Privately Printing a Journal

Reflections 2009

Journalling is an exploration. An attempt every day to slip into a mindstream of passing thoughts, ideas, events, memories, and feelings. It’s mindfulness of the flow of consciousness and netting a few fish from the stream. It’s looking below the surface and finding both wonderful and disturbing things. Here be dragons. Here be visions. Here be here.

A year’s worth of daily journalling amounts to a lot of recorded events, hopes, disappointments, and occasional victories. It’s fascinating to look back on the previous year and dip into moments of then which become relived moments of now.

Looking at scribbles in a notebook or browsing through text files doesn’t have the same quality of experience as holding and reading from a book, so it occurred to me that since I already had all the text files for the year, it would be fun to print them in book form — a private printing of a few copies for my family and me.

I’d used before and knew that this could be done if the book were prepared as a PDF or Postscript file. Choosing which tool to use to prepare the file was the first step. After looking at various options, I chose LyX and LaTeX because of the beauty of the typesetting. They’re also free.

I’d previously used them in Linux and was a little surprised to find that they worked so well on a Mac. The procedure is to first install MacTex, then the Mac version of LyX. This combination installs all the tools you need to typeset files.

I chose to print my 2009 journal in 6×9-inch format with perfect binding. Using the “child document” feature of LyX, I edited each month as a separate .lyx file, bringing them together in a master document. LaTeX offers a variety of book styles. I used Memoir.

I gave each month a quick edit for things like typos that escaped the spell checkers, missing words, and I occasionally rewrote a particularly awkward passage. For the most part, though, the entries were printed just as they were written.

When I had edited all twelve months, I output a Postscript file and uploaded it to Lulu. Then, using a pre-existing Lulu template, I created the cover, using my photo montage of a swan, an enlarged moon, and a textured background as the cover illustration.

The total cost, to me, was under $15 a copy, so I ordered three. Shipping to Canada was a bit of a stinger, as always, which is why I ordered three copies at the same time.

About three weeks later the books cleared customs and arrived in the mail. It was a special moment to see a year’s work printed as a book. It felt good in the hand. It looked good on the shelf. It encouraged me to keep journalling.

Due to time constraints, I didn’t index my 2009 journal, but because I intend to print 2010 in the same way, I’ll edit and index each 2010 month as I proceed through the year.

Privately printing my journal is one of the best morale boosters I’ve ever experienced. If you’re a writer, nothing gives you the same rush as seeing your rambles printed as a book.

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