Julie Lafrance-Balian enjoys inspiring others to start a writing and journaling practice.
The 46-year-old French novelist and translator, whose own journals are beautifully handwritten and illustrated, says journaling is more like meditation to her, sometimes helping her sort out “uncomfortable emotions”.
“It’s so good for mental health and for dealing with the confusion and anxiety that we all go through at some point in our lives,” she told The Epoch Times. “Journaling has helped me stay honest with my emotions, my thoughts, my vulnerabilities.”
bearing the name of the paper pilgrim on Instagram, Lafrance-Balian shares charming notes and thoughts in elegant writing with her thousands of followers.
“I like to make every page different, it’s very meditative for me,” she said. “There are so many classic paintings that I love and so many vintage botanical illustrations. I think adding visuals helps me explore new areas of my psyche.
Originally from a small town in Quebec, Canada, she is now married to an American and currently lives in her husband’s hometown of Milwaukee, but plans to move to Vermont in the summer, to be closer to her family and ” living life in the mountains”.
Fascinated by books even before she could read, Lafrance-Balian discovered the magic of journaling at a very young age. “I was maybe 5 or 6 years old,” she said. “My mother was reading the Diary of Anaïs Nin, and I asked her the question. My mother was a teacher, so she took my interest very seriously; she explained to me what a diary was, that you could write all the private thoughts you wanted in it, and that it was often intended to remain secret.
“I just knew I was going to have one.”
The first newspaper that young Lafrance-Balian’s mother bought for her, as soon as she was old enough to form sentences, was red with a lock and a key. She started writing there almost every day, and never stopped.
Good handwriting can make any notebook so undeniably pretty, and it’s a skill Lafrance-Balian says she owes to her father and grandmother.
“My father had very neat and elegant handwriting as a child, so much so that my grandmother kept all her school notebooks,” she said. “I remember being at my grandmother’s house after school, doing my homework at the kitchen table. She was praising my calligraphy, and she said, ‘Wait, I want to show you something.’
“She went down to her basement and came back with a pile of dusty, yellowed school notebooks, belonging to her eldest son, my father. I opened them and couldn’t believe my eyes. Could someone my age have such amazingly perfect calligraphy? »
That day, Lafrance-Balian says, she realized how beautiful simple notebooks could be and how neat handwriting could impress people, so she started putting in the effort.
“I’ve been to Catholic schools all my life, and my teachers seemed to like and reward neat homework,” she said. “So I found a lot of validation for my efforts. I also started using fountain pens as a teenager, they make it easier to improve your handwriting.
The Lafrance-Balian diaries are pleasing to the eye, but at the same time, they represent much more than aesthetics.
She said: ‘The beauty of journaling is that you can write about anything you want, so I let myself go! I go from the mundane, what I cook, study, read, watch… to serious existential questions, about my purpose, my heritage, my beliefs and the meaning of life.
“I explore all the subjects of my diary. From current events to gossip, rants about certain people, old memories just resurfacing, hopes for the future… Sometimes I just need to understand my own opinion about something, or I need to have an ethical argument with myself, and I do that on the page.”
Also using her notebooks to research topics for the novel she is currently writing, Lafrance-Balian transcribes poems, quotes, and excerpts from books. For Lafrance-Balian, journaling has become a practice, like meditation or gardening. The time she devotes to it is precious.
“I try to limit the time I spend on social media,” she said, “because journaling takes time and I have to protect the few hours a week I spend thinking and contemplating my life. on the page.
“I try to keep a journal every day, even if it’s just a little bit. I tend to write longer on weekends, reflect on the week and plan for the next.
However, until 2019, Lafrance-Balian never thought she would share her innermost thoughts and feelings with the world.
“I always keep the more personal pages to myself, of course,” she said. “I think it’s important to write for yourself, without worrying about what others might think. That said, it was wonderful to find a community of journal writers on Instagram.
While the process is obviously cathartic, the artistic element also feeds its soul. Lafrance-Balian says she never decorated her journals until 2018. Before that, it was “just words on paper.” But after coming across a few illustrated and decorated newspapers on social networks, she wanted to try her hand at decorating the pages.
“I had been writing in my journals for so many years already, maybe I needed something new?” she says. “My life had reached a calm stability, I felt I had less to write about, compared to the years of my youth when there was always drama.”
Already a master at sprucing up her journals, Lafrance-Balian is clear about her goal: to keep journaling “a daily habit.”
“I see myself one day as a very old lady, having fun reading my old notebooks, being able to relive and remember most of the days of my life,” she said. “My grandma is 100 right now, so if I have her genes, that’s a lot more notebooks to fill, and nothing could make me happier.”
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