The Story of You: Printing your Personal Journals

Ever since I returned to writing for myself a couple of years ago, I knew that I would want to compile and print my journaling in a hard copy format so that I could read my words in the same way that I would read an actual book. Creating these journals was truly a labour of love in the most beautiful way, and every time I hold these books in my hand and read my own heartfelt words, I am reminded of the need to keep writing to my dying day...

When I saw this blog post by my friend Liz from Paislee Press, I completely re-imagined this project and I decided to create Moleskine books through MILK Books.

The first step was to decide on a book format. This was a simple decision, as I didn't want the books to be too big and I ideally wanted them to be vertical in orientation. Plus, my intention from the very beginning was to print books without images, as I wanted these to feel more like (written) memoirs rather than photo books. With all this in mind, I quickly settled on the Classic Photo Notebook, which was the same format that Liz used for her photo book.

 I knew from the outset that I would be creating my own layouts in Adobe InDesign, so the second step was to set up a template using the software. To do this, I needed to know what size to make the pages. After playing with the web editor for a while, I realised that all full-page images are inserted into the book with a certain amount of bleed. (This is not the case with all photo book printing vendors so it is definitely worth clarifying printing specifications like this when you use a new printing company for the first time.) So even though the final size of the notebook is 5.12" x 8.15" (ie. 130mm x 207mm), I worked out that I actually needed to set up my pages in InDesign to be 140mm x 220mm, if I wanted my text to print at the 'right' size. (If I didn't do this, my words would be 'blown up' slightly due to the bleed requirement and the text would also appear closer to the edge of the page. More about this below.)

Once I set up the page size correctly at 140mm x 220mm, I created the following internal margins: 5mm for left/right, and 6.5mm for top/bottom. These internal margins acted as a important visual guide for me; whatever appeared inside these margins was what would appear on the printed page, and the area lying on the outside was essentially the bleed.

My biggest design tip when it comes to formatting text is to always create sufficient space between the text and the edge of the page. If there is not enough space, your page will inevitably look cramped and clumsy. This is why finding out about the bleed requirement as discussed above, and re-adjusting my page template accordingly, was such a crucial step. Taking into account the page size, I decided on 17mm as my page margin.

From there, I needed to typeset some sample text and that would essentially become my design template for the books. For each page, I worked out that I wanted to have a title for the journaling, the journaling itself (ie. the body copy), and the journaling date at the bottom of the page in place of page numbers.

I already had a template from a story book that I created over two years ago to document my pregnancy with Edward. That story book was a similar size to the Moleskine Classic Photo Notebook so I retrieved the file, copied over all my typesetting, and used that as a basis for the new template. I kept the typeface and font size for the body copy as Century Schoolbook and 8pt respectively. For the page title, I kept the typeface as Times Italic, but I reduced the font size from 14pt to 12pt so that the title wouldn't look disproportionately big in relation to the Moleskine page size (the other story book was wider). Plus, as much as possible, I didn't want my page titles to have to go over two lines. For the date at the bottom of the page, I decided to go with a contrasting typeface to make it clear that it was separate to the body copy; I chose a Light version of Helvetica Neue, which is my favourite sans serif typeface. I settled on 7pt as the font size so that the date wouldn't visually intrude on the page, and I also increased the kerning dramatically so that the date would stretch further across the page. In this way, the date almost doubled as a graphic element that marked the end of each page.

Once I was happy with the page template, I set about gathering all my personal writing from the previous years and working out how to split it over a few volumes. Unlike other story books that I've made in the past, the Moleskine Classic Photo Notebook has a set number of pages: 96. This made the process just a little trickier, but nothing that couldn't be worked around. First, I downloaded all my personal posts from 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 from both my old Pink Ronnie blog and The Shoemaker's Daughter blog using a software called MarsEdit. Then, I retrieved any additional personal journaling that I'd done via Simplenote (you can read more about that in this blog post). As I looked at all the words that I had from a 'big picture' perspective, I basically culled a series of posts that I didn't feel were personal enough or that warranted a separate story book of its own. This was perhaps the most lengthy and consuming part of the entire process, as it involved reading through a few year's worth of personal writing. By the end of it, I had words to fill a combined 2011/2012 volume, a 2013 volume, and a 2014 volume. Having a few blank pages at the end of each volume didn't worry me.

From there, the rest of the process was quite straightforward. I created a separate InDesign file for each volume and pasted in the page template that I'd created. I then duplicated the page template within each of the files until I had the requisite 96 number of pages. It then became a simple matter of copying and pasting in the text for each of the three volumes. I did this chronologically so that older journal entires appeared at the beginning of each volume, and the newer ones appeared towards the end.

Once all my pages for the three books were completed in InDesign, I exported the pages as JPEG images and then uploaded these to the online MILK Book Editor. I particularly liked the Quick Create function, which allows you to quickly and easily populate each of the 96 pages with full-page images. (I will try to add a tutorial for this to our Videos page at some point.)

For the cover images, I decided to stick with photos that I'd taken of my feet to represent the personal journey that I've been on. More importantly, I knew that I would be making more of these books down the track, and it would be easy to replicate the same type of image to create a consistent look and feel across the different volumes. All I had to do was upload the relevant cover image to the online editor when prompted and then crop/reposition it so that my feet were centred in the space. Similarly, for the book titles, I simply used the online editor to typeset the year(s) in capital letters, ie. TWENTY FOURTEEN for 2014, TWENTY THIRTEEN for 2013, etc.

Less than two weeks later, my books arrived in the mail, and I couldn't have been more pleased and happy with how they turned out. They were exactly as I imagined them to be, and the use of genuine Moleskine materials is simply unbeatable. Just holding these books in my hand is incentive enough to keep writing my heart out so that I can make more of them!

You can read more from Ronnie, purchase her templates, and learn about her online classes on her website Life Captured Inc. 
You can connect with her on:
Instagram @lifecapturedinc
Twitter @lifecapturedinc