I started with spiral notebooks from Ulrich's Bookstore in Ann Arbor. These are books of manageable size, not too thick, not to tall and wide: not too daunting in which to write. When I lived in Java, in Indonesia, in 1985-86, on a Fulbright, I started to write in thicker, cheap, lined journals bought in office supply stores in downtown Surakarta. These books were thicker, much thicker, although the paper is basically thin newsprint pulp. I bought about a dozen of these cheap writing books to bring home with me from Java, and used them for my journals for close to twenty years. I have one or two empty volumes left, but these books are mostly full now.
In the past few years, I have begun to write directly onto the laptop with regularity; but when I am traveling off the grid—camping, driving across the Big Empty, or spending all day taking photos and writing from roadside stops along the Pacific coast—I now write in larger journals yet. Some years ago, my sister began to bind books, and she makes handmade bound journals for herself, and me, and others, every year or so. I have a set of these that I use for journals, but also for calligraphy and haiga, and one or two I can't bring myself to write in, because the book itself is a work of art. More and more I use a large, unlined, blank artist's sketchbook, because more and more I am drawing as well as writing in my journals. I continue to teach myself to draw with colored pencils. (I've also discovered, in going through the boxes during the move, that my mother had kept every painting or drawing I had ever made, back in the 1970s, when I was a teenager. I've found two boxed caches of this old, childhood work. Some of the acrylic paintings I did back then are better than I remembered.) More and more, too, I am using larger brush pens to write with, and using larger, broader strokes, that flow easily from words into pictures. That division between writing and visual art-making seems less and less firm, as time goes by.
Most of my poems have begun in my journals—either as sketches to be edited later, or the occasional fully-formed poem. Poems come to me, and more than a few have arrived complete, as though I was taking dictation, needing little revision later. I've gotten used to that; there's some part of my mind that does this work of writing, that only tells the conscious, personality-ego part of my mind what's going on later, when it's complete. It's like something hits the Print button in the back of my head, and a poem comes out.
Below are three haiku, dating from a journal from about ten years ago. The journal is one of those cheap Indonesian lined volumes. The haiku are what they are. At some point, I need to go back through these journals, and make sure I've extracted all the ideas, and poems, and project plans, that I mixed in with all my more mundane writings about what I was feeling and thinking. These were everyday books: everything went into them. Some of it is worth keeping, even as the most of it is unmemorable.