different from the kinds of things I already note in my ongoing log (books and movies I’ve consumed, places I’ve sketched, current events, people I’ve socialized with, the weather – you can see my mom’s influence, I’m sure)? And yet, I clearly see the appeal of having five years of entries for a given date on a single page: More than a snapshot of a day, the format captures patterns over a five-year period.

Several months ago when I was shopping for a Leuchtturm A5 blank journal (one of my favorites for my DIY log book), the Some Lines a Day 5-Year Memory Book ($27.95) came to my attention. It’s familiar A5 size, paper and hardcover material were attractive to me. Maybe it was finally time to give the format a try.

About a quarter-inch thicker than a standard Leuchtturm A5 notebook or weekly planner, the 5 Year Memory Book “provides space for some lines per calendar day over 5 years. In time, this special diary will become an interesting reference book of your own past.” I chose the berry cover. It’s also available in black and Nordic blue. Like all Leuchtturm notebooks, it has an elastic closure band.

2 - Leuchtturm cover without wrap

3 - back cover wrap blurb

The flyleaf offers space to record the years covered by the undated book and the owner’s name. The next page includes a quotation by Lincoln.

4 - flyleaf

5 - quotation

Immediately following are the 366 days of the book. Each day offers about an inch and a half of writing space. If you’re familiar with Leuchtturm’s weekly planner + notebook format, it’s just a smidge of space more per day. I think it will be a comfortable amount of space to write two or three sentences with my large handwriting – not too cramped, not burdensome.

6 - main pages

7 - main pages closeup

Two fabric ribbon page markers – one striped, one solid – are bound in. (Ana would be pleased that they are long enough to pull all the way out past the edge of the book, so they could be used to open the book to the page.)

8 - ribbon pagemarkers

The inside back cover includes the obligatory pocket. Leuchtturm books always include a sheet of title page and spine labels. (I never have a use for these, but they are a nice touch for those who do use them.)

9 - pocket

10 - labels

My media tests confirmed that the paper is the same as what I’m familiar with in Leuchtturm’s other notebooks and planners. Although it’s less opaque than I would prefer, only the fine-point Sharpie showed actual bleed-through. Even my juicy Sailor fude nib and pigment brush pens did not feather or bleed.

11 - media tests

12 - reverse of media tests

So that’s the product – familiar, reliable, unlikely to disappoint – but what about its contents? What would I want to record and later read over the course of five years? I thought about it long and hard. This pandemic year seems like such a crazy time to think about any kind of diary. On the one hand, I’m not doing much of anything worth documenting. On the other hand, I’m doing so many things differently out of necessity. I suppose it might be interesting to compare those mundanities in future years . . .

Then I started thinking about something about myself that has distressed me. This year I have had many unkind, ugly and even vicious thoughts about certain individuals and many people that I don’t even know – based on what I perceive to be their beliefs. In the moment, I feel better, but later, I realize I do not want to have such thoughts.

My Leuchtturm Some Lines a Day will be devoted to thinking one kind thought about someone each day. It could be a loved one, the mail carrier, a social media acquaintance, the Instacart delivery person, or another total stranger, but I know that if I commit to writing one kind thought at the end of each day, I will be more mindful during the day about having such thoughts. When I read my entries later, perhaps the thoughts from a prior year will prompt me to call someone I haven’t talked to in a while. Or perhaps I’ll see some type of interesting pattern that will give me insight. My hope is that I will become a kinder person over time.

13 - flyleaf filled in

I also decided that I don’t need to wait until Jan. 1 to begin. The Gregorian calendar is a practical device, but each of us began our actual first day of the year when we were born. My birthday is just around the corner; I’m going to begin my Leuchtturm Some Lines a Day on that day.

14 - year filled in

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tina-koyamaTina Koyama is an urban sketcher in Seattle. Her blog is Fueled by Clouds & Coffee, and you can follow her on Instagram as Miatagrrl.

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15 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Tina, I always read your contributions even though I am neither a sketcher nor a watercolorist, because I enjoy your art and your way of expressing yourself in words and images. But your paragraph about deciding to keep a record of “one kind thought” about someone every day just stunned me. I saw myself in your reasons for making that decision. And now I just have to decide – which of my many empty notebooks should I adapt for this kind of project? Thank you so much!

    1. I’m happy to hear you are inspired! And good for you for using a notebook you already have! I realized as I was going through it that this format would be very easy to make with any blank notebook!

      1. The hardest part was finding one that had 366 pages! Stalogy has 364 usable pages; a small Dingbats has only 192. Nanami Cafe Notes won with 384 pages.

  2. I bought one earlier this year (pre Covid) and use it to dump good thoughts and interesting events. Been pretty consistent up until this last week. I keep it by my bed along with a dedicated fountain pen.

  3. Great review; thanks. I love your idea of recording one nice thought about someone every day. I’ve also struggled with the idea of actually keeping my journals; that is, I write so much every day, I’d be inundated if I actually held onto all my journals after I’ve finished them. But I’ve been keeping a separate journal lately (that I plan to hold onto) to record important occurrences, Covid-19 stats, etc. So I may look into a diary of this type in the future to help me consolidate and condense my thoughts, so that I’ll actually have some type of record to read in future years. But I’d need at least a page per day for that. I’m glad I read your review because it gave me some very good ideas.

  4. I’m four years into my five year diary (a small one by Tamara Shopsin). The point was to try to get into a regular journaling habit, and after some fits and starts, the habit is just about formed. Next year I aim to finish the Shopsin diary with a line a day, plus try to keep a proper journal in a CD Note Premium B5 notebook. At 192 pages, that’s a bit more than half a page a day to work with. That amount of blank space is less intimidating than it used to be.

    1. Good for you for being at year 4! I hope I can keep it going that long. Five years seems like a long commitment, but I don’t know why it should, since I’ve been keeping some kind of journal my whole life.

  5. I’m in my second year with this journal. Some days the space isn’t enough; some days it’s too much. So on average, it’s about right. Downside for me is that I (used to) travel frequently, and it’s a pain to have an extra item to pack and unpack in a carryon bag; plus I wonder what state it will be in after 5 years of such use. After almost 2 years it’s still in good shape.

  6. I’m 2.5 years into one of these journals. The only bad thing about it is the paper. Right from the first use, I noticed there are several long runs of pages where a particular area on each page simply will not absorb ink. It’s not a pen/ink issue; writing elsewhere on the page is fine. I can reliably reproduce the problem simply depending on where I write on the page. Tripping over this every day for weeks at a time is incredibly frustrating.

  7. Tina I love this post for so many reasons; your memories of your mother (I hope someone kept her journals!) and for your lovely idea. It’s such a good way to use any journal, but especially one like this.

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